Congratulations Australian Christian Lobby. You’ve managed to buy a report which states exactly what you want: that the lack of marriage is ruining the world. Not only that, the press has lapped this report up at the same time as burying your financial involvement. The report I speak of is the For Kids’ Sake report, conducted by Patrick Parkinson, a professor of law at Sydney University.
Fairfax newspapers have shown themselves to lack impartiality so much that the author of the article appearing in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald articles don’t even mention the Australian Christian Lobby’s involvement in the report until half way through the article. The mention comes well after Adele Horin, the author of the Fairfax article, speaks of the conclusions like they were impartial truths. Even The Australian, does a better job of being even handed, letting us know that the report is funded by a group who has significant vested interests within the first 2 sentences.
Here’s the reason why this is so problematic. The report strings together a collection of statistics showing declining marriage rates and increasing rates of child protection issues. A few pull away quotes the herald article states from the report include:
– a tripling since 1998 in the number of children notified for abuse or neglect;
– a doubling in 12 years in the number of children in out-of-home care.
All the while marriage has been decreasing. Therefore, it must be marriage! Quick get thee to a church! Obviously the lack of stating ones vows before a god is the reason for this problem. Except that this professor of law obviously doesn’t understand the difference between causation and correlation. Just because one thing is declining, and the other is increasing, it doesn’t mean one thing is causing the other. Simply it means these are occuring at the same time. What else happened during that period? Well house prices went up. Quick, someone make houses cheaper. Bananas went up in price too, should look into that as well. Or it could simply be that mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse in schools has been implemented during this time. When I was teaching, the whole of our staff got smashed by the deputy principal for not reporting a child with a bruised eye for one (yes one!) day. It wasn’t one of my students but I can imagine not noticing a kid up the back with a blue eye for one lesson. Teachers today are more highly active in the reporting of child abuse than ever before. The fact that reports of abuse are increasing is a sign that the system is working and actual abuse is not being swept under the carpet like it was in the not too distant past.
Another quote, from the report “Governments in Australia cannot continue to ignore the reality that two parents tend to provide better outcomes for children than one, and that the most stable, safe and nurturing environment for children is when their parents are, and remain, married to one another” Really? Wow you could have fooled me. Parents in a happy relationship tend to look after their kids better, no doubt. They spend less time throwing lamps across the room at each other and more time looking after each other. But being married is a symptom of a happy relationship, just like single mothers and divorce are symptoms of unhappy relationships. Those in happy relationships stay married/are married together more often also are more often to be caring households where dad isn’t beating up on the kids.
Telling people that they should “stay together for the kids”, as the report implies, is the worst idea ever. What benefit can an abusive parent be staying in the family? Surely the kids would be better off without seeing that parent. The Howard government tried to introduce policies that would force couples to go to mediation before divorce. This would have meant that mothers with children would be forced into mediation with an abusive husband (or vice versa). Of course if the husband had a criminal record for this type of abuse, then there would be little question. But the fact is there is are a lot of people in abusive relationships and not a lot of criminal records. Interestingly, it turns out someone who was advising the Howard government on matters of family law was none other than Professor Parkinson. I don’t know if he had a role in these propositions, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Reading reports like this from the university that I graduated from sickens me. That a university employee can take money from an organisation that clearly has a alterior motives, then use the university’s name to promote the report makes me want to burn my testamur. I graduated with a science degree, and if this is the kind of unscientific crap that comes out in Sydney University’s name, I don’t wish to be associated with it.
For those who are interested, the report can be found at http://sydney.edu.au/law/news/docs_pdfs_images/2011/Sep/FKS-ResearchReport.pdf