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Now we have proof that abolishing parental rights and encouraging single-parent families was disastrous: the disaster has happened

What was done by design can be undone the same way. But will there be enough political determination to do it?

By on Monday, 15 August 2011

A 12-year-old boy leaves Manchester magistrates court last week (PA wire)

A 12-year-old boy leaves Manchester magistrates court last week (PA wire)

Last Thursday, in an article snappily entitled “Why didn’t the looters’ parents know where they were? Why didn’t they teach them about right and wrong? Answer: society has undermined the family”, I quoted Fr Finigan saying that “For several decades our country has undermined marriage, the family, and the rights of parents… Now all of a sudden, we want parents to step in and tell their teenage children how to behave”, and Melanie Phillips pointing to “family breakdown and mass fatherlessness” as one of the principal underlying causes of the riots and looting of last week. I concluded (and I don’t apologise for returning to this theme now: a lot more needs to be said about it, and now is the time to say it) that of all the things the government now needs to do, “it’s the married family which is the institution that needs rebuilding most urgently”.

I am as certain of that as anything I have ever written, and I’ve been saying it for over 20 years: I was saying it, for instance, when I was attacking (in the Mail and also the Telegraph) as it went through the Commons the parliamentary bill which became that disastrous piece of (Tory) legislation called the Children Act 1989, which abolished parental rights (substituting for them the much weaker “parental responsibility”), which encouraged parents not to spend too much time with their children, which even preposterously gave children the right to take legal action against their parents for attempting to discipline them, which made it “unlawful for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’;” and which specified that “Whether a ‘smack’ amounts to reasonable punishment will depend on the circumstances of each case taking into consideration factors like the age of the child and the nature of the smack.” If the child didn’t think it “reasonable” he could go to the police. It was an Act which, in short, deliberately weakened the authority of parents over their children and made the state a kind of co-parent.

There are, of course, many other causes for the undermining of the married family (which David Cameron says he now wants to rebuild). Divorce, from the 1960s on, became progressively easier and easier to obtain. Another cause has been the insidious notion (greatly encouraged by successive governments but particularly under New Labour – Old Labour tended to be much more traditional in its views on the family) that the family has many forms, that marriage is just one option, and that lone parenting is just as “valid” (dread word) a form as any other. If you thought that voluntary lone parenting should be discouraged, rather than (as it was) positively encouraged by the taxation and benefits system, you were practically written off as a fascist.

Well, all this relativist rubbish has now been comprehensively shown by its consequences to have been dangerous drivel all along; and I am discovering that to be able to say “I told you so” is under the circumstances not at all as enjoyable as I had thought it might be: any satisfaction is of a very grim kind.

But it is now beyond any doubt, and we need to say so now, to nail the lies that have been spouted for the last 40 years once and for all. The conclusive proof of the existence and the effects of the widespread breakdown of parental responsibility (even where there are two parents) and also of the catastrophic consequences of the encouragement of lone parenting was to be found on the front page of the Times on Saturday, in an article to which I can’t give a link since you can’t get it online. I will have to summarise and quote extensively.

The headline was “Judge asks: where are the parents of rioters?” and it opens as follows:

Parents who refuse to take responsibility for children accused of criminal offences were condemned by a judge yesterday who demanded to know why the mother of a 14-year-old girl in the dock over the looting of three shops was not in court.

District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe was incredulous when told that the girl’s parents were too busy to see their daughter appear before City of Westminster magistrates after she was accused of offences during the violent disorder in London this week. She said that many parents “don’t seem to care” that their children were in court facing potentially lengthy custodial sentences.

Her comments echoed those a day earlier by District Judge Jonathan Feinstein when he highlighted the absence of parents at hearings in Manchester. “The parents have to take responsiblity for this child – apart from one case I have not seen any father or mother in court,” he said.

The Times had been conducting an investigation into the cause of the riots, and interviews with young people and community workers on estates across London revealed “deep concerns about the lack of parental authority”. Youth workers said that mothers (presumably in such cases there are no fathers) are “too terrified of their own children to confront them and often turn a blind eye to cash or stolen goods brought home”. Lone parenthood, it emerges, is in fact a primary cause of the August riots (as they are beginning to be called):

An analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) found that, among other factors linking the 18 areas worst hit by public disorder, is a high rate of single-parent families and broken homes.

And in an interview with the Times today, Shaun Bailey, a youth worker recently appointed as the Government’s “Big Society” czar, argues that childraising has been “nationalised”.

Of the defendants who appeared before magistrates in Westminster yesterday accused of riot crimes across London, half were aged under 18, but few parents attended the hearings, even though their children had been in police custody for up to two days.

One member of the court’s staff said: “I can’t recall seeing any of the parents down here”… A boy of 15 was accused of looting a JD Sports shop in Barking, East London. A 17-year-old student from East London was also accused of receiving £10,000 of mobile phones, cigarettes and clothing looted from Tesco. The items and small quantity of cannabis were discovered in his bedroom at the family home… community workers admitted that broken families often led to children taking to crime.

One youth worker, who has helped children in Lambeth, south London, for 20 years, told the Times that single mothers were often scared of their sons. “They would not challenge them if they came home with stolen goods,” the worker, who did not wish to be named, said.

“In some cases these young men steal more than their mother earns or gets in benefit. They become the father figure, the main earner.” Young men echo the lack of authority. “My mum can’t tell me what to do,” said Lee, 18, from Copley Court, an estate in West Ealing. “It’s the same with young kids. Most of their dads left early on and they don’t listen to anyone.”

There isn’t much more to be said: all one can do is repeat oneself. We now know what rubbish it is to deny that lone parenthood should be avoided wherever possible. As for marriage, study after study has shown that from the point of view of the child it is the best and most stable basis for the family. In the 50s, everyone, including governments of all colours, knew that marriage was the foundation of social stability: and a man whose wife stayed at home to look after the children didn’t pay any tax at all until he was earning the average national wage.

That whole dispensation was blown apart by the accursed supposed “liberation” of the 60s, and by political ideologies of various kinds, not least by radical feminism. There was nothing inevitable about it: it was done by deliberate political design. And what political design can do, political design can undo. It’s more difficult – much more difficult – of course and it can’t be done overnight. David Cameron, to be fair, does seem to see some of this (IDS sees even more).

But does he have the political determination actually to do it? We shall see. I am hopeful; I always am at first. But I greatly fear that as month succeeds month, even my own tendency towards sunny optimism will begin first to flag and then to die. And this time, I don’t want to be able to say “I told you so”.

  • RJO

    Its far worse (the “valid lifestyles” – not the rioting – YET) in the USA..

  • Oliver P

    Well, 4 people like that comment, and my answer remains: yes… (I am assuming this is sarcasm on the part of Kgpf, but I’ll play.) So where do we go from that, my, yes?

  • Anonymous

    The problem Mr Cameron faces is that too many of his fellow-Parliamentarians have invested their lives in sexual immorality,either as remarried divorcees or just as philanderers. That’s not to mention the number of restaurants the Bullingdon Club have wrecked.

  • guest

    The father of the 14 year old that was in court, wasn’ t there because he has two jobs to make ends meet.
    Many of these kids were fast tracked through court maybe their parents could not get or afford to take time off work at short notice…I grew up with many children without father’s, they did not behave this way and have become productive members of society…Many marriages will be put to breaking point if both parents do not work especially in London, I am sure mothers would love more time at home but can not pay the mortgage if they stayed at home. Some of the looters were adults, did they do it because they didn’t have a father at home.
    The reason why so many rejected marriage is because they saw their parents in loveless, stale marriages and unhappy mothers brought them up. The idea that marriage was somehow golden before the 1950s is a myth.
    What about the politicans that steal from the tax payer or the bankers, what kind of immoral upbringing did they have?

  • guest

    Many single mothers do not choose to be, many of them did get married, they did the right things, only to be left with the children and blamed by society and the religious for all that is wrong with the world. It is not taken into account that the father’s left of their own accord or had an affair or was violent and abusive.

    In this world some are single parents because their husband is in Afghanistan and some of the kids that looted do have both parents, like that 14 year old, who comes from a family of six kids and has a father working two jobs, therefore not at home much…
    David Cameron is from a two parent family, yet he went around behaving badly with the Bullingdon club, breaking windows etc…

  • guest

    Any parent that has to spank there child, is the weakest kind of parent there is and has no confidence in their own ability. 

  • guest

    Corporal punishment was used to abuse children, have you learnt nothing from the abuse scandals, it was not just sexual abuse handed out to children, it was physical abuse too. It is weak and lazy, it may have made people behave better at school but it made them horrible, cold, emotionally disturbed adults,prone to abusing their own kids. By outlawing the cane it has protected children.
    The 19th Century produced Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Al Capone amoung others… I also think the idea that knife carrying, drug dealing gang members are going to be brought into line by

  • Anonymous

    Couldn’t agree more. I hope you detected the sarcasm in my last post :)

  • Mark Castilano

    Dear Sir,I do not know what academic discipline your doctorate is in, but an academic of Ph.D., level, you must know about research methods such as gathering and processing information and validating the veracity of the data. I would like to know how you are so sure. The riots do not prove that one parent families are responsible as you assert. They are an indicator that there is gross inequality and poor education standards in this society. It does not help the cause and the integrity of the Roman Catholic Church for you to be so presumptuous as to what the exact cause is, because there so many variables to consider.Of course I fully appreciate that you are suggesting that if the Catholic Church was in control these things would not have happened. The Catholic Church is notorious for disregarding the wishes of the family and imposing it’s stamp on conduct and behaviour of children. I suppose that you agree with corporal punishment and other such punitive solutions. The gangs of New York were Irish and Italian Catholics. The gangs in Dublin and Glasgow were mainly Catholics, and generally the parents did not know or care where the children were.  Anyhow, please show your proof and by what means this proof was acquired

  • D B McGinnity

    I take you to be a serious academic of catholic renown and I would like to know in what context do you use the work proof. Is it in the context of jurisprudence; the science or philosophy of law inasmuch that there is sufficient evidence or argument for the truth of a proposition, or is within the philosophic burden of proof where there is the obligation on a person to provide sufficient warrant for their position or assertion. Perhaps you mean that because the Catholic Church decrees it, that is proof enough?The matter in question is very serious, and for you an academic to make such an assertion without proof, would be a great scholastic error. Considering that you use the designation ‘Doctor’, there is an added responsibility on you to be more rigorous in your findings before you go to print. Perhaps the early doctors of the church defined their doctrine on the basis of conjecture and assumption only, and maybe that is why the whole doctrine of the “Symbolum Nicaenum” will have to be radically overhauled and adapted to meet the needs of contemporary society.

  • Anonymous

    I have read it, its one of my favorite books in fact. I fail to see in what way you think it could teach me something. What statement are you referring to? 

    If you read my posts on this page you will see that I have barely expressed an opinion myself. People infer that through my opposition of some extreme statements, and people making statements that they can not back up – means that I therefore hold entirely the opposite point of view.

    This is not the case, I am very moderate in some respects.

  • Anonymous

    Quite ironic

  • Anonymous

    I did remove the comment, it only existed for less than 10 minutes, and frankly I thought you would not be quick enough to see it. A mis-judged mistake on my part.

    I would say that my issue was that you were arguing on the basis of semantics, rather than substantive argument – which I though was neither fair, nor serious.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OTCKAYXC6V65WVJUPZFYCCUEUU Lee

    SPOT ON. what has to be realised is we are dealing with progressive fascists and whatever ‘ideology’ they can use, they shall use to advance themselves and their dodgy agendas. Thus we can attach the monnikers of ‘sillionism’ and syncretism to this elite and political unnobled elite who are highly dangerous to souls.

  • Honeybadger

    My fiance gave a lift home to a traindriver earlier today. The traindriver’s nerves were frazzled because he was perilously close to accidentally mowing down a 10 year old child on a railway line.

    The child was oblivious to the driver’s horn blasting out to warn the child to get out of the way. 

    The British Transport Police was alerted and took the child away to safety.

    It turned out that the said child was on the railway in an attempt to steal copper from the tracks… for money!

    The traindriver was traumatised because he experienced a couple of suicides throwing themselves in front of trains.

    This experience brought it all back to him.

    In supermarkets, shopping centres and streets, children are in a world of their own – oblivious to the rest of us who have to gingerly mind out of THEIR way instead of the other way round! Parents are also oblivious when it comes to their children treating shops like a playground. You politely and firmly tell them to watch their child and the thanks you get is to invalidate you with the classic put-down ‘have you got kids?’ – as if that makes a doggone difference to anything!

    No consideration is given to humanity outside their comfy little bubble. It is all about them.

    Well, the time for kid glove and pussyfooting around these people has come to a full STOP.

    I read a fascinating but disturbing book about the increase of narcissism in society - the me-me-me-me-me-aren’t-I-wonderful-looking-after-number-one-and-stuff-everyone-else people.

    Those who wreck banks, businesses, politics, lowlifes, super rich, z list celebrities, lives. 

    Unfortunately, narcissism is not certifiable but it is proving to be a slow-release poison on society. The worship of self is fighting in vain to overtake worship of Almighty God.

    A brood of narcissists wrecked England’s cities ‘because they could’. They could not care a stuff about anybody but themselves. They laughed and looted for no other reason other than ‘because they could’.

    As a result, jobs laid off or lost altogether. Property destroyed. Families bereft and wrecked. Lives destroyed. Communities left dazed.

    I’m sure that Government money is in short supply because of it being spent on both cleaning up and perpetuating the mess society has made of itself.

    But they are too far up themselves to realise that…

  • Nick

    You need to study more. Begin with Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse.

    Your idea of Marxism is many decades obsolete.

  • Caboobie

    This “upshot result” of the Children Act 1989 has been seriously ‘utilised’ by the EU and their dictats on human rights.  I can empathise with the parents of these children; why should they attend court?  After all, they had their parental rights aborted/sabotaged by ‘the system’, engineered in the main, under Labour control.  These parents, I would suggest, are justifiably letting ‘the system’ take responsibility for the carnage they have created by denying the very same parents their ‘parental rights’ on how to bring up their children and chastise where necessary!

  • James

    I posted a comment on a Scottish newspaper website, saying that the decline of marriage was a major cause of the riots.

    It was very swiftly deleted by the moderators.

  • James

    I should have added – the Scottish Parliament will very soon be legislating for homosexual, “marriage,” after a suitable, “consultation,” period.

    When this happens, it will only be a matter of time before the rest of the UK follows suit. What will happen to marriage then?

    Things are not going to get better any time soon.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    A grown-up who has never been taught responsibility is a adult in name only. I agree with the write of the piece that even having a father at home will not help much when the father is forbidden from imposing discipline or a work ethic, and the child reach adulthood unaware that these are values that a society hardly can function without.

    While we’re on the subject of bankers, I find it disgraceful that so many point to them as some sort of exception to moral law – as if they’re somehow worse because they invented new ways of making (then losing) money. If the society encourages a “so-long-as-I’m-happy” mentality, then why would you expect bankers to restrain themselves so long as what they’re doing makes them happy?

    Bankers, violent youths, deceitful politicians all stem from the same root cause: selfishness and moral relativism. How many times do you see selfless nuns or priests being portrayed positively in the media?

    Modern schooling and social policies ram home the point that people are responsible for nobody but themselves – not even their own families. Violent and disrespectful youths are a natural consequence of that attitude, as are opportunistic and selfish bankers and politicians.

  • https://openid.org/locutus LocutusOP

    The killing of 200,000+ unborn children annually is greater proof of the disaster of Britain’s social policies/mentality than thousands of violent youths in the streets will ever be.

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  • Betoquintas

    there is another factor, like poverty, unemploying and low education.
    serving just one aspect to your personal religous/political agendas is not fair.

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