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The Child-Parent Relationship in Violence and Crime

Alan Challoner MA MChS

Part Three — Crime and Poverty

If we accept that a proportion of our population is constantly to be in a state of


comparative poverty, then we are not just talking about money. Currie and Skolnick
suggest that:
Poverty itself is less clearly significant as a factor in high crime rates than is inequality
between the races and between the affluent and the poor ... Harsh inequalities in living
standards in both “developing” and developed countries are closely associated with high
levels of violence.i
A study of homeless families and children in Massachusetts, USA, found that amongst
the children there was evidence of developmental delays, severe depression, anxiety
and learning difficulties. Half of them were in need of psychiatric referral. The parents
of those children who had behaviour problems felt that they had no way of dealing with
them.ii
As a consequence of poverty in 1995, as opposed to 1895, severe physical deprivation
is probably rare (with the exception of the homeless some of whom may be in that
state of their own volition), but spiritual and moral deprivation has intensified because
there are now fewer alternatives for the care of those at risk.
It is precisely because some parents and prospective parents have to live at that
particular level, below which they rarely drop or above which they ever rise, that the
stresses of their everyday existence causes them to neglect their total responsibilities
in respect of bringing up their children. If we want our children to take responsibility for
their own behaviour then we must bring them up in an atmosphere of consistent trust
and good values. If they do not see this personal morality in their parents and others
then they will not adopt those desirable values.
I hasten to add that this does not apply to all. There are those who, despite privations,
make a very worthwhile job of bringing up their children.
It is not the case that the poor are always poor and Atkinson et al., [1983] have guided
us on this with their important update of the York Survey by Rowntree and Lavers
[1951]. The earlier survey covered a study of a sample of working class families that
included both income and names and addresses. Atkinson and his colleagues traced
some 1,430 children of these families to assess whether they had migrated in financial
status. The original families were divided into three groups: (1) low income; (2)
intermediate income; and (3) comfortably off. Divisions were made on the same basis
for the children assessed some 25 or more years later. (Here noted as A, B & C.) The
following table shows the movement.

Parents’ Children
Group
A (%) B (%) C (%) All
(Number)
1 48.2 33.3 18.5 465
2 25.8 35.1 39.1 368
3 26.5 29.1 44.4 597
Total 33.4 32.0 34.6 1,430

Thus the poor parents, identified here, did not necessarily transmit their poverty.
However Halsey (Idem) shows another plan of inter-generational class mobility.
Destination (ten years after entry to work)
Origins Middle [%]
Lower-middle Working-
Class class class
Middle Class 7.0 3.7 2.6
Lower-middle 7.0 9.9 13.9
class
Working-class 6.1 11.3 38.5

Often such children are able, because of the efforts of their parent(s), to rise above
these problems and will therefore be in a better position when they become parents
themselves. It is those who fail that concern me and we must be realistic about why
they fail if we are to do anything constructive about it.
i
Currie, E.; & Skolnick, J. America’s problems: Social Issues and Public Policy , Glenview Scott, Foresman;
1988.
ii
Bassuk, Ellen L.; & Rubin, Lenore. Homeless Children: A neglected population. Jnl. Orthopsychiatry;
57(2); [pp., 279-286]; 1987.