No escape for Cameron on importance of poverty

Cameron's "parenting warmth" speech is misleading. Research indicates the clear role played by poverty in determining both life chances and the quality of parenting.

David Cameron’s speech yesterday on “parenting warmth” has been savaged today by Polly Toynbee while leading research indicates the clear role played by poverty in determining both a child’s life chances and the quality of parenting.

In a widely reported soundbite, David Cameron claimed that:

“What matters most to a child’s life chances is not the wealth of their upbringing but the warmth of their parenting.”

But Polly Toynbee today outlines the fallacy of these remarks:

“In the realm of the blindingly obvious, children brought up by ­loving parents do better than the unloved. Is it all about money? No, the beloved children of a curate as poor as a church mouse will do fine. Unloved children of rich but frosty parents may do badly (don’t mention the Queen). But there is no escaping the fact that children of families poverty-stricken for generations stand least chance. No one ever said they only lack money – they lack nearly everything.”

Indeed, the Demos report being discussed yesterday, ‘Building character‘ outlines that:

“Three kinds of disadvantage inhibit the development of character capabilities in the early years, relating broadly to poverty, psychology and parenting … The children of parents with a low income and/or low educational qualifications are less likely to develop these vital character capabilities.”

A chart in the report shows this graphically and outlines that “there is a clear relationship between family income and child outcomes.”

The report goes on to outline that “When we control for other characteristics – in particular measures of parental confidence and self-esteem – the differences in child outcomes between richer and poorer families are no longer statistically significant.”

In other words, parenting is critical but children at the bottom tend to face worse parenting. Why is this the case? The Commission on Families and the Wellbeing of Children has concluded that, “Poverty does matter, not so much because it directly causes children to have problems, but because it makes good family functioning more difficult to achieve.”

A separate report by Paul Gregg and others for the LSE on ‘Understanding the relationship between parental income and multiple child outcomes‘ outlines that, “many aspects of growing up in poverty are harmful to children’s development.” In more technical language it concludes that when “socio-economic characteristics” such as parental education are excluded, the impact of income on most children’s development remains.

Addressing child poverty is therefore critical to improving both parenting and life chances. What do the Conservatives propose to do? At yesterday’s event Cameron reiterated his commitment to “recognise marriage in the tax system.”

A recent Institute for Fiscal Studies report for Gingerbread analysed the relative impact on child poverty of (i) a tax allowance for married couples with children under five and (ii) an increase in the working tax credit for couples with children. Both cost £0.8 billion and had a similar impact on work incentives. The Tory marriage tax policy reduced child poverty by “less than 10,000” while the tax credit approach helped around 100,000 children out of poverty.

8 Responses to “No escape for Cameron on importance of poverty”

  1. Guido Fawkes

    If you pay people to be poor, they will keep being poor.

  2. Sian Prime

    RT @leftfootfwd: research shows link btw poverty & parenting http://bit.ly/8H46mh

  3. diana smith

    why cameron is completely wrong on child poverty http://tinyurl.com/ygt8svl

  4. BenM

    @Paul Staines

    Clever-dick quips fail to mask the sheer stingy selfishness of the sentiment behind it.

  5. Red

    I find it funny – no, not funny; a cause of great anger – how those who say social inequality does not effect, or has little effect on childhood development are more than often from the other side of social inequality.

    I would like to see a study done on the correlation between mental illness and social background; I think this would be very illuminating.

  6. mhayworth

    Ah yes, and a man who thinks a family sport is when you get 50 riders, 50 horses, 25 crazed hounds, and you go out and terrify and kill animals for the day. Now that is what I call real ‘warmth’. Cameron, Hague and Herbert are the poster boys for Broken Britain. They speak for gang mentality at its worst – but just do it while dressed in more expensive clothes.

  7. Anon E Mouse

    mhayworth – Can we please leave the petty jealousy behind – I disagree with hunting myself but comments like these make Labour look backward.

  8. Un Convinced

    Everyone has their opinions & freedom of speech or so we think, living in a control state. From my observations over the years, politicians are completely out of touch with reality, when it come to social inequality & morality issues. On that view then, MP’s should be elected on emotional intelligence meaning (morality, empathy etc)& academic ability taking less importance for potential candidates. Instead of a few arrogant MP’S running the country,(nations voters) should have more say & control, like ancient Greece. True Democracy. The problem with privileged sections of the population, is that when it comes to (social issues & Demography inequality) this is far beyond their reasoning & comprehension. Due in part to their privileged social backgrounds, take (David Cameron) for instance, who has come from extremely wealthy parents & 5 generations of high social standing. What does he know about poverty? & class inequality, in fact what does the vast majority of the highly paid MP’s no, or really care! If people in power (really cared) about poverty, instead of their power hungry careers paths & massive pensions, this problem would have been eradicated a long time ago. Instead of lying all the time to the voters, also Capitalism by it’s very nature is (Evil)when it come to morality & social fairness.

    Take for example education in the UK for example, the whole economic system is setup on the assumption that (everyone) must be highly intelligent to succeed. In other words, if you are (not), these individuals without a doubt will be in poverty later in life, due to lack of qualifications. There are many reasons for under-performance at school, bad teaching, family problems, mental health, bullying, disabilities, social environment for learning, the list goes on!

    Last note, I have lived in poverty my whole life within the UK, so I think I’m qualified about this debate. Looking back now I remember distinctly studying extremely hard at school, to pass all my exams, but because I have (depression & Social Phobia) this affects my memory storage by about 85 percent. Meaning, I have extremely severe capability of retaining information into (long term memory.) So this affects my social standing & earning potential, take my past earnings from 12 years ago £116 per week for a 40 hour week, try managing on that in Britain today. Yes the minimum wage has been introduced, but this is still to far low, why you ask? Well, I’m 40 years old now & still live with my mother, I can’t afford to buy a basic home with average house prices of terraced houses of £74,000 where I live. Not on £12-13k a year.

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