Feb SOCIAL progressives on both sides of politics may not like the message or the messenger, but Cory Bernardi had a point about the benefits of the traditional family. Decades of social science data has shown that children, on average, do better in life on measures of health, education and social outcomes when raised in two-parent married families.
The vast majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family setting. Numerous studies have found that children who do not live with both biological parents, irrespective of socio-economic status, are far more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in traditional families. The US Fourth National Incidence Study of Abuse and Neglect found that compared to peers living in married two-biological-parent families, children living with a single parent who had a partner in the home were 20 times more likely to be sexually abused.
Children living with a single parent with no cohabiting partner, and children living in a stepfamily with married biological and non-biological parents , were five times and between eight and nine times more likely to be sexually abused, respectively.
Step and single-parent families accounted for only one-third of all children in the US 33 per cent but accounted for more than two-thirds Child sexual abuse statistics in Australia are far less comprehensive and meaningful. Data publicly available here does not provide specific information about family structure, the identity of the perpetrator, and their relationship with the abused child. This is symptomatic of the deeper silences in the national conversation about child sexual abuse.
When the Australian Christian Lobby released a major report on child welfare in detailing the evidence demonstrating that family breakdown is a major risk factor for child sexual abuse, the facts were neither disputed nor acknowledged in the little public discussion that ensued.
They simply washed in and out of the public domain and left no trace on community attitudes. In hindsight, we are justifiably critical of the silences that in earlier times kept child sexual abuse a hidden problem. Yet a comparable silence exists today. Greater community awareness is needed of the potentially harmful impact the relationship and reproductive choices of adults can have on children. This could be achieved by a government-commissioned, anti-child sexual abuse public information campaign.
The campaign should emphasise that the traditional family is a protective factor that prevents child sexual abuse. It should also publicise how divorce and single-parenthood increases the risk of sexual abuse for the more than one in four Australian children who do not live with both biological parents. This is not as radical as it sounds. In New York and Chicago, public information campaigns are encouraging marriage before having children and discouraging teen pregnancy. Australian governments already conduct advertising campaigns such as anti-smoking and anti-drink driving campaigns to educate citizens, promote certain values, and change attitudes and behaviours.
A public information campaign that advertised the risks to children posed by family breakdown would end the new silence that hides the culturally unfashionable truth.