|Montréal, 10 juin 2000 / No 63||
by David MacRae
Over the last fifty years, almost every country in Western Europe and North America has experienced an enormous increase in crime rates. Neighborhoods that once were safe at night have become dangerous during the day. Random acts of violence, once almost unknown, have become common.
We have this notion that this is an American problem. It is not. While
Americans are definitely have a problem with murder, overall crime rates
are actually higher in many other countries including Canada, Great Britain,
France and Sweden. Certain kinds of violent crime are actually more common
elsewhere. Home invasions are far more common in Britain. The Montreal
area has recently experienced a rash of them, resulting in several deaths.
The good news is that rates seem to have stabilized in the nineties. The bad news is that appears to be largely a demographic issue. Most perpetrators of crime are young men. As the baby boom ages passes from its teens and twenties into its forties and fifties, there are simply fewer people in the appropriate group than there once were. But if you look in the places where you find young people, you find that things are perhaps worse than they ever were. High schools have turned from places of learning into armed camps. Increasingly, girls are imitating their boyfriends and joining in the party. There is a reason why teacher burnout rates are so high. Shell shock.
Social conservatives tend to say that the reason for crime is criminals. The answer therefore is longer sentences, the abolition of juvenile courts and a return to the death penalty. While clearly we are all ultimately responsible for our actions, this answer is unsatisfying. It does not explain why crime has risen. Conservatives then answer that it is because of a breakdown in moral values. Perhaps this is true, but it’s not an answer either. Why did values break down?
At the root of the problem
Liberals (and here I use the word in its North American sense – as a euphemism for socialists), answer that the reason for crime is
The idea that child poverty is responsible for crime has always been silly. To start with, poverty (as opposed to squalor) has been virtually eliminated in the Western world. Furthermore many countries in which real poverty does exist, such as India and China, don't exhibit this social pathology. The reality is that, aside from the industrialized West, crime is limited to those areas of the world where the political and judicial system has broken down such as Russia and most of sub-Saharan Africa. None of this is very surprising when you consider that the human animal was designed to live in a world where poverty, want and famine were the norm, not the exception.
Yet for all this talk about the root causes of crime, there is one factor which overwhelms all of the others: fatherlessness. The link between fatherlessness and crime is so strong
Consider these facts:
Under these circumstances, you would think that there would be an enormous amount of research under way in an attempt to understand what is happening. The media would be demanding answers. Are men abandoning their children, as is commonly supposed, or are they being forced out? Or simply treated as a convenient source of sperm? How does child support affect the issue? Is there a difference between unwed and divorced mothers? Is there a difference between welfare mothers and the others? How does continued father contact affect things? Is there an identifiable group of single mothers who do significantly better than others – or significantly worse? And most of all, why do single father families not exhibit the same sort of pathology?
But nothing happens. On the contrary, the facts are suppressed.
Facts or propaganda
A few days ago (June 7), an article appeared in La Presse summarizing a telephone survey in which the Quebec Health Ministry asked 2469 mothers about child abuse in their families. Various correlations are made between child abuse and mother tongue (!), between child abuse and family size, between child abuse and poverty. Yet family structure is never mentioned once. Nor is welfare. Furthermore, we never learn who is actually performing this abuse. The article uses contorted constructions in the passive voice to avoid the topic such as:
The ambiguities in La Presse’s article merely reflect those in the survey itself. Whole sentences are taken directly from the government’s press release. It is remarkable to see how poorly this survey is designed. Of course, it is pretty clear that it is really a propaganda tool, not an attempt to understand child abuse. Let’s take a look at it.
To start with, father-only households are simply ignored. The premise of the survey is that we only talk to women so this family-type is simply wished out of existence. At least the combination of father and stepmother is considered. There, after all, we find a woman in the house who we can talk to. With perhaps more justification, other families without a mother are all lumped together (although it is well-known that grandmothers supply far better care to children than foster mothers).
Worse than this, the survey makes no distinction whatever between different types of parents, fathers vs. mothers or natural parents vs. step-parents. All questions simply refer to parents. What is the point of a survey about child abuse which doesn’t ask about who is doing the abusing? No wonder, La Presse mixes them up!
It is well known that children of violent parents are significantly more likely to be violent towards their own children; we learn our parenting techniques from our own parents. In an attempt to quantify this relationship, the survey also asks whether the mother’s own parents (and those of her spouse, if any) were ever violent towards a sister, brother or mother. Note that the possibility of violence towards the father is specifically excluded. This being so, it is unsurprising that the survey finds fathers to be about 50% more violent than mothers.
What is surprising is that the mother’s own parents are found to be much more violent than those of her partner! This amazing fact is supplied without comment. Imagine it. The parents of women are more violent than those of men. This despite the fact that the survey also finds that boys are more likely to be victims of familial violence than girls. Perhaps it might be worthwhile talking to M
Finally, the survey does ask the mothers about family structure but nowhere in any of the 124 pages of the report does it make any comments about how this affects the results. It seems almost self-evident that stepfamilies would either be better or worse situations than mother-only ones. There are simply too many differences for the two to be the same. Yet no comment is made whatsoever. One can only ask why.
The report does make one and only one recommendation: that the survey be repeated every three years in order to
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