traffic stats
Feb 012014

single-parent-families-bad-for-childrenSOCIAL progressives on both sides of politics may not like the message or the messenger, but Cory Bernardi had a point about the benefits of the traditional family.

Decades of social science data has shown that children, on average, do better in life on measures of health, education and social outcomes when raised in two-parent married families.

The risks to children associated with family breakdown disprove the fashionable idea that marriage, divorce, and sole parenting don’t matter for children.

The importance of marriage to children’s wellbeing is especially relevant to one of the most important child welfare issues facing the nation – child sexual abuse.

The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family setting. However, the fact that in 70-80 per cent of cases the perpetrator is found to have a “familial relationship” with the abused child obscures a more significant truth.

Numerous studies have found that children who do not live with both biological parents, irrespective of socio-economic status, are far more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in traditional families. Girls living in non-traditional families are found to have been sexually abused by their “stepfathers”, either the married, cohabiting, or casual partner of a divorced or single mother, at many times the rate that girls are sexually abused by their biological fathers in traditional families.

The 2010 US Fourth National Incidence Study of Abuse and Neglect found that compared to peers living in married two-biological-parent families, children living with a single parent who had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused. Children living with a single parent with no cohabiting partner, and children living in a stepfamily (with married biological and non-biological parents), were five times and between eight and nine times more likely to be sexually abused, respectively.

Step and single-parent families accounted for only one-third of all children in the US (33 per cent) but accounted for more than two-thirds (66.8 per cent) of all children who experienced child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse statistics in Australia are far less comprehensive and meaningful. Data publicly available here does not provide specific information about family structure, the identity of the perpetrator, and their relationship with the abused child.

This is symptomatic of the deeper silences in the national conversation about child sexual abuse.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been widely applauded for finally “breaking the silence” surrounding child sexual abuse.

The commission’s inquiry into the ways that churches, schools and other institutions have mishandled child sexual abuse is crucial. However, we should still question the extent to which the commission’s findings will ensure children are better protected from sexual abuse in the future when the well-established but under-publicised links between family structure and child sexual abuse are not being investigated.

When the Australian Christian Lobby released a major report on child welfare in 2011 detailing the evidence demonstrating that family breakdown is a major risk factor for child sexual abuse, the facts were neither disputed nor acknowledged in the little public discussion that ensued. They simply washed in and out of the public domain and left no trace on community attitudes.

The issues are not fully and frankly discussed in this country because the public discourse is self-censored, in effect, by politicians, academics, social service organisations, and the media in compliance with politically correct attitudes towards “family diversity”, the socially “progressive” and “non-judgmental” fiction that says the traditional family is just one among many, and equally worthy, family forms.

In hindsight, we are justifiably critical of the silences that in earlier times kept child sexual abuse a hidden problem. Yet a comparable silence exists today.

Greater community awareness is needed of the potentially harmful impact the relationship and reproductive choices of adults can have on children. This could be achieved by a government-commissioned, anti-child sexual abuse public information campaign. The campaign should emphasise that the traditional family is a protective factor that prevents child sexual abuse. It should also publicise how divorce and single-parenthood increases the risk of sexual abuse for the more than one in four Australian children who do not live with both biological parents.

This is not as radical as it sounds. In New York and Chicago, public information campaigns are encouraging marriage before having children and discouraging teen pregnancy. Barack Obama has also endorsed the need for “strong stable families” to reduce poverty in America.

Australian governments already conduct advertising campaigns such as anti-smoking and anti-drink driving campaigns to educate citizens, promote certain values, and change attitudes and behaviours. A public information campaign that advertised the risks to children posed by family breakdown would end the new silence that hides the culturally unfashionable truth.

Jeremy Sammut is a research fellow at The Centre for Independent Studies. His report, The New Silence: Family Breakdown and Child Sexual Abuse, is released today.

Read More

  7 Responses to “Single Mother Families are Hotbed of Child Abuse: Research”

  1. […] Research: Single Mother Families a Hotbed of Abuse […]

  2. I find it ironic that the word of those who are most likely to witness, or be told about parental child abuse, are totally ignored by the courts as being “biased”. In fact I find it insulting to be told that my word is not good enough while I repeatedly see the Family Court of Australia having the wool pulled over its eyes. If they really want to find out the truth they should not waste their time with affidavits but instead just employ an army of P.I.s

  3. I think it’s very unfair to claim that men are responsible for their actions, but women are not.

    We should all stop giving ourselves a free ride when it comes to responsibility.

    Mary, you allowed yourself to get pregnant to a man you hardly new. I am sorry this did not work out for you, but this is why people got to know each other first, then got married, and years later had children.

    You decided to skip all the hard work and simply have a child. I am sorry but the child is the victim here. You and the father are the irresponsible ones but it is the child that will bare the true burden.

  4. Robert you have no justification to make the claim that she was equally to blame. I got pregnant by a com man, was very in love and looking forward to our marriage for the child we made and both wanted growing inside of me. 6 months into my pregnancy I find out he has 3 previous children, by 3 different mothers who he left late into their pregnancies as well. He is a serial reproducer. We do not all have background checks at our fingertips.
    Every single situation is different. I’ll tell you now that no woman would ever willingly choose to do something like this alone, with no emotional or financial support. Some mothers are left and there is absolutely nothing they can do about it.
    I will focus in raising my child and not on love, I will not move some strange man intoy baby’s life-I clearly don’t have the best perception of mates-but I am not to blame.

  5. Alison, I have heard many men say the same thing, as well as many women. We as human beings always justify our actions by making ourselves the victim.

    I am sure the reality is somewhere in between, where both you and your ex were equally to blame.

    By continuing to dumb-down domestic violence and marriage breakdown as being unilaterally the result of one culprit, and the other person being the complete victim, then we will never solve the issues of child abuse, divorce or domestic violence.

  6. Yes – and this has become very obvious in Canada as well. Thanks for link to CIS report.

  7. I did not chose to be a single parent but what do you do if your partner is not committed to the relationship? All my friends who became single thought that they would be married for life in a happy stable-relationship. One friend recently told me, she had to run outside with her 3 month old into the street and then demand that her husband put the baby’s bottle on the fence and then made him walk back inside before she would pick up the bottle to feed her baby. She had no choice but to leave him. Another friend’s husband was in a relationship with one of the workers from the family business while still married and he never spent time with his kids or wife. None of us re-partnered or had a male living with us while until our children were grown up.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.