Sunday, 7 October 2012

Youth crime due to absent fathers?

I've been reading over David Lammy's comments in recent days about children from fatherless backgrounds and how it leads to crime.

Here and Here

As always, my notes on the subject are quite telling, including the word "bollocks" written quite clearly next to one paragraph.

I'm from a single parent background, my father embezzled a large sum of money from the rest of my family as well as from my sister's and my bank accounts before fleeing to the west country leaving our family in massive debt and even spending a week without electricity. I was about 8 years old.

My contact with my father has been very limited since then. The odd birthday card here and there, a few trips about twenty years ago and a brief meeting when my sister broke her leg in 1995.

It hasn't been until recently that we have spoken again, having been in contact through genesreunited whilst I was working on my family tree. Even then he told me that he had a terminal bowel cancer and was not expected to live before a miraculous recovery.

Any way, I digress.

My mother, like Mr Lammey's, worked hard to bring my sister and I up, we knew right from wrong, we got very good grades in school and now my sister is lecturing in psychology at the Uni of Derby and I am doing alright for my self too. We had no ever present father figure but my two grandfather's did what they could. Pop, my paternal Grandfather, was always a phone call away and was very supportive and I guess he did fill the father shaped void but he was always distant and it really was up to my Mum to do all the basic hands on stuff. Gemma and I were also Cubs/Brownies, Scouts/Guides and finally both Venture Scouts.

Although I do agree with Mr Lammey's comments about how successive schools and Governments have failed the youth of today and that many young people's lives will be over before they have begun. I do not take the argument that;

He lived alone, he rarely see's his mother and his father left home years ago.

This is not an excuse to assault a Police officer. No matter what you're upbringing you have the choice whether or not to commit a crime and surely hitting a Police officer is clearly wrong?

Perhaps the most important choice of all, though, was the one made by his father to walk out on his life. (that's where I wrote the word bollocks, after all I lived alone when I was 22, I rarely saw my Mum and my father had left when I was 8 - did I turn to crime? nope)

Your circumstances do have an effect on you but I think it is overly simplistic just to say that the boy didn't grow up with a father. After all with the statistics up to 25% coming from single parent backgrounds surely all of us should be turning to crime.

Personally I think that we should be looking elsewhere for blame. This gang culture which results in postcode wars and innocent passers by being sprayed all over the insides of newsagents when some Uzi wielding teenager comes hurtling through the door. Or consumer culture that dictates your "social standing" just by the type of trainers you are wearing and how expensive your stuff is. Is it because there is no discipline in society anymore with Schools powerless to do anything about disruptive kids, police officers similiarly hogtied and with a general apathy from governments and councils until the whole country descends into madness.

Also you need to look at the notion of fatherhood. The ideal father would indeed teach you how to be a man and help enforce discipline in the home with your mother. It is a role I'm hoping to aspire to and I hope in years to come I do become a good dad to my two kids. However I'm only human and already Sophie is picking up some of my interests. How many two year olds turn around and say;

Daddy, can I watch Darth Vader please?

Or have a plastic Dalek on their night stand to scare away the monsters?

Now, what if I wasn't a geek and was in fact indulgent in crime? What if the same gangs my boy wants to be part of are the same gangs I'm already in? When a child sees what a parent does they want to copy it, it is the norm. Whose to say that if some of these young ruffians father's had stayed that they wouldn't have turned out the way they are?

In David Lammey's case, he states his father turned to alcohol before he left. Surely you are better off with no father as a role model than a father who is drunk, possibly violently so?

In my own case, my Mum has told me of how impatient my father was with us. How he was too ready to give us a clip round the ear or discipline us for no reason, I also know that in later life he too has turned heavily to drink. I think myself lucky not to have his influence on my life.

Maybe it does have something to do with it, but I think that it is more likely one of many factors that are effecting the youth of today. I feel it is overly simplistic just to blame absent fathers and that we should look at all the causes of such behaviour. Youth crime is definitely something that needs to be looked at, as does this rising gang culture which is even filtering down to places like Medway (with gangs like the Gillinghambois and similiar gangs in Chatham and Strood) coming over from the States. Personally I think we need to toughen up on it, make some examples and make it clear that crime is not acceptable.

No matter what your circumstances, you ALWAYS have a mental choice as to whether to commit a crime or not - having a father or not should not mean that you can think that stabbing someone, robbing, rioting, looting or murder is in anyway alright.

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