The Real Root Causes of Violent Crime: The Breakdown of Marriage, Family, and Community

by Patrick F. Fagan – The Heritage Foundation

March 17, 1995

Full Article

• Over the past thirty years, the rise in violent crime parallels the rise in families abandoned by fathers.
• State-by-state analysis by Heritage scholars indicates that a 10 percent increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes leads typically to a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime.
• The type of aggression and hostility demonstrated by a future criminal often is foreshadowed in unusual aggressiveness as early as age five or six.
• The mother’s strong affectionate attachment to her child is the child’s best buffer against a life of crime.
• The father’s authority and involvement in raising his children are also a great buffer against a life of crime.

Race and Crime
… a closer look at the data shows that the real variable is not race but family structure … The incidence of broken families is much higher in the black community.

Crime starts early
Teenage criminal behavior has its roots in habitual deprivation of parental love and affection going back to early infancy. Future delinquents invariably have a chaotic, disintegrating family life. .. This hostility is established in the first few years of life. By age six, habits of aggression and free-floating anger typically are already formed.

2-parent families not immune
… the incidence of delinquent behavior was higher in intact homes characterized by a high degree of conflict and neglect than it was in broken homes without conflict. ..the lack of emotional attachment to parents is more strongly related to delinquency than is an intact home. &Breakup of his parents’ marriage during the first five years of his life places a child at high risk of becoming a juvenile delinquent.

How to solve the problem
the real work of reducing violent crime is the work of rebuilding the family. Instead, thanks to policies that do little to preserve the traditional family and much to undermine it, government continues to misdiagnose the root cause of social collapse as an absence of goods and services. This misdiagnosis is government’s own contribution to the growth of crime. Having misdiagnosed, it misleads.

Conclusion – and a warning
Despite the good news that overall crime rates have dropped in recent years, the frightening news is that both the level and viciousness of teenage violent crime have been rising steadily. More ominous still, this was set in motion sixteen to eighteen years ago, when these violent teenagers were born into chaotic family and social conditions. Since then these conditions have become more prevalent, and we will see a continued rise in violent teenage crime. Furthermore, America is headed toward a 50 percent out-of-wedlock birthrate sometime in the next twelve to twenty years, inching more and more of the country closer to today’s inner-city illegitimacy rate. If this trend is not reversed, Americans must prepare for extensive and serious erosion of public safety and practical freedoms.
Bob’s comment: The same could be said about New Zealand!