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Children and Social Change
Children and Social Change
By Tony DeLorger © 2010
One cause I believe to be the most responsible for the decline of our present society is the breakdown of family. The family unit is like a cell. When the cells break down the organism will eventually die and that is what is happening to our society. With increased poverty, fewer jobs, homelessness, escalating crime and youth suicide, our future looks grim. Globally, our population will increase this year about 125.5 million, and deaths will only be about 51.6 million. This means that each year we add some 70 odd million people to our already high 6.5 billion world population. So what has happened to take us down a road fraught with so many social problems, and how can we arrest this pattern of destruction?
Regardless of population size, firstly we must take a hard look at the family unit, something that in the past has made our civilisation great. Dismantling this basic unit has been a slow and insidious symptom of economic changes since the Second World War. With technologies racing ahead at phenomenal speed, and the cost of living in our ever-transforming world increasing, we have been forced to redistribute our time and energy to suit this changing environment. As a consequence, we now work longer, have far greater stress and responsibility with little time or energy left for family and relaxation.
Between 1981 and 1996 in Australia, the incidents of both parents working increased from 41% to 54%, families on the dole grew by 3% over the same period and single income families decreased significantly. Today most parents both have to work to afford the style of living to which they have grown accustomed. We have all fallen for the trappings of technology and comfort, but have often sacrificed what is important.
Children today in our wealthy society, are virtually given everything they could desire physically, by circumstance and the society in which we live, but emotionally it is another matter. Many of their role models (the parents) are rarely home. They are virtually workaholics and when they are home are stressed, exhausted and want nothing but to have a stiff drink, relax and not have to deal with anything more in their day. These children have become the casualties of this social development, having to grow up in either day care or responsible for themselves, alone at home. This circumstance has created many problems. Not having attainable role models, not being shown enough love, not having supervision, not understanding boundaries of behaviour, having too much money, too much freedom and being spoilt from overcompensatory parents are but a few of these problems. This, in the end, can translate into poorly adjusted children.
As relationships break down between parents and children, the children enter their most vulnerable years, the teens, to not care about their family, their education, their future or anything else. Those children then grow up into poorly adjusted adults. Subsequently, emotional problems, drug taking, crime, homelessness, suicide, and a plethora of other issues can arise from this circumstance.
This may seem a simplification or over-exaggeration of the issue, but if this trend does not change, what future has our society? All children will of course not experience this process but those who do are adding to the massive social problems that our society is already facing. And the cost to society is astronomical. Surely if the breakdown of families was addressed from the root of the issue and the financial burden placed on families was eased in some way so the structure was not pulled apart, society I believe, would be better off. As a consequence the family unit could be strengthened and our children would have a more tangible future. The answer is of course not so simple. But there should be some way that struggling parents can make workable choices when it comes to suitably caring for their children, working to pay off their mortgages and maintaining a good standard of living for their family.
Another aspect of this development is that many children are growing up expecting that life owe them a living. With technology and comfort at such a high-level in our modern society, children can grow up to believe the lifestyle that their struggling parents have afforded them will automatically follow as they reach their adult years. This idea gives them a false expectation of the real world and when they have to struggle themselves, they resent the fact and respond in negative ways, acting like the spoilt children that they have ultimately become. Many youths today have little respect for people, authority or the system that can seem to them, far more demanding and stressful that it has ever been for their parents. The rise in youth suicide is a testament to that phenomenon. The Bureau of Statistics reveals that in 1983 suicides represented 6% per 100,000 of population of all premature death. In 1995 that percentage rose to 9.2% and five out of the last ten years the suicide rates have exceeded 13% per 100,000 of population. Since 1982 the suicide rates for males between 15-24yrs has been the highest rates of all. There are many socio-economic factors woven into these statistics, with two aspects prominent. The circumstance of poverty increased the percentages as did unemployment, and nearly 90% of suicides involved some form of mental illness, one of the main disorders being depression.
The world today is a harsh place, highly competitive, stressful on many levels, especially for school-leavers, facing fewer opportunities and available jobs. In many countries there is inadequate lower education and exorbitantly expensive higher education, making it prohibitive for average people to better themselves and to have a secure future. Add to that the constant threat of war and terrorism as well as ever-increasing criminal activity, racial hatred and religious vilification and one can see how scary a world children have to face. So where do we start to reverse such negativity?
Surely in a perfect world, taking care of our children, the future of our nation and the world would have to be the priority. The social system has to further address the family as an issue. It has to address the financial pressures of today’s living and enable people to both work and to adequately care for their children, without sacrificing either. Secondly, education should be both exemplary and affordable to ensure all children have the same opportunities and that our future generations can adequately carry the nation’s future successfully. Thirdly, the social security system must not support policies that in essence, divide families. For example, young teenagers who are disenchanted with their parents concerns and parameters of discipline can claim abuse and be financially supported by the social security system. Inadvertently this places these children in a more vulnerable situation, one that could hinder their development and ultimately keep them segregated from those who care about them. The family unit must be supported and encouraged on all levels. After all it is the basic cell of the organism that we call society.