Institute releases alarming findings on the SA family

2011-04-04 12:56

The SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) released “alarming findings” about broken families today, and said the root causes are social decay and sky-high crime levels.

The report, titled “First steps to healing the South African family”, tells of violence in homes, absent fathers and child-headed households, in many cases with the mother still alive.

“Many South African children are not growing up in safe and secure families,” the report finds.

Urgent questions need to be raised about why these trends seemed to be on the increase.

“Difficult issues such as attitudes to parental responsibility and attitudes to monogamy and commitment to relationships need to be publicly discussed, and addressed by broader society,” the report notes.

“Why do parents, particularly fathers, fail to acknowledge their children? If this is seemingly acceptable to broader society, why is this so? What values are being passed on to children?”

The report shows that only a third of children grow up living with both of their parents and that nearly one million children have lost both their parents, many to Aids.

There are about 98 000 children living in child-headed households, but only 81 percent of them do have living mothers.

About eight percent of children live in “skip-generation” households with grandparents or great aunts and uncles.

Nearly half of children (48 percent) are growing up with absent, but living fathers.

“The latest available data about fathers in South Africa, shows that the proportion of fathers who are absent and living increased between 1996 and 2009, from 42 percent to 48 percent.

“Over the same period, the proportion of fathers who were present decreased from 49 percent to 36 percent.”

The report is based on the results of several international and local research papers.

“A racial dimension was evident in trends of absent fathers. African children under 15 years had the lowest proportion of present fathers in 2009 at 30 percent, compared to 53 percent for coloured children, and 85 percent for Indians, and 83 percent for whites.”

Youth unemployment stands at 51 percent and there are 3.3 million young people not in education, employment or training.

Also, about 50 000 school girls fell pregnant in 2007.

The report finds that more than a third of the country’s prison population is under the age of 25.

“A third of young people think that it would be acceptable to physically attack somebody who had assaulted them in the past if the opportunity arose.

“Violence within families appears to be a major contributing factor to youth crime.

“In a South African study which compared young offenders and young non-offenders, 27 percent of the offenders said that people in their family sometimes hit each other compared with nine percent of the non-offenders.”

According to the report, low education levels and violence in homes probably contribute more to high crime levels than poverty.

“Education also plays a role in the likelihood that young people will turn to crime: only four percent of young offenders had completed Grade 12 compared with 12 percent of non-offending young people.

“In contrast, the study found that poverty is not a factor in youth resilience to crime. Non-offending young people experienced similar levels of poverty when growing up to those who went on to offend.”

The researchers say South Africans need to be aware of the risk that dysfunctional families pose to future generations.

“Moreover, there is evidence that people from broken families are more likely to go on to have relationship problems and create fractured families themselves. This is a cycle that needs to be broken.”

Recommendations in the report include the deployment of more social workers, better sex education and initiatives to encourage older men to support young men in the absence of fathers.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Weird things dogs do

Caught your dog doing something... well a little bit odd? Don’t worry, there’s a simple explanation for his behaviour.



Makeover saves dog’s life
For the love of Corgis!
Can we communicate with our pets?
8 great natural remedies for your pet
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.