In this issue:
News in Brief
Traditional Family: Two recent polls conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide and MORI found that respondents overwhelmingly supported the traditional family. Wirthlin’s survey found that 74 per cent of the world believe that ‘a family created through lawful marriage is the fundamental unit of society’. 79 per cent agreed that ‘all things being equal, it is better for children to be raised in a household that has a married mother and father’. Wirthlin’s study, which was conducted among 2,893 adults in 19 countries, even found that ‘families with multiple children help improve society’.
Out of MORI’s sample of 1,014 adults 33 per cent thought spending more time at home with their families would most improve their lives and 24 per cent thought that ‘finding a new interest for self or family’ would most enhance their happiness. ‘Establishing better contact with extended family’ and ‘giving more time to community or charity projects’ each attracted 10 per cent of replies.
Comment: Clearly happy stable families and healthy communities are at the top of most people’s agenda. We want and need more support for marriage and family life. This means re-establishing the special status of marriage and re-introducing proper fiscal allowances for dependant wives and children. This would help individual families and, in the long term, mop up the mistakes made by successive governments’ policies undermining marriage and the bonds of kinship.
Fast-forwarding fatherhood: A survey by a new charity, Young Voice, is re-discovering the importance of fathers. It found that boys whose fathers are more involved in their lives are more self-confident and less likely to take drugs. They are also less likely to feel depressed and alienated, according to Dr Ann Buchanan of the Centre for Research into Parenting and Children. (BBC News 22.11.99)
Conducting research over eight years on 173 girls in Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Bruce Ellis found that young girls with close relationships with their fathers may enter puberty later than girls with distant or non-existent relationships. Fathers who were observed to be more affectionate with their daughters and who spent more time caring for them before they reached school tended to have daughters who entered puberty later than girls who had poor relationships. Good mother-daughter relationships were also thought to delay the onset of sexual maturity (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Mr Ellis speculated ‘It may be the particular kind of stress associated with either low levels of positive family relationships, a lack of paternal investment, or both’ which brought on earlier puberty.
Grandmother’s footsteps: The rediscovery of grandmothers is a close runner-up on the need for fathers. A government initiative to provide volunteer ‘grannies’ for lone parent families is being piloted in Essex. It is part of the government’s Sure Start programme aimed at reducing child poverty. This includes reducing the number of children on the at-risk register, reducing low birth-weight babies and helping language development. Office for National Statistics figures show that children born to single mothers below the age of 20 are more likely to die and remain at risk even at the age of three. The ‘grannies’ will help with childcare and ‘mentor’ young mothers but will not be ‘cheap labour’. (Sunday Times, 14.11.99)
Comment: All the above stories show the importance of the traditional family founded on the kinship of marriage. Will the ‘government grannies’ give loyal help and support like real grandmothers, or could they be a Trojan horse for insensitive Social Services intervention where mothers are having problems?
Girl guides and AIDS: Ten million girl guides and girl scouts embarked on a massive global initiative to combat AIDS. Young women from more than 150 countries met in London in November to launch a continuing campaign to teach young people about ‘responsible citizenship’. Peter Piot, executive director of UNAids (the joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS) said that it was important that organisations working with girls and young women incorporated AIDS into their ‘education and empowerment programmes’. Ms Radford, chairman of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girls Scouts, said ‘Youth organisations such as us have access to large groups of young people who together can make a difference. We can use young people to reach young people, those most at risk from HIV/AIDS. (PA News, 23.11.99)
Comment: Most people believe that the Guides and Scouts are safely involved in healthy personal and group activities far removed from AIDS-related behaviours and ‘safer sex’.
Brook Advisory Centres: Funding from pharmaceutical companies for the Brook’s educational activities amounted to £66,559 over the period 1993-1999. £5000 of this was given for a joint project on the production of a report on the development of private and confidential advice and treatment for teenagers.
Comment: This commercial input helps the Brook to recruit youngsters and contracept them with the promise that parents will not be informed causing more division between parent and child.
Morning-after Pill. The government plans to allow the morning-after pill to be made available over the counter at chemist shops as part of its strategy to reduce unwanted pregnancies in Britain.Tony Blair has told ministers that he does not want the pill to be handed out indiscriminately to underage girls. Pharmacists will be given a list of questions they must ask before providing the pill. Daily Telegraph 1.12.99.
Comment: This opens the door for free and unrestricted distribution of the morning-after pill, without reference to the increase in promiscuity and associated sexually transmitted infections, already of considerable concern.
Section 28 in danger of repeal
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 requires: “A local Authority shall not – a) intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality: b) promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Section 28 has protected schools for eleven years, but some local authorities are anticipating its repeal by appointing homosexual school workers.
A recently published booklet, Bankrolling Gay Proselytism, shows how gay proselytism has been funded by public money. Homosexual youth workers are being appointed to promote homosexuality and help young people to ‘come out’. A video encouraging school children as young as 13 to experiment with same sex partners has been produced by Health Promotion Services Avon. This aims to “explore ways in which sexuality can be included in the curriculum”. Role play includes acting out a “married man who was ‘done’ for cottaging. . . a S&M [sado masochistic] heterosexual woman. . . a transvestite cabaret artist”. The video is a powerful recruitment tool and targets “young people questioning their sexuality”. If Section 28 is abolished, this video, the book Jenny lives with Eric and Martin, and other material promoting homosexuality will be allowed in schools. Colin Hart, Director of the Institute says: “It is essential that ordinary parents make their views known to the Prime Minister and to their MP before attempts are made to repeal Section 28”. Bankrolling Gay Proselytism, The case for extending Section 28, The Christian Institute, 1999, ISBN: 1 901086 06 2, £1.96.
Funding Marriage Support
The Lord Chancellor’s Department (LCD) has produced a 39-page report on the need to support marriage. Public spending caused by family breakdown now costs the country about £5 billion a year not including indirect costs arising from damage to children’s education, criminal behaviour and the impact of breakdown on the use of the housing stock. The LCD is also concerned about human misery, citing the suicide rate among divorced men and women, respectively five times and three times higher than for married people.
However in Annex C, which outlines the purpose of marriage support, the Report claims that there is no statutory definition of marriage support services. Furthermore, according to the Report, most marriage support agencies do not confine their help to people who are or intend to become legally married. They also help those who are cohabiting and in some cases people in same sex relationships.
So what is marriage support? The report says it is ‘essentially aimed at helping people to establish and maintain successful relationships with their partners.’ It takes mainly the form of counselling, which is done by a wide range of established agencies (Relate, Marriage Care etc.) and by individuals, trained and untrained. These offer primary prevention counselling which aims to promote well-being before problems become evident (e.g. education); secondary prevention, which aims to limit the intensity and duration of problems (initially by GPs, health visitors etc) and tertiary prevention which aims to treat existing problems, reduce distress and limit damage. Most counselling would fall within this area and is carried out by marriage support services as listed in the eponymous Directory. The largest of these is Relate which estimates that it counsels 36,000 couples and 37,000 individuals at a cost of about £14m a year. This sum would be doubled without massive volunteer effort. Other agencies, mainly charities are also listed. They raise their own funds with variable grants from the LCD and most ask their clients to pay a fee. Views on the efficacy of counselling vary. The Newcastle study found that 38% of those who completed the counselling course felt that Relate had saved the relationship and 29% of those who did not complete the course felt the same. Research in America suggests that between 11% and 18% of people derive long-term improvements.
However, only a minority of couples use a marriage counselling service. Research into the effectiveness of relationship counselling suggests that none of the various schools of counselling (primary, secondary etc) has demonstrably better results than any other. The report found that social workers and probation officers now gave less time to supporting ‘couple relationships’ due to pressure of ‘other work’ and GPs and health professionals played a bigger part. A major counselling industry had grown up consisting mostly of self-employed counsellors. The British Association of Counselling had 17,000 members.
Sir Graham Hart who reviews the Report makes a number of recommendations to the LCD. Firstly that it should produce a strategy for the development of marriage support services. Secondly that it should set up a new Advisory Committee on marriage support and include advisors from other departments, from the proposed Family and Parenting Institute and from outside government. He said that the boundaries between the responsibilities of individual government departments were not necessarily clear cut, for instance the Home Office and the Department of Health had responsibilities which were relevant to marriage. In line with the government’s commitment to “joined up government” he recommends that departments should take a broad and flexible view of their fields of interest and should work together, funding developments jointly where it made sense to do so. ‘It is very discouraging to progress if departments take a narrow view of their responsibilities, passing applicants on to other departments wherever they possibly can, rather than seeking to help’ he said. (our italics)
While broadly applauding this belated recognition of the need to support marriage and for government departments to co-operate over this (as we have previously urged in these pages), it is sad, yet again, to see that the Report supports marriage and relationships. Nothing will come of this if marriage is not clearly differentiated from other relationships and re-accorded the social recognition usurped by co-habiting and same-sex unions. Government departments, as Sir Graham Hart points out, must join up on this.
Meanwhile we find that the government is scrapping changes in the divorce laws in England and Wales at least until after the next election because trials of the compulsory meetings failed. They were stopped in June on the advice of those who conducted the trials. (BBC Homepage 1.12.99)
The ‘Widow’ Reaction
In an article entitled Sexual Spin published in Postgraduate Medical Journal (September 1999), Dr Trevor Stammers discussed the problems arising from teenage sexual activity: teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. He also commented upon the relatively little work that had been done on the psychological impact of teenage sex with its tragic legacy of teenage heartache, disillusionment and cynicism. He noted the higher risk of depression and attempted suicide among the sexually active compared with teenagers who retained their virginity.
This reflects my own experience during thirty-five years in general practice. I was repeatedly consulted by patients in their teens and twenties who had made an affectionate ‘commitment’ of their virginity to their boyfriends, unaware of the deep psychological bonding such self-gift creates. In their own eyes they were married in all but name. Suddenly, just a few weeks or months later, they found themselves abandoned, as their partners moved on to new conquests. This rejection of their affection, this disruption of the bonding, tore them apart psychologically. I called the trauma of losing their ‘husbands’ the ‘widow reaction’, their bereavement – for such it was – was compounded by the pain of seeing their boy friends in the company of the girls who had supplanted them. For some the result was indeed cynicism, for others a reactive depression set in. Uncontrollable tearfulness could last for many weeks, and work was impossible for perhaps several months. Often psychiatric referral was required. This is a high price to pay for the loss of virginity and, with it, self-respect.
Sexual activity in the young does have its price tag. But this information is rarely included in school sex education programmes.
Dr John Guly
Sexual Spin by Dr Trevor Stammers is a well-researched and important article. A free copy is being sent to members. Others will be sent a copy at cost of 50p, including p&p.
The sex-change society, Melanie Phillips, The Social Market Foundation, November 1999, ISBN 1 874097 64 X 364pp, price £12.99, £1.60 p&p.
The gender revolution of the 20C was female. Wartime demand for workers, the contraceptive pill and women’s full-scale entry into the workplace changed family life forever. But what became of masculinity? Now, on the eve of the 21C, the male role is in crisis – or even in danger of extinction altogether.
The Sex Change Society issues a devastating attack on androgynous public policy, arguing that feminism has distorted its own agenda of equality by replacing it with sameness. The results are startling. Men have been demonised through a distorted view that they are intrinsically violent and feckless while all women are essentially ‘saint-like’. At the same time, women are being encouraged to work at all times, whether they want to or not.
Melanie Phillips tells the disturbing story of the attempt to feminise the state, to reverse the roles of men and women and to run masculinity out of town altogether. She illustrates how men have been vilified to such an extent that they have been subjected to systematic injustice without anyone appearing to notice or care. She records how at every stage opinion formers have pushed an agenda which, claiming to promote freedom and independence for women, delivered the opposite. She shows, above all, how women’s interests were sold short by an ideology which moved from a genuine campaign for equality of opportunity to a gender vendetta which used women and children as a smokescreen for an attack on men. The result has been an anti-family policy in which everyone has become a potential loser.
Annual General Meeting, 17 June 1999, Royal Air Force Club, 128 Piccadilly , London W1. Dr Trevor Stammers, will speak on the causes and effccts of teenage pregnancy.
UN Convention on Children’s Rights
The following letter by Valerie Riches was published in The Times (25.11.99).
I am concerned that the Government has chosen to highlight in the Queen’s Speech next year’s tenth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was ratified by the UK in 1991. Close reading of the convention’s 54 articles reveals, in my opinion, its anti-child, anti-family attitude.
Some articles have the potential for engendering serious family conflicts. Article 5 preserves the right of parents to provide appropriate direction and guidance of their children according to the evolving capacities of the child, but such a right is diminished by the relentless affirmation in other articles of the rights of the child.
These include the child’s right to freedom of expression, information, religion, assembly and privacy, which could override parental guidance and direction. If, for example, school sex education included ideas to which parents considered the child should not be exposed, such as homosexual practices being equated to marital intercourse, the Government, under the terms of the convention, would be able to insist that the child had the right to receive such information.
The assertion that a child’s “right” to freedom of assembly may mean that parents cannot intervene to prevent their children getting into situations which may endanger their physical or moral well-being.
There are countries where children are used as mere chattels and where the convention may be applicable. In this country, however, parents should be alert to the possibility that, since the convention is legally binding on the Government, the language of “rights” could be interpreted to tragic effect.
We have alerted readers before of the dangers inherent in UN Conventions ratified by the government without democratic debate. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, is a classic example. We see the results all around us with the marginalisation of men. The latest interference on personal liberty is that the government proposes to ban men only clubs.