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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

April 8, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This just in from the Department of “Duh.” (St. Joseph News-Express, 4/6/18). It seems that “experts” have discovered that there’s “a correlation between child abuse and poverty.” Inspector Gadget comes, unbidden, to mind.

Yes, it’s true; the poor do tend to abuse and neglect their kids more than do the more affluent. Of course, far down at the bottom of the article, the reality behind that factoid is finally revealed.

Poverty has a bigger impact on neglect than on physical abuse.

Right again. The reason that what we’re really talking about when we talk about poverty and child maltreatment is the inability of the poor to hover over their children 24 hours a day. Because they don’t have the money for daycare, can’t take time off work to greet little Andy or Jenny at the end of the school day or to tend to an illness, the poor are more likely to be tagged with neglect, some of it real, much of it not.

This is not obscure information. However breathless may be the article’s revelation, we’ve known the detriments faced by the children of the poor for many, many decades.

Ashley Philips, early childhood programs director, said stress more than likely plays a major factor in the abuse cases. The stress comes from both working parents trying to make ends meet, paying bills, and providing food and shelter on a meager salary.

“When you have families who are stressed, they have external stresses in their lives, we see a rise in child abuse across the nation,” Philips said.

There’s little doubt that the higher stress and lower access to public resources mean poor parents are more likely to neglect and possibly abuse their kids. Of course selection bias may play a role in the data. My guess is that those who are required to report abuse and neglect of children would be more likely to report a poor parent than an affluent one. My further guess is that child protective agencies know they have an easier time making a case stick against poor parents who likely don’t know their rights than affluent ones who do. All that may add up to a cohort of cases, selection of which was biased against the poor. It’s speculation on my part, but I’d call it informed speculation.

Meanwhile, the obvious occurs to none of the people quoted in the article.

Not all parents who live in poverty abuse their children and many who do are not poor,” wrote Shadi Houshyar on the First Focus website. “The link between child abuse and poverty can be explained in a number of ways.”

One way is poverty generating family stress and parents living in poverty not having access to the resources necessary or factors like substance abuse Houshyar wrote.

Well, try this on for size: single parents, particularly single mothers, are far more likely to live in poverty than any other adults. If there’s a link between poverty and child maltreatment – and there is – then there’s also a link between single parenthood and child maltreatment. Over 33% of single mothers live in poverty, over twice the overall rate of 14.8% and about double the rate for single fathers of 17.8%. Indeed, in a backhanded sort of way, the National Bureau of Economic Research, whose study occasioned the linked-to article, said as much.

The National Bureau of Economic Research also reported that absent and/or unemployed fathers and increased poverty are associated with higher rates of maltreatment.

Right. The lack of a father in the home hugely increases Mom’s probability of living in poverty that in turn increases little Andy or Jenny’s chances of being abused or neglected.

And yet we wouldn’t dream of demanding that courts keep Dad involved in his children’s lives instead of tossing him out like the week’s trash. Nor would we consider criticizing women who go the route of “single mother by choice.” It’s bad for the kids, but why mention the fact if doing so stands to offend, say, NOW.

But don’t forget that courts, law and public policy always act in the best interests of children.

 

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

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#poverty, #childabuse, #childneglect, #singleparenthood

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