One-parent families 'are crime red herring': Poverty and stress are more likely to cause delinquency, expert says

AN OBSESSION with family structure is the wrong way to tackle rising crime, an expert warned yesterday.

Despite statements by academics and right-wing politicians, connections between one-parent families and deliquency were not consistent, David Utting, of the Family Policy Studies Centre told the Families, Children and Crime conference, organised by the Institute for Public Policy Research and the Independent on Sunday.

A recent analysis of 50 US and British studies showed that children whose parents were divorced were 10-15 per cent more likely to become delinquent than children from two-parent homes. But the deliquent acts were usually under-age smoking, drinking and truancy rather than serious crime.

Another American study showed that adult offending was actually twice as common among boys from unhappy intact homes as those raised singly by an affectionate mother.

'Discord between parents - whether living together or apart - should be seen as one of many stress factors which affect the ability of parents to give children. . . care and affection,' Mr Utting said. Low income and poor living conditions were also crucial.

Mr Utting argued for more community projects to improve parenting skills and support families. But he added these would be of limited value if nothing was done to alleviate poverty and other external stresses.

Tony Blair, shadow Home Secretary, supported the position. He told the conference that while young people had their own responsibility to lead law-abiding lives, society had a responsibility to improve their chances of development.

But Mr Utting's call for more parenting projects was rejected by David Willetts MP, former director of the right- wing Centre for Policy Studies, who said they had yet to prove their effectiveness.

'We need to socialise people - to tie them into rules they observe and that guide their behaviour,' Mr Willetts insisted. He said it was no coincidence that Switzerland and Japan, which had strong social codes, also had low crime rates.

The criminal justice system also had to become more 'comprehensive and vivid' to young 'impulsive and unintelligent' criminals. It had to become more 'fast track' with the shortest time between crime and punishment.

Mr Willetts claimed that while the quality of family life was important, it was silly to ignore the fact that children with two parents were less likely to commit offences than children with one.

The authors, Bea Campbell and Angela Phillips, said the debate on the family and juvenile crime virtually ignored the fact that most crimes were committed by males.

Ms Phillips, author of The Trouble with Boys, said: 'Why does nobody ever ask why it is that so few women, living in exactly the same unemployment, the same bad housing and cared for by the same lone mother as their male peers, end up in prison?'

Ms Campbell, author of Goliath: Britain's Dangerous Places, claimed the crime committed by young men on Britain's deprived estates was a celebration of masculinity.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas