PROF. PATRICK PARKINSON UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY WORLD CONGRESS ON FAMILIES, SYDNEY 2013

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1 PROF. PATRICK PARKINSON UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY WORLD CONGRESS ON FAMILIES, SYDNEY 2013

2 What sort of future will our children have in developed societies in 20 years time? 2033: The convergence of multiple crises a) The debt crisis governments borrowing on the intergenerational credit card b) Environmental issues c) The aged care problem in many countries: ageing population, living longer, smaller tax base to support them We are aware of these, even if paralysed about what to do about them

3 A growing crisis about the fragility of family life Fewer children than ever growing up with two biological parents Significant impacts on both private and public finances Affects the capacity of parents in mid-life to care for both their children and their own parents Affects the mental health of the younger generation Western governments can no more afford to ignore the growing fragility of families than they can afford to ignore the environment

4

5 Birth cohort By age 15 At birth Due to parental separation

6 Increase not particularly due to rise in divorce Australia: modest rise in divorce rate since the 1980s (from 28% to 33% of marriages expected to end in divorce) but proportion of divorcees with children falling Two main drivers of demographic change a) Children born to cohabitees b) Children born outside of any cohabiting relationship

7 About 12% of all births to single mums big increase between 1975 and 2000

8 Britain: Early 1970s, less than 10% 1995, 34% 2008: 45%. USA: 40% In Estonia, France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, more than half of all births are ex-nuptial The proportion of first-born children who are ex-nuptial is much higher

9 Majority of children who are born ex-nuptially are born to parents who are living together (about 2/3rds in Britain and Australia). Some will go on to marry International evidence: cohabitation much more unstable than marriage even when children Fragile Families study (US): parental separation by the time child was 3, over 2.5 times greater for children born to cohabiting than married parents after controlling for ethnicity, socio-economic status etc Millennium study (UK) 2 to 2.5 times more likely to split up by time child is 5 compared to their married counterparts, across all income groups Kiernan (1999) study of 11 European countries similar results Not just selection effects marriage makes a difference

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11 Significant fall in living standards for women who do not repartner Alleviated by spousal maintenance only for the few e.g. Germany, USA. Child support more common but many fathers on low incomes Financial pressures of separation alleviated by increased workforce participation by women. USA: workforce participation of married women jumped from 28% in 1960, to 68% in 1987 Child support and spousal maintenance represented 31% of total family income in 1980 but only 14% in 2001.

12 Many good reasons for separation but: Two homes can never be as cheap as one Economies of scale lost in separation Role differentiation less feasible Living apart is an economically inefficient pattern of living for adults raising children Adverse effects of separation cushioned to some extent by state subsidies but for how long can we afford this?

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14 Poverty affects children s wellbeing Educational opportunities Downward mobility in socioeconomic status Parental stress Parents have less time to supervise

15 The burden of care for the elderly has in the past disproportionately fallen on women for both maternal and paternal parents Mothers have less time to provide informal care and support to elderly and frail parents Less able to afford housing sufficient for an elderly parent to live with them If distance is involved, less money and time to travel to visit them Obligation to support paternal parents dissolved or at least diminished

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17 Direct welfare support The costs of collecting child support Australia: costs 34.6 cents to the Government for every dollar collected in child support through the Child Support Agency The difficulty of collecting child support USA: between 1975 and 1999, $30 billion was spent implementing this child support enforcement program Less than 1% increase in number of women receiving child support the number of never-married mothers increased fivefold - fathers difficult to identify or impecunious Government s safety net role as social insurer

18 The reduced capacity of people in mid-life to provide informal care and support to frail and elderly parents, means an increased burden on health and social services to meet these needs Care to keep them in their own home Institutional care If the elderly person who needs care has himself or herself experienced a family breakdown, their capacity to support themselves financially may also be diminished. Costs exacerbated by greater longevity

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20 Compelling evidence now that adolescent mental health problems have been increasing significantly over time. E.g US study of MMPI scores of college students from 1938 to 2007 At least five times as many college students in 2007 as in 1938 had measures indicating pychopathology Included schizophrenia, psychopathic deviation, paranoia and depression. Same for high school students The divorce rate was positively and significantly correlated with scores on all of the clinical scales

21 Similar data from all over Europe Australia: 2007 Survey found that more than one in four young people aged years (26%) have a mental disorder Growing evidence of distress especially among adolescent girls Binge drinking (five or more drinks per day yr 12 girls rate increased from 17% (2002) to 32% (2008) Juvenile crime Hospitalisation for self-harm

22 66% increase overall in 10 years Girls six times the rate of boys

23 90% increase in self-harm by older adolescent girls in 10 years

24 No doubt multiple reasons, but a vast body of evidence that shows that family conflict and family breakdown have a range of deleterious effects on children and young people Family conflict does not end on separation Conflict and violence may be exacerbated by separation Separation creates different sources of conflict between parents from the kind of conflict that occurs when parents live together Australian research: significantly higher levels of conflict in stepfamilies and lone-parent families than in intact families.

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26 How much family instability can we cope with before we need to get serious about trying to reverse the trend? Growing public costs of family instability absorbed for as long as economies and revenues were growing The debt crisis The environment The ageing population

27 Governments can no more afford to ignore the growing fragility of families than they can afford to ignore the environment Fragile families put at risk the wellbeing of children and the elderly Particular risks for adolescent girls Burden on the public purse unsustainable given the demands on public expenditure in the next 30 years A looming crisis for the welfare state

28 A new conversation needed beyond celebrating diversity Limited role for government: Relationship education and counselling Family support programs A coherent family policy across welfare provision, tax and family law Does government policy, as far as possible, encourage the maintenance of safe, stable and committed relationships between parents? Does government policy, as far as possible, encourage the procreation of children in a context that maximizes their chances of experiencing a safe, stable and nurturing home environment?

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