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Strong families help fight dysfunction.

Filed under: General — Julie @ 4:53 pm Fri 7th November 2008

Maxim Institute Lecture: Breakthrough New Zealand?

On Monday 3 November in Auckland, UK family policy expert Dr Samantha Callan delivered a lecture for Maxim Institute about why tackling family breakdown is an important social justice issue.

“I want to talk about what we’re doing in Britain to tackle family breakdown. I’m a long way from home but that’s great, we’re on such a similar page demographically from what I’ve been reading. And we have finally begun to acknowledge the extent and severity of our experience of family breakdown and I think that the seed has truly been sown into the policy-making arena to act on that knowledge to prevent family breakdown as well as to alleviate its effects.

“We’ve been very well received across the political spectrum, especially by the current Conservative opposition which could very easily form the next government. We’ve been working for nearly three years to change the narrative around family to get away from the mantra that says family structure is irrelevant. My publications argue crucially from the research that we will never have the kind of society that genuinely has the welfare of children as its core concern if we continue to deny the research that two parents tend to provide better outcomes for children than one. A quarter of all British children are in one parent families and recent polling showed that if you’re not brought up in a two parent family you’re 75 percent more likely to fail at school, 70 percent more likely to be a drug addict, 50 percent more likely to have alcohol problems and over a third as likely to go on benefits.

“At the same time we’re not stigmatising people who are raising children on their own or outside of a formal commitment. It is a really good thing that children are not ostracised anymore because their parents aren’t married, however on average they are penalised because they are more likely to see their parents split, to experience a significant loss of income, to have to move home etc.

“Its class-based prevalence is the rationale for putting it firmly on the political and policy agenda. In other words the high break-up rates of lower income people, the greater likelihood that those in poverty will not be married and that they’ll have children outside of commitment and repeat the cycle of low income and low attainment has, in the past, made it really hard to talk about family breakdown without sounding judgemental and as if middle class values are being unjustly imposed but in the UK. We’ve had to turn this around and say if we are determined to tackle (what has become known in the UK) as our broken society we have to treat the high likelihood that poor children will grow up fatherless and from a fractured or dysfunctional family as a correlate of the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

“Research is pointing to a marriage gap in the US and the UK. Aspirations to marry are universally high across the social spectrum but the culture and financial barriers to marriage are hard to overcome in low income communities; and a great concentration of single parenthood here may not be an expression of diversity but paradoxically of reduced choice with inability to fulfil marital ambitions and so it’s another dimension of inequality.”

Watch Dr Samantha Callan on TVNZ’s Breakfast programme


  1. It is hard not to be sceptical of high and mighty analyses of the poor in our society, and the moralising that normally comes from the direction of the Maxim Institute. Realism is absolutely essential.

    Yes, I would agree that the sole parent upbringing is not ideal. Additionally, the “shared care” 50/50 situation is most disorienting – as both partners in an ill-matched relationship go their separate ways to live their preferred life styles – often expecting their kids to be “Jekyll and Hydes”

    HOWEVER .. what this analysis can not prove is what would have happened had the relationship of misery continued! For example, if there is an abusive partners there causing physical and psychological damage to all concerned.

    Is this real research we are talking about, or “advocacy research” as defined by the previous director of Maxim Institute.

    Actually the real learning has to be much earlier – how to inspire cultures and generations with the ambition to be someone as an individual – and to ensure that relationships entered into will be on firm foundations. We have to cope with mistakes that individuals make, while ensuring up front that our education of sex and relationships correctly informs.

    The Education system in New Zealand has improved markedly in this area since I was at school, with complete reliance on parent education reduced to near zero. The schools must educate.

    But as with the dilemmas of poor literacy and poor numeracy, the transfer of knowledge in life skills to unmotivated and undernourished learners is a perplexing problem and this is the problem that every governments says it is going to solve. I have been unimpressed to date.

    Comment by Evan J — Mon 10th November 2008 @ 5:04 pm

  2. Hi Even J,

    I agree with you about scepticism of the poor but it seems to be the only way in the door. I wanted to get help for single parents whose partners had died and more than children are left to one parent who still works. Funny how no-one wants to give to them. Well, not funny. But very sad.

    I also don’t know the faults of the Maxim Institute but I do know they are bringing forward research for men. Even if I did know their faults I would mostly be forgiving as I find it hard to walk the perfect line myself.

    Comment by julie — Tue 11th November 2008 @ 4:17 pm

  3. Julie

    Thanks for the response. I thought that since you lectured for the Maxim Institute you would know more about them.

    As with a lot of Maxim’s publications, it is rather long on problem identification, rather thin on solutions. Understandable when you need to come to terms with what it is you are really dealing with.

    You do say:

    “Research is pointing to a marriage gap in the US and the UK. Aspirations to marry are universally high across the social spectrum but the culture and financial barriers to marriage are hard to overcome in low income communities; and a great concentration of single parenthood here may not be an expression of diversity but paradoxically of reduced choice with inability to fulfil marital ambitions and so it’s another dimension of inequality.”

    The choice to marry can be undertaken with a minimum of expense. De facto relationships actually transcend all socio-economic levels. In fact the vast majority of marriages now would follow a lengthy period of de facto rleationship. Interestingly, it transcends religious “belief” as well.

    Maxim Institute are the “tut tut” people here in NZ – they say how awful this all is, and get their income for saying so like any right wing think tanks

    Their research, unlike yours I am sure, is unimpressive. Here is the classic example:

    I rest my case.

    Comment by Evan J — Thu 13th November 2008 @ 1:11 pm

  4. Please Evan J, don’t rest your case. This is very serious and not just about opinion. I am sorry to change the focus from marriage. I hope you can keep up.

    I have looked at this from the outside. And I can’t help but speak up. My own girlfriends who have worked hard for decades are losing the realist perspective.

    You know, one of my dear, dear, wonderful women friend in my life who is high up in this has asked me to complain about the hatred towards men. Gosh, if ever a feminist existed it would be me. I have even been asked to balance what the last generation has made extreme by old school feminists. Others just tell me to ride it through. And for goodness sake I am asked to make women more independent and less emotive.

    But you need to hear me. And you need to hear others like me. Feminists totally dogged women who didn’t raise their sons in the ideology. Radical feminists took hold because women themselves were shamed.

    I couldn’t care about the war between religion and feminism. Feminists themselves are now making churches where God is woman and man is slave. How far does this socialism go with blame. People are going to start killing people if they are not tagged by a microchip. Is this really what socialism wants? For it is unrealistic to stop nature.

    How can you even consider socialism something relevant when it came from America who had heaps of men die in 9/11 and no women. Yet themselves turned to gender roles when disaster happened. Women helped the injured but did not sacrafice their lives.

    You seem to allow the idea that socialism is good into your mind and expect society to change over a meagre 40 years.

    We are not all stoned as the hippies were. We are not having sex with every Tom Dick and Harry as the hippies did nor are most women into having sex openly with other women let alone in the bedroom. Women get jealous. Women get mad over men having sex with another woman. And so do men.

    You seem to think (I am sorry if you don’t) that learning socialism is equivalent to reality. But you can’t think that for you speak of relativism.

    Socialism uses emotion but emotion is the last thing they should use. They would be better of backing the corrupt Pharmaceutical Industry to make people numb. Is that what you want? To numb all? I have lived that life. It is really bad, bad, bad and destructive.

    Comment by julie — Thu 13th November 2008 @ 1:50 pm

  5. Julie

    Is this really supposed to be a reply to my posting. I can’t relate what you say to the topic under discussion.

    You rave on about socialism. Socialism exists the minute you drive down the road or walk on footpath. Don’t let the Maxim Institute get to you. And do remember to tell me what you think of Social Justice.

    Further information about the notorious Maxim Institute can be found in Nicky Hager’s revealing book “the hollow me”

    Comment by evan j — Fri 14th November 2008 @ 8:51 pm

  6. Evan, we are social beings already, we have always been. Christianity has never changed that. It is neither a threat to socialism.

    If we could have decent socialism, I say … go for it. But that is not going to happen because power always creates corruptness.

    I can see many ordinary people who have studied socialism agree that caring for your family and if you have some extra, care for your neighbour. But I hope you can see that is not where socialism is taking us. We are losing all power as individuals. That is not pure socialism. That is communism and fascism.

    Can you see a difference?

    PS. I do like to learn what others have to say.

    Comment by julie — Sat 15th November 2008 @ 1:02 pm

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