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Youngsters on the streets of Manchester this week

THE wonder is not that the riots have happened; it is that they have not happened before.

For over a generation we have conducted an experiment – to see whether the norms on which our society was built can be unravelled and replaced with an entirely new set of values.

The evidence has been clear for years that the breakdown of the traditional family – of respect for elders, of discipline, of responsibility, of reward for work and of making one’s way – was having a terrible impact.

Yet anyone pointing that out was dismissed as reactionary. In the wake of recent events, no one can deny that we have bred feckless, lawless males who pass on to their own children the same mistakes and multiply them with each new cycle of parenting.

Ignore the hand-wringing excuses about jobs and poverty and young people’s disconnection from the rest of society.

All of it is drivel, shamefully spouted by the very Left-wingers who have landed us in this. The culture which they have created has led to the events of the past five days. There was far worse unemployment in the Thirties and genuine grinding poverty, not the faux poverty of today, yet rioting was nowhere to be seen.

What is different now? Certainly a lack of discipline and the absence of the moral compass which for many generations was embedded across society – the difference between right and wrong.

But what lies at the top of the pyramid of causes is the destruction which has been wrought to the family, for so long the mainstay of society and the means by which successive generations were civilised and socialised.

In neighbourhoods such as Tottenham, where the rioting started, up to four in five families have no father living with them. This fatherlessness is the single most destructive factor in modern society.

Pointing this out is not the same as blaming or making single mothers into scapegoats. Many do a heroic job in the circumstances but the facts are clear, unambiguous and devastating.

Since the Sixties when this social revolution began, the percentage of births outside marriage has risen from 5 per cent to 40 per cent.

Not all of those children are fatherless. But even among cohabiting couples the chance of a subsequent break-up and fatherlessness is hugely increased.

Around a quarter of all single-parent families are caused by the break-up of a seemingly solid cohabitation. Indeed, more than 40 per cent of all mothers will now spend some time living as a lone parent.

Children who are brought up by single mothers are far more likely to have emotional, academic and financial problems.

As the think tank Civitas put it in an authoritative report, they are “more likely to engage in behaviour associated with social exclusion, such as offending, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse or worklessness.”

The statistics are bleak. Single parents are 30 per cent less likely to know the whereabouts of their children than people who parent together.

Single parents are more than twice as likely to report that their child’s behaviour is “upsetting” and they are 30 per cent more likely to report having significant arguments with their offspring.

Among children aged five to 15, those from single-parent families are twice as likely to have mental health problems.

They are more likely to score poorly on tests of reading, mathematics and thinking skills, and are 50 per cent more likely to report difficulties with teachers.

They are also more likely to have behaviour problems or engage in antisocial behaviour. Boys from single-parent households are more likely to show hostility to adults and other children and to be destructive of property – both theirs and other people’s.

Contrary to the myth put out by those who still try to deny the benefit of a traditional family home, it is not the two parent set-up which mainly puts children at risk of abuse.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children found that children are five times more likely to have experienced physical or emotional abuse in a single parent family.

But given this week’s events, these are the most salient statistics. Children aged 11-16 are 25 per cent more likely to have offended in the past year if they live in a single-parent family.

While 15-year-old boys from such households are twice as likely to have taken drugs (22.4 per cent compared with 10.8 per cent) and three times more likely to be excluded from school.

These are among the reasons why boys from one-parent homes are twice as likely to be in prison by their early 30s. Fathers influence their children’s development through what psychologists call financial capital (using income to provide food, shelter, and resources that contribute to learning), human capital (sharing the benefits of their education, skills, and work ethic) and social capital (teaching emotional intelligence, self-esteem, competence and confidence).

But with so many youngsters now being brought up in single parent homes on benefits, they never see the link between work and success, never learn to face consequences or take responsibility – the state is always there to pay – and never have to learn how they should behave.

There are other factors behind this week’s riots. But none are more fundamental than the break-up of the family.

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