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Big News: Maharey's Views Of The Nuclear Family

Big News with Dave Crampton

The Nuclear Family Is History, Says Steve Maharey

Never before has the family received such media and political coverage. We have the beginnings of Commission for the Family and a debate on what constitutes a family unit. We also have a Social Services Minister who says the two-parent family is history, speaking on behalf of a Government who didn’t even mention the F- word in the last budget.

Social Services Minister Steve Maharey would rather discuss the function of the family, rather than its composition. Most agree that one function is raising children, it’s just that there is less of an agreement as to whether a married couple is the preferred mode of child rearing.

Maharey seems to think that sole parents and family groups can do the job as well as those who are married. Although some can, it doesn’t make it the preferred method.

ACT Social Welfare spokesperson Muriel Newman considers the two-parent nuclear family is the best way to parent kids properly. Sliding off the other end of the scale, new Green MP Metiria Turei is on record as saying that the loving warmth of a group of caring adults creates families, whether residing in the same house or not.

If you take that line you may as well create a family at the local softball club around “a group of caring adults” – but who looks after the kids when these caring adults go home?

The fact is that most families with dependent children are headed by married couples. You’d never hear that from the mouth of Steve Maharey, though.

Despite married couples heading just a third of New Zealand households, they head 58 percent of households with dependent children. And as most parents with dependent children are married, with a number of defacto couples also raising children, two parent households are certainly not the spent force Maharey thinks they are.

He’d rather promote and support gay parenting, extended family parenting and sole parenting to the exclusion of the two-parent family, especially those who are married. Yet all parents should be supported.

But the Government is not getting off to a great start with their Social Security
(Working towards Employment) Amendment bill – now entitled the personal development bill.

The bill, if passed, will essentially remove work testing of those on the domestic purposes benefit. At present, sole parents are asked to seek part time work when the youngest child turns six, extending to full time work when the youngest turns 14.

In place of the current system will be a case management system encouraging mothers off the DPB. Critics maintain that mothers will spend longer on the benefit as they won’t be required to seek work, just encouraged.

Anyone with half a brain knows that living on welfare is a poverty trap. Twenty seven percent of families with dependent children are headed by one parent, the second highest rate of sole parenting in the developed world. It would be higher if twenty percent of potential babies were not aborted.

Most sole parents are mums on welfare, 61 percent of them earning less than $20.000 a year. Forty three percent of kids are born to unmarried mothers, many of whom are on welfare. It is the Government who should be trying to support these solo parents out of the poverty trap. Instead it has MP’s like Maharey saying they are “doing okay” and telling all and sundry that mums spend an average of 3.7 years on the DPB when the real average is 6.5 years, according to Lindsay Mitchell, a campaigner for a review of the DPB.

And those on the DPB are not doing okay.

Even some two- parent families are struggling. Some are providing their kids with alcohol before they go out and kill – as was the case with 14 –year-old teenage killer Kararaina Tearauna. She was one of three teenagers alleged to have killed Kenneth Pigott after her grandmother supplied her and her two mates with bourbon on the night of the murder.

That may have cost Kenneth Pigott his life. However if these teenagers were brought up in a supportive environment by parents who cared where they were at 3am on a school night, they wouldn’t be out on the streets.

If two parent families are not supported, mentored and encouraged, some of today’s preschoolers will become tomorrow’s criminals and will have a prison term to head their CV before applying for their first job.

- Dave Crampton is a Wellington-based freelance journalist. He can be contacted at

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