“Problem families” cost British taxpayers £9 billion per year

From the UK Telegraph. (H/T Dina)


The majority of Britain’s “problem families”, some of whom are blamed for last summer’s riots, are fatherless, official research has found.

About 72,000 of the most troubled families, 60 per cent of those being targeted by the Government, are headed by a single mother. The rate is about triple the national average.

An official review into the causes of last summer’s riots is expected to highlight the lack of “male role models” for many of the youths arrested in the wake of the widespread disturbances.

The riot panel, set up to investigate the problem, is thought to have become frustrated that few details of the family backgrounds of problem children have previously been recorded, despite it being such an important influence on their behaviour.

The issue has now quickly risen up the Prime Minister’s agenda and Downing Street aides believe that family breakdown is one of the most urgent problems facing Britain.

Last night, Eric Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, said: “These troubled families are in total breakdown.

“The absence of a positive father figure is a huge problem and often the fathers who are present have severe drug and alcohol addictions and are not working.

“Clearly we want to work towards a situation where the fathers in these families provide stability, which means getting them back to work, so they can bring in money and be a positive role model to their children.”

It is understood that another “problem” identified among the troubled families is the large number of children. About 20 per cent of the 120,000 families have at least five children, which can lead to a lack of parental attention.

That’s about $15 billion U.S. dollars per year. The cost of family breakdown in the United States is $112 billion per year, and rising as the illegitimacy rate rises.

Reconstructing marriage

We need to stop the destruction of marriage to stop these runaway costs.

One of the ways to do that is to encourage men to marry. But the problem is that men without fathers in the home will not be as likely to marry, since they have never seen the way that a man operates in a marriage – as a protector, provider and moral/spiritual leader. Men need to see an example of mature, married love that is different from lust – an example of steady self-sacrificial service. The more we subsidize the destruction of marriage, the fewer younger men will understand what marriage really requires of men at the experiential level.

But there is another problem. Where does this money for social programs come from? It comes from businesses and taxpayers. In particular, a lot of it comes from working men and their employers. When business taxes and income taxes go up to pay for this problem, it is much harder for men to bear the financial costs of marriage.

Young women, take note: if you do not do your part to fight against divorce and unwed motherhood, then you cannot complain that men are not marrying. To get men to marry, society has to have in place a framework of laws, policies and economic incentives that make marriage natural and inviting to men. Taxing employers and incomes is not the right way to encourage men to marry. If we want men to be providers and to take responsibility for families, then we need to encourage them and make it easier for them to do those things.

Christians ought to care

Christians have an extra reason to be opposed to divorce and unwed motherhood – Christianity is “appropriated” by children most when there is a father in the home who is engaged as moral and spiritual leader. That means when the mother lets the father lead on moral and spiritual issues.


In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

Women who are serious about serving God with their marriages should therefore get very comfortable with the idea with having a man in the home who will lead on moral and spiritual issues. I recommend that women prepare themselves by studying things like Christian apologetics, politics, economics, etc. so that they are able to test men on their knowledge of these things. There is simply no other way to know if a man can lead on moral and spiritual issues. The woman must study these things, and the woman must detect and select men who can lead. She must have enough of a developed, integrated Christian worldview in order to test his worldview. This is especially important if her own father does not have a well-developed worldview, since she will have to do more of the testing herself.

Christian women need to become comfortable with men who are solid on moral issues, especially when they can be persuasive using reason and evidence when articulating their views. Christian women need to become comfortable with men who are solid on exclusive truth claims, especially when they can be persuasive using reason and evidence when articulating their views. And the best way to get comfortable with men being bold and assertive on moral questions and truth questions is for women to study these things themselves.

Just as an example, I know a Christian woman who a year ago who was not using the standard arguments for God’s existence from physics. She sent me some pictures of her bookshelves and they are literally filled with apologetics books. She sent me a snippet of a conversation she is in with an atheist scientist and she is pounding him with peer-reviewed articles from science journals showing how the progress of science supports theism. Women need to be like that so that they are capable of recognizing and preferring men who will lead.

What church leaders don’t seem to get is that a man’s ability to lead on moral and spiritual issues is not strong enough if it is merely based on his “”faith” opinions. Moral and spiritual leadership is stronger when it’s grounded by studying the data and becoming familiar with the evidence pro and con. There is no shortcut to being a moral and spiritual leader through Bible reading, singing and praying. More is required. And more is required of women who expect to be able to be comfortable with such a man. Women need to study these things themselves, like my friend, so that they are able to recognize and prefer men who have those required skills.

To encourage marriage, we have to be practical. We have to think about dollars and cents. We have to think about incentives. We have to put ourselves in the place of men and ask ourselves: what does it take to make you commit? What are your needs? What are your fears? It’s not going to work to just order men around and spout slogans like “man up”. It’s a problem and it needs a rigorous engineering/economics approach to solve. We need leaders who think about problems as engineers and economists, not as charismatic speakers.

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