The evidence of the effects on children of growing up without their biological fathers has been well documented by Civitas. They:
- Are more likely to experience problems with sexual health
- Are more likely to become teenage parents
- Are more likely to offend
- Are more likely to smoke
- Are more likely to drink alcohol
- Are more likely to take drugs
- Are more likely to play truant from school
- Are more likely to be excluded from school
- Are more likely to leave school at 16
- Are more likely to have adjustment problems
- Are less likely to attain qualifications
- Are more likely to experience unemployment
- Are more likely to have low incomes
- Are more likely be on income support
- Are more likely to experience homelessness
- Are more likely to be caught offending and go to jail
- Are more likely to suffer from long term emotional and psychological problems
- Are more likely to develop health problems
- Tend to enter partnerships earlier and more often as a cohabitation
- Are more likely to divorce or dissolve their cohabiting unions
- Are more likely to have children outside marriage or outside any partnership
In 1968 GPs were allowed to prescribe the pill to unmarried women for the first time, and from 1975 it became free. Abortion first became legal in 1969. From the mid 1970s therefore women had unprecedented control over their fertility and live-born offspring. Yet bastardy has risen from 9% to 50% between 1975 and 2008. Ermisch proposes that the greatest proportion of this rise is voluntary - women make a rational decision to bear a bastard. The proximate causes of this are complex, and Ermisch suggests a mixture of factors is responsible. I'll look at these in a later post.
It must be remembered that girls as well as boys are subject to the bullet-pointed effects listed above. This has important implications for courtship and marriage decisions. The product of a fatherless family tends to be a poor marriage prospect and suffers a lower probability of being sought as a prospective marriage partner by those not so disadvantaged. Whilst bearing a bastard lowers the marriage prospects of a woman from a family with both parents, it has little effect on the marriage prospects of a woman from a fatherless family herself, which are already low. Thus such women make rational choices based on their welfare; their position is better off under current social welfare provision with a bastard than without.
Those with a higher level of educational achievement, male or female, are more desirable objects of courtship with a view to marriage, and the numbers now entering further and higher education has raised the average age of marriage and raised also the age of childbearing amongst married women. This has the perverse effect that the childbearing 'window' for women likely to marry is a good ten years shorter than for women whose marriage prospects are poor. This also tends to raise the rate of bastardy overall.
The direct and indirect economic effects of bastardy are large and growing. Bastards command a disproportionate cost in policing, social work, probation, welfare services and payments, the criminal justice system, the health service, education and housing resources. The economic costs of bastardy are as important a debate as the economic costs of increased ageing. It is not a moral debate, but an economic one.