Our growing social tragedy... despite increasing affluence, welfare, education and modern medicine there is something particularly ugly happening in our community.
New Zealand has the developed world's highest rate of births outside of marriage (44%), and the third-highest teenage birth rate (after the USA and UK). Nearly a third of all children grow up in fatherless homes. Ref: Statistics NZ, 2001
There are 20 confirmed cases of child abuse and/or neglect in New Zealand every day. Ref: Ministry of Social Development “The 2005 Social Report”
Research in Christchurch revealed that 65% of youth offenders were not living with their father. Ref: Kids In Trouble, NZEDF, 2000.
For youth aged 15-24 years, New Zealand has the second highest rate of suicide for males among selected OECD countries. Ref: NIHS (National Institutes for Health and Safety)
New Zealand is conservatively spending $5.7 billion a year as a direct consequence of family breakdown, or close to 5.5 per cent of GNP ($3000+ for every taxpayer). Ref: see J. McNeil, “The Costs of Killing the Family”, Evidence, Winter 2003, p34-40.
International Statistics on Family Breakdown
The New Zealand government does not track family structure in relation to many social outcomes.
However there is relevant data from the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia - countries which compare closely with New Zealand on social issues:
Examination of English court records between 1982 and 1988 found that children living with their mother and her cohabiting boyfriend were 33 times more likely to be abused than those living with their married, biological parents. In turn, the risk of abuse for children whose mothers were cohabiting was five-and-a-half times greater than for children with remarried parents. Ref: Robert Whelan, Broken Homes and Battered Children: A Study of the Relationship between Child Abuse and Family Type (London: Family Education Trust, 1993).
Out of 52,000 child abuse cases reviewed for the US, 72 percent involved children in a household without one or both biological parents, even though these households comprised roughly a third of all households with children. Ref: 12. Malkin, C.M. and Lamb, M.E., Child Maltreatment: A Test of Sociobiological Theory, Vol. 25, 1994, p121-30.
Toddlers living in Canadian step-households in 1983 were about 40 times more likely to become registered victims of intermediate physical abuse than their two-genetic-parent counterparts. Ref: Patricia Morgan, Farewell to the Family in NZ, 2003, p248
In Australia, the rate of sexual abuse of children in de facto couple families is more than three times the rate in natural or adoptive families. A high proportion of child killers are either step fathers or the mothers' boyfriends. Ref: Buckingham, J., "Boy Troubles: Understanding Rising Suicide, Rising Crime and Educational Failure”, Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies, Policy Monograph No.46, 2000
For every dollar spent on a child brought up in a two-parent family, the government spends $10 on a child brought up in a single parent family. Ref: To Have and to Hold. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs (Australia). June 1998
Fatherless children are worse off in terms of health, educational attainment, work ethics, income and lifetime wealth. They are more prone to crime, drug addiction, divorce, unemployment, illness, truancy, suicide, poverty and depression. Ref: Why Marriage Matters: Twenty One Conclusions from the Social Sciences - A Report from Family Scholars (USA), 200