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Written by @bethanyrdavies with contributions from @haleysread
Big Families are unique, the current average family size is 2.4 (Office for National Statistics, 2017) which has declined but remained as such for the past decade. Being 1 of 8 Children is unique, it’s an interesting fact both myself and Haley (also a former graduate and also 1 of 8) both fall back on when you have those awful ice breakers and you have to think of something ‘special’ about yourself.
There is criminological research which identifies ‘large families’ as a characteristic for deviance in individuals (Farrington & Juby, 2001; Wilson, 1975). It’s argued alongside other family factors, such as single-parent households, which maybe more people are familiar with in those discussions. In fact, when looking for criminological research around big families, I didn’t find a great deal. Most of what I found was not looking at deviance but how it affects the children, with suggestions of how children in big families suffer because they get less attention from their parents (Hewitt et al. 2011). Which may be the reality for some families, but I also think it’s somewhat subjective to determine an amount of time for ‘attention’ rather than the ‘quality’ of time parents need to spend with children in order to both help fulfil emotional and cognitive needs. This certainly was not the case from both Haley’s and experience.
When I first thought about writing this piece and talking to Haley about her experiences. I did question myself on how relevant this was to criminology. The answer to that I suppose depends on how you perceive the vastness of criminology as an academic field. The family unit is something we discuss within criminology all the time, but family size is not always the focus of that discussion. Deviance itself by definition and to deviate from the norms of society, well I suppose myself and Haley do both come from ‘deviant’ families.
However, from speaking with Haley and reflecting on my own experience, it feels that the most unique thing about being part of a large family, is how others treat you. I would never think to ask anyone or make comments such as; “How much do your parents earn to look after you all?” or “Did they want a family that big or was it lots of accidents?” or even just make comments, about how we must be on benefits, be ‘Scroungers’ or even comments about my parents sexual relationship. Questions and comments that both I and Haley have and occasionally still experience. Regardless of intent behind them, you can’t help but feel like you have to explain or defend yourself. Even as a child when others would ask me about my family, I had always made a point of the fact that we are all ‘full siblings’ as if that could protect me from additional shame , shame that I had already witnessed in conversations and on TV, with statements such as “She’s got 5 kids all different dads”. Haley mentioned how her view of large families was presented to her as “Those on daytime television would criticise large families” and “A couple of people on our street would say that my parents should stop having kids as there are enough of us as it is.”
Haley and I grew up in different parts of the UK. Haley grew up in the Midlands and describes the particular area as disadvantaged. Due to this Haley says that it wasn’t really a problem of image that the family struggled financially, as in her area everyone did, so therefore it was normal. I grew up in a quite affluent area, but similar to Haley, we were not well-off financially. My childhood home was a council house, but it didn’t look like one, my mum has always been house proud and has worked to make it not look like a council house, which in itself has its own connotations of the ‘shame’ felt on being poor, which Haley also referenced to me. It was hard to even think of labeling us as ‘poor’, as similar to Haley, we had loads of presents at Christmas, we still had nice clothes and did not feel like we were necessarily different. Though it appears me and Haley were also similar in that both our dads worked all the hours possible, I remember my dad worked 3 jobs at one point. I asked my dad about what it was like, he said it was very hard, and he remembers that they were working so hard because if they went bankrupt, it would be in the newspaper and the neighbors would see. Which I didn’t even know was something that happened and has its own name and shame the poor issues for another post. Haley spoke of similar issues and the stress of ‘childcare and the temporary loss of hot water, electric and gas.’
The main points that came from both mine and Haley’s discussions were actually about how fun it is to have a large family, especially as we were growing up. It may not seem like it from my earlier points around finance, but while it was a factor in our lives, it also didn’t feel as important as actually just being a part of that loving family unit. Haley put it perfectly as “I loved being part of a large family as a child. My brothers and sisters were my best friends”. We spoke of the hilarity of simple things such as the complexities of dinner times and having to sit across multiple tables to have dinners in the evening. I had brothers and sisters to help me with my homework, my eldest sister even helped me with my reading every night while I was in primary school. Haley and I both seemed to share a love for den making, which when your parents are big into DIY (almost a necessity when in a big family) you could take tools and wood to the forest and make a den for hours on end. There is so much good about having a large family that I almost feel sorry for those who only believe the negatives. This post was simply to share a snippet of my findings, as well as mine and Haley’s experience. At the very least I hope it will allow others to think of large families in an alternative way and to realise the problems both me and Haley experienced, weren’t necessarily solely linked to our family size, but rather attitudes around social norms and financial status.
Juby, H. and Farrington, D., 2001. Disentangling the Link between Disrupted Families and Delinquency: Sociodemography, Ethnicity and Risk Behaviours. The British Journal of Criminology, 41(1), pp.22-40.
Office for National Statistics. (2017). Families and households in the UK, Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/families/bulletins/familiesandhouseholds/2017 (Accessed: 5th June 2020).
Regoli, R., Hewitt, J. and DeLisi, M., 2011. Delinquency In Society. Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
Wilson, H., 1975. Juvenile Delinquency, Parental Criminality and Social Handicap. The British Journal of Criminology, 15(3), pp.241-250.
Jessica is an Associate Lecturer teaching modules in the first year.
During my undergraduate degree and my experience as an associate lecturer, Feminism has been a topic I have avoided; I thought I understood what it meant, and I wasn’t happy with it. For me, feminism meant female power and equality. What is wrong with that you may ask? Nothing in theory, however it was my experience of female power and equality that lead to my rather naïve and negative understanding of the term.
Having been raised in a male single-parent household, I have very defensive and clearly very biased views on single-parents and in particular on single-parent fathers. Where my misunderstanding and dislike for feminism stems is from how the courts treat cases of child custody. My father was told, way back when, that if my mother took him to court over custody of myself and younger brother then she would win. Despite my father having a well-paid job, the family home and the community in which we were raised. However, as he had not carried us for 9months (a task I feel, had he been given the choice, then he might certainly have) he would lose the battle. How does this link with feminism? If women want equal pay rights (something which I strongly believe we are entitled to) then they must also be willing to accept that men should have equal custody rights! For me this is not something feminism considered, and therefore, to me it is hypocritical. You can’t have equal rights for pay and not for childcare.
As it turns out, my view was misguided and uninformed. Feminism is not just about female power or women’s rights, as the name may imply, but rather it is about accepting and understanding that there is a gender imbalance within society, and that this imbalance, regardless of which way it falls, (albeit predominately not in favour of women) is wrong. Feminism is not only about women deserving equal rights, but rather it is concerned with all people having equal rights and acknowledging that this inequality, that still exists within society, needs to change.
Where does this fit with Criminology? Well, amongst other areas of the discipline it applies to the sub-discipline of Victimology. Feminism’s impact on Victimology has drawn attention to the needs of women as victims with regards to the domestic sphere, considering patriarchal society, and how this affects victims with regards to coming forward and reporting the offences in a predominately white and male Criminal Justice System and how we can learn from their experiences through adopting a qualitative methodology. Feminism also considers the impact of fear and vulnerability on men; how they are least likely to report being effected by victimisation, however statistically they are the largest group of victims for most crimes (with the exception of rape), Feminism encourages us to consider, why the majority of support services and coverage of victims by the media are focused on women and not both genders (Davies, 2017). Applied feminism within Victimology demonstrates that only certain voices in society are heard and addressed depending on the circumstances; this is something that needs to change.
So to return to the question at hand: what is the issue with Feminism? For me, the issue is the term. The negative connotation it appears to hold. Arguably Feminism represents equality, and the recognition that currently, not everyone is equal. So the question I leave you to ponder is why does Feminism appear to attract such negative attention? Is it a simple misunderstanding of the term (something I found myself guilty of), or is there something more?
Davies, P. (2017) Gender, Victims and Crime. In: Davies , P., Francis, P. and Greer, C. (eds) Victims, Crime and Society. 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications.pp146-166.
Davies , P., Francis, P. and Greer, C. (2017) Victims, Crime and Society. 2nd edn. London: Sage Publications.
Ngozi Adichie, C. (2014) We Should All Be Feminists. London: Fourth Estate.
Office for National Statistics (2015). Crime Survey for England and Wales, Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences 2013/14. London: NSO
Walklate, S. (2004) Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice. Cullompton:Willan.