The Increase In Juvenile Violence As An Effect of Divorce
Increased youth crime rate is caused largely by absent
fathers as a result of divorce made too easy. Consider this
chilling forecast. When we pass the year 2000, we will see
two groups of working age adults emerging. One group will
have received psychological, social, economic, educational
and moral benefits and the other group will have been
denied them all. The first group will have grown up with a
father present in the house and the second group will have
not had a father present. The groups will be roughly equal
in size. In order to be divorced in my parent's era of the
fifties, one mate had to be proven adulterous. Legally, one
party was deemed guilty and one was innocent. That finding
affected each party financially and socially enough so that
most couples tried hard not to divorce. In Canada the rate
of divorce in 1951 was one out of twenty couples. In the
late sixties, the "sexual revolution" began and couples
rebelled against the constraints of marriage. Movie makers
and journalists became rich extolling the virtues of free
love and liberation.
The addition of more grounds for divorce and the
elimination of the need to appear in court made it easier
for couples to split. Now there are "no fault" divorces
which further decrease the stigma. By 1987 one out of two
couples divorced. Since then, the annual divorce rate has
dipped slightly. The stigma is almost gone. Books are
written about doing your own divorce. One can obtain a low
budget quickie divorce by phone or fax to the Dominican
Republic in about three days. There are "divorce parties".
Even the Royal Family discusses its divorce dilemmas on t.v.
The divorce picture is not all rosy. According to
sociologist Lenore Weitzman, divorced women get by on about
64% of the income they had during marriage. For their
children, this translates into less money for school
activities, clothes, opportunities for traveling and
learning, day care and sometimes food. Children can be
called on to do adult tasks before they are ready, like
caring for younger siblings. Older children may be required
to work long hours at a job to help bring money to the
family. As a result, they may fall behind in their school
work. After a while, the child may feel it is hopeless to
try to keep up and decide to quit school.
At this point a girl may decide to get pregnant and bear a
child. She may feel that in doing so her life will have
more meaning and she will receive unconditional love from
the child. A U.S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth
reveals that 27% of girls from divorced families become
mothers versus 11% of girls from traditional families. For
boys, leaving school generally means a succession of low
paying jobs or life on the streets.
Certainly our "fatherless society" cannot be blamed for all
juvenile delinquency but it is a major contributor. Morals
are taught best within the confines of a stable home with
both parents present. Retired Edmonton Police Service
Superintendent Chris Braiden, notes that in the thirty year
period in which violent youth crime rose by 300% in the
U.S., the number of single parent families rose by 300% and
the divorce rate doubled, the same as it did in Canada.
Seventy percent of juvenile offenders in the U.S. jails
grew up without a father.
There is a drastic shortage of positive male role models.
There is no doubt about it; single mothers have and can
continue to raise good and responsible children. It takes
the physical and emotional strength of Hercules to do it
and I have great respect for mothers who have succeeded. My
own mother did it. But the numbers show that lack of
fathers contribute greatly to juvenile crime.
Lately, the role of the father is superfluous. He has been
reduced to being a household helper or a child support
payer. His role is important because he provides a love
that is different than the mother's. Mother's love is
unconditional. Father's love is sought after and earned
through achievement. The child must work for this love.
This type of love may sound like unreal love, but I think
it is real. The lucky child is the one who has the benefit
of both kinds of love.
The father can yield the power to invoke fear among
children. This sounds bad but it isn't. Of course, the
father can be friendly and loving but never underestimate
the power of fear to keep them in line. I am not talking
about laying a hand on the children, just the idea of
something "bad happening" if they don't "shape up". I can
attest to the success of fear in my own family. It works!
Without the father present, children are ripe for becoming
anything their peers want them to be. They find it hard to
resist temptation to be dishonest or criminal. There is no
father to answer to. Yes, there is Mom to answer to but she
is usually not as intimidating as a father.
In the community, a safer street is one where there are
fathers out mowing the lawn or fixing a car. A child is
less apt to commit a crime with fathers visibly present.
There is a saying that "it takes a whole community to raise
a child." Mothers set the standards for the community and
fathers enforce them.
To get back on the course of a family oriented instead of a
divorce oriented society, I feel we should start with
acknowledgment of the sad state of affairs our families are
in. We should recognize the link divorce has to youth
crime. We should pay close attention to what makes
successful families and model ours after theirs. We need to
recognize that marriage and parenting is a difficult job
but can be oh-so-rewarding. Children's needs should always
come first. If there are marital difficulties, couples
should commit to counseling unless the situation is
dangerous for the mother and children. I feel couples
should give themselves a year of work, then re-evaluate
their marriage. Applaud organizations such as Al Gore's
"Father to Father" program and the group Promise Keepers.
These groups seek to elevate the importance of fatherhood.
Several years ago, Vice President Dan Quayle accused t.v.
character Murphy Brown of ridiculing the two parent family.
He endured a lot of ridicule himself from people of
conservative and liberal beliefs. Now even President Bill
Clinton concedes that "Dan Quayle was right"
Blankenhorn, David. Perspectives on Fatherhood; Between
Haves and Have-nots: We need a credible national agenda to
reverse the trend of fathers being superfluous to family
life.; Home edition, Los Angeles Times, 20 Jun 1993, pp.
McGovern, Celeste. The Mirage of `easy' divorce., Vol. 22,
Alberta Report/Western Report, 28 Aug 1995, pp. 28