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Wed 22nd June 2005

Solo parents a political football

Filed under: General — JohnPotter @ 2:32 pm

Across New Zealand society, marriage has become unfashionable. Sole parents have increased from 10 per cent of families with dependent children in 1976 to 29 per cent today – higher than in any other developed country except the United States. By the age of 20, 35 per cent of Pakeha children, 49 per cent of Pacific children and 57 per cent of Maori children have lived in homes without one parent, usually the father.

Forty-one per cent of Pakeha babies, 55 per cent of Pacific babies and 76 per cent of Maori babies were born last year to unmarried parents.

The Labour Government sees nothing to worry about. In a Herald interview five years ago, Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said that as long as sole parents were “able to provide love, discipline and sound nurturing, things are going to be okay”.

But National leader Don Brash told the Orewa Rotary Club that the domestic purposes benefit (DPB) had contributed to the growth in fatherlessness and births outside marriage: “It is idle to pretend this is anything but a disastrous trend.”

Sole parents are accustomed to being political footballs, but Brash’s proposals would be tougher than any previous regime since the DPB was created in 1973. They raise questions. Why does New Zealand have such a high rate of sole parenthood? Does it matter?

The DPB is a major factor in the rise of sole parenthood. Mothers who, before 1973, felt stuck in marriages can now leave, knowing the state will support them.

A British study of child benefits in 2002 found that New Zealand’s DPB was the ninth most generous out of 22 developed countries. In contrast, New Zealand treats couples with children worse than most. It was the only one of the 22 countries that paid neither family benefits nor child tax credits to a couple with two children earning the average men’s wage plus half the average women’s wage.

The latest increase in family support has not changed that. National calculated in January that a family comprising a father earning $12.50 an hour and a fulltime mother with a baby would get just $23,254 a year after allowing for family support and taxes.

But if the mother went on the DPB the couple could get $35,780 between them.

In the past few decades, women’s reproductive and financial independence fed a new wave of feminism that was part of a general liberation of individuals from economic bondage to the farm or the production line, bondage to the church and social bondage to the family.
Marriage came to seem oppressive and patriarchal, embodied in vows to “love, honour and obey”.

Auckland Women’s Centre worker Leonie Morris, who wrote a thesis on sole parents in 1999, says a big factor breaking up marriages is domestic violence. A 1996 survey found that 73 per cent of New Zealand women, including 90 per cent of Maori women, had experienced at least one act of physical or sexual violence by their partners.

“That attitude is blind domestic violence,” she says. “It’s about men wanting to control women, control their behaviour and still believing that what they say should go, that they should rule the home.”

Economist Paul Callister has uncovered another surprising factor producing more sole mothers – a shortage of men. Last year, New Zealand had 109 women for every 100 men at the peak childbearing age of the early 30s.

The imbalance is worsened when you consider only “marriageable” men, now that women are better educated and more men than in the past are unemployed, earning low and insecure incomes or in jail.

6 Responses to “Solo parents a political football”

  1. Stephen Gee says:

    The usual one-sided misandric shite from fems who’ll rationalise mothers en masse disposing of thier male hubbies because they’re financially better off that way, by saying men’s domestic violence is a major reason. Yeah right.
    And then they have the stupidity to wonder why menfolk are buggering off to other places. Duh!

  2. Moose says:

    Well then, I guess that is the reason there are so many divorces – wimmin know they are better off finacially without thier ‘birthing partners’. And if I know wimmin, they are never happy with what they have. What woman would not want to divorce thier birthing partner after having her child ? She is way better off on the DPB – put in place there by the ‘Government’. Yet wimmin complain that men are never dedicated to a relationship e.t.c Maybe Leonie Morris hasn’t looked at WHY there is domestic violence – she isn’t (and everyone else) looking at the cause as to why men are angry in relationships. Perhaps it’s the wimmin who are trying to control the men, and thereby making them violent because of it – with all thier demands – I know I get mad when someone tries to control me.

  3. Ethos says:

    A sorry state of affairs when the 1970’s agenda item of the Socialist Action League to “dismantle the family in New Zealand” can be ticked as complete.

    As for the femmi-nazi comment about violence, answer us this: why are statistics about DV only compiled for man=perpetrator and woman=victim?

    In reality, I meet many, many, many more men who are subjected to physical (attacks with sharp kitchen implements, sports equipment, furniture et al), verbal and psychological abuse from women.

    It is also sad that our socio-communist neo-fascist homosexual government so obviously intend to complete the work started by the Socialist Action League in the early 70’s.

    My thoughts and wishes go out to every child afflicted with this malevolent intent.

  4. Natalie says:

    Obviously none of the above comments so far written by anyone that has any idea about what is involved in the day to day life of being a sole parent. Living in Auckland on a benefit is a week to week battle of robbing Peter to give to Paul. Without cultural capital and extended support networks each week becomes a battle to stay afloat. With average rents at around $300+ for a 3 bedroom and the DPB base rate at a whoping $290+/- and a max of approx $114 accomodation you could be getting give or take $400. Leaving after rent $100 to feed and pay your bills such as power, ph, water excess. To clothe yourself and your children, bus fare, hygiene products, lawns if not included in rent, childrens sports, uniforms, school books and the list goes on are all considered luxuries and the money must be pulled out of your you know what??? or the magic money tree! You do not have to be an account to do the math and no there’s no picnic or glamour lifestyle! As well as the anxiety and stress about money comes the psychological effects of social pitty and the mass of stereotypical labels. Not to mention also the attack on self-esteem due to the inability to participate in today’s capitalist society and moral judgement over the intimacy issues. Also the pressures of living a judgemental consumer society increasingly more and more stratified by what you wear, what you earn, where you live and what you drive. Yes presently solo parents by majority are women making poverty a feminist issue, but there is a huge increase in solo fathers in NZ something like 1 in 7 now. Many in our society think of solo parents as people that have failed on an individual level until it happens to them or effects someone they know. But we can be sure that much of the breakdown of the 1950’s Nuclear Family model(Mum, Dad 2 kids)is due to a combo of individualism and socioeconomic policy. This was a good mode of production supported by government during the post war boom. But historically families haven’t always looked this way, in many cultures they still don’t could this just mean the family unit is evolving again! Something that is hardly mentioned are the changes in the 1980’s (1982?) divorse act that abolished public humiliation in the local newspapers over why marriages ended..mainly adultery!! Women have had to adjust to this individual promoting capitalist society by adapting our gender roles and responsibilities (often not through want but neccessity) it’s time for men to wake up, catch up and evolve too and for society to aid and support this proccess. Beware in the future we may see more and more solo fathers, I think they’l be socially worse off than women because of male bullshit stereotypes and stubborn kiwi male pride.(not to affend or stereotype all men). It will then be men that must deal with the stress of raising well rounded children, balancing the delicate equilibrium. The time it takes to give both financial and emotional support, without relying on their mothers!! Maybe then poverty maybe seen as an urgent matter if it becomes a male problem……………..
    I am not a man hater or a lesbian, just a realist!

  5. Moose says:

    Natalie, from your comment you seem to be implying that you yourself are a solo parent. Is this true ? If so, you didn’t mention recieving child support from your partner. Also you say nobody here has any idea what it is like to be a solo parent. How did you come to that conclusion ? The MAIN theme of this thread In my opinion is to highlight the increase of Fatherless, and to a lesser degree Motherless children, and this is being fuelled by the fact that it is finiancially easier for a single Mother to be on the DPB than to be living with the childrens Father. The effects of not having a Father in the lives of children growing up is always made the lowest priority, and hardly ever considered. I’m sure most children would rather have a Dad than that extra toy at Christmas. You say that “It’s time for Men to wake up, catch up and evolve too…” WTF ? The Family is being evolved by the Government…, not the other way around !

  6. Charissa Smith says:

    im the child of a solo parent, my mother has raised me on the DPB. in my case my mother had to get out of the relationship as my father was a druggie and abused her. she was 22 when i was born and 23 when my brother was born. im proud of my mum for getting out of a relationship that hurt her so much. i dont need my father and some of you fem haters should be thinking of what is best for the child not your ego.

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