Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Lindsay Mitchell: Sole parents - blighted by poverty and mental illness

The following graphs paint a clear picture of the deprivation associated with sole parenthood.

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?

No.Yes.No.

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.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that within 20 years more people will be affected by depression than any other health problem.
According to WHO depression will be the biggest health burden on society both economically and sociologically.
Poorer countries have more depression compared to richer countries and even poor people in rich countries have a high incidence of depression compared to richer people in the same countries...
(No mention of solo parents or benefits)
Maybe you need to dig a little deeper, Lindsay Mitchell, or else stick to what you are good at, which is..art apparently.

Anonymous said...

When the DPB was introduced as an election bribe by Bill Rowling many people were against its introduction predicting the exact outcome as your study has revealed.

tarnya said...

I would love to see these statistics broken down further into reasons for single parenting: death of spouse, divorce or never married.I think the outcomes would be different for these subgroups.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lindsay I see your still doing great writing. Sorry I have not been in touch I have been extremely unwell and trying to get my health in order. Heart and lung problems I am over the hill. Its called old age!I read writing from time to time and enjoy yours.

Be good to hear from you

Kelly T

Aron Watson said...

Here's an idea, keep benefit payments low in comparison to increased gst, inflation, and other growing costs. Then cut there training so the under-educated ones can't get employment let alone off the benefit.
Then take there 20 free hours daycare a week off them, to help increase there financial stress.

Then write a article pointing out the increased rates of depression in solo-parents, and wounder why.

God forbid we actually help them.