Tuesday, September 7, 2010
Lindsay Mitchell: Sole parents - blighted by poverty and mental illness
But first, the extent of sole parenthood, which grew from 10 percent of all families with dependent children in 1975 to 28 percent in 2006:
The second describes the extent of poverty amongst sole parents:
And the third describes the extent of mental illness amongst sole parents:
The natural reaction to this is concern. Especially as these circumstances affect not just the parent but the child living with the parent.
The response of the left is to call for more money to be diverted from two parent families into one parent families. This ignores the likelihood that in doing so more sole parent families will be created. In any event a well-known Swedish study into a huge cohort of relatively advantaged (in comparison to other countries) sole parents in that country showed that their children still suffered higher rates of mental illness, suicidal ideation, drug addiction etc which suggests the parents were similarly afflicted.
Of course there is something of the 'chicken and egg' scenario occurring. Does a mental disorder predispose to sole parenthood or does sole parenthood make mental illness more likely? I believe it is at least safe to say that an existing mental disorder will generally be exacerbated by becoming a sole parent.
So are we between a rock and a hard place with sole parents? Is the only way to reverse the trend a withdrawal of the subsidy? And isn't that unthinkable?
But the subsidy shouldn't be removed over night or in totality. In practice that means time-limits and exemptions. It certainly must not be increased. And as well as mental illness requiring more medical intervention, there are other safeguards - having work and a partner.
An over-simplified analysis? Quite probably. But sometimes we just get bogged down in detail and paralysed by the parameters and politics of the problem.
at 8:38 PM