Single parent? Check. Two adults intended to raise a family? No. A present father? No and then yes. Interesting characteristics, no?
I tick nearly all the boxes on David Lammy’s statement last week about the rioters but I am pretty sure it’s not me he’s talking about.
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham,
“In areas like mine, we know that 59% of black Caribbean children are looked after by a lone parent. There is none of the basic starting presumption of two adults who want to start a family, raise children together, love them, nourish them and lead them to full independence. The parents are not married and the child has come, frankly, out of casual sex; the father isn’t present, and isn’t expected to be. There aren’t the networks of extended families to make up for it. We are seeing huge consequences of the lack of male role models in young men’s lives..”
Apart from the black Caribbean ethnicity, he could have been talking about my situation. I am a single parent. The father is now part of my daughter’s life but we didn’t start our trip into parenthood wanting to be a family, nor to raise our child together.
So what’s the difference between me and the people Lammy is describing? It’s primarily a socio-economic one. I have been to university, more than once, I have a good non-manual job as a statistical analyst and I have the support of my friends and family. I am also in my 30s.
Knowing that someone is black Caribbean may make it easy to guess that they will be a single parent. However, knowing that I am a single parent says nothing about whether my child will be out there rioting in a couple of decades time.
I’ve been trying to find some redeeming quality to the way our daughter was conceived and born but I can’t. Most importantly, though, I no longer care. I refuse to feel guilty about the way this little miracle of a child was brought into the world and there’s no minister or columnist out there who can make me.
I don’t feel guilty because the bulk of evidence suggests that being a lone parent is not what causes children to behave badly. In fact “[b]ehavioural problems were less likely among children living in families with higher levels of parental qualifications” (source).
Other factors include the mother’s age, economic security, attention and guidance that were provided and the likelihood of living in a deprived area. In fact all these factors are what the government can have direct influence such as with schooling, maternity leave, austerity cuts that increase the chances of a recession and decrease economic security.
David Lammy will be more successful in reducing rioting in the future if he brings to task the government rather than point his finger at us single parents. I know he was, on this occasion, pointing at the areas with high levels of ethnic minorities but I don’t believe that race on its own makes up the difference.