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Active dads: major key to solving youth crime wave

Active dads: major key to solving youth crime wave

19 Feb 2008. The Family Party says active fathers hold a major key to addressing youth crime in South Auckland.

Richard Lewis says there is an increasing body of evidence that shows father-friendly policies can make a major contribution to society by producing well-adjusted children and reducing major problems like crime and antisocial behaviour.

A recent review published in the February issue of Acta Paediatrica has revealed that active father figures have a key role to play in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women.

The review looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007, covering 22,300 individual sets of data from 16 studies. 18 of the 24 papers also covered the social economic status of the families studied. The smallest study focused on 17 infants and the largest covered 8,441 individuals ranging from premature babies to 33 year-olds. They included major ongoing research from the USA and UK, together with smaller studies from Sweden and Israel.

Swedish researchers also found that regular positive contact reduces criminal behaviour among children in low-income families and enhances cognitive skills like intelligence, reasoning and language development. Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioural problems than those who just lived with their mother.

The researchers are urging healthcare professionals to increase fathers' involvement in their children's healthcare and are calling on policy makers to ensure that fathers have the chance to play an active role in their children’s upbringing.

Dr Anna Sarkadi from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Uppsala University, Sweden says, "our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure."

 "For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes.

 "Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16."

 "Children who lived with both a mother and father figure had less behavioural problems than those who lived with just their mother.”

 Our review backs up the intuitive assumption that engaged biological fathers or father figures are good for children, especially when the children are socially or economically disadvantaged" says Dr Sarkadi.

The researchers felt it was important that professionals who work with young children and their families explore how actively fathers are involved with their children from an early age. The researchers say involving fathers in healthcare visits and explicitly seeking their opinions when making decisions was a good way to promote high levels of engagement.

But Richard Lewis says this kind of research is unlikely to be taken on board by the current Labour-led government. He says the fact that the state facilitates underage abortions without parental knowledge or consent sums up the lack of respect government has for New Zealand parents.

“I believe the outcomes we are experiencing in South Auckland today are largely the result of a government that devalues the traditional nuclear family, undermines parental authority and either fosters generational dependency or forces both parents into the workforce. This is so because many of our current politicians ideologically believe that family-form is inconsequential and that children’s' rights outweigh parental responsibility. The present challenge for South Auckland families is to have authority in the home without being undermined and disempowered by the state,” says Mr Lewis.

Mr Lewis says reinstating Section 59 of the Crimes Act would be a good start point to resetting boundaries in the home and community.

Richard Lewis is a former South Auckland police sergeant standing for the Family Party in the Manukau Electorate.


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