Ssshhh – Don’t mention family structure

NZ Herald 24 January 2017 |
The New Zealand children who are least likely to be abused are those who live with their married biological parents.

So says welfare commentator and researcher Lindsay Mitchell in a Family First NZ-commissioned report, Child Abuse and Family Structure: What is the evidence telling us?

The report, which follows an earlier examination of child poverty and its link to family structure, claims that family structure is the “elephant in the room,” and that the growth of child abuse has accompanied a reduction in marriage and an increase in co-habiting and single-parent families.

The key conclusions include:

• For the last 50 years, families with ex-nuptial births, that have one or both parents absent, large numbers of siblings (especially from clustered or multiple births) and/or very young mothers have consistently been over-represented in the incidence of child abuse, similar to overseas data.
• Maori and Pacific families exhibit more of those features, and have appeared disproportionately in child maltreatment statistics since the earliest data analysis in 1967.
• The risk of abuse for a child whose parent/caregiver has spent more than 80 per cent of the previous five years on a benefit is 38 times greater than when there is no benefit history.

“Governments should focus on, and encourage and support, what works. Our children deserve this investment in their safety and protection.”

The full report, and executive summary, can be read on under ‘Research.’
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