In 1990, American academic Charles Murray came to England, at the invitation of The Sunday Times, to observe and discover whether the underclass phenomenon he had identified in the United States had spread to the UK. His findings were first published in The Sunday Times Magazine on 26 November 1989, and later, under the auspices of the right-wing think tank, the Institute for Economic Affairs (lEA), as The Emerging British Underclass. Murray found that: "Britain does have an underclass, still largely out of sight and still smaller than the one in the United States. But it is growing rapidly." (Murray, 1990: 3).
In Murray's analysis, the underclass is characterised by the incidence of illegitimate births, high crime rates (particularly violent crime) and drop-out from the labour market. In a much-cited quote from Murray: "If illegitimate births are the leading indicator of an underclass and violent crime a proxy measure of its development, the definitive proof that an underclass has arrived is that large numbers of young, healthy, low-income males choose not to take jobs." (1990: 17).
[...] But make it easy for the couple who thinks otherwise to move into a neighbourhood where two-parent families are valued." (Murray, 1990: 34). However, by taking a socio-structural approach to analysing the data such as that taken by William Julius Wilson (1987, noted above), rather than an individualistic, behavioural approach, it is anticipated that this problem will be overcome when writing up the research report. LIMITATIONS This research project is limited by both time constraints and lack of resources, in that it must be conducted over a six-month time frame by a single researcher, acting alone. [...]
[...] This research proposal is based on Murray's challenge, and the research question is: "Is there a significant difference in child-raising practices between married couples and single mothers?" LITERATURE REVIEW A review of the British literature on the association between family type and criminality amongst the young was undertaken for an essay entitled "The Strong Family is a Major Deterrent Against Crime Amongst the Young" (Woolner, 2000a), and in order to avoid overlap between these two projects, the current work will focus mainly on a sample of the American literature. [...]
[...] Data will be collected via semi- structured interviews since, as noted by Nigel Fielding: "Whenever we are getting our bearings, whether it is as a researcher or a new arrival in a foreign land, the quickest, most instinctive method is to ask a question." (1993: 135). Since the researcher is not a parent herself, she may aptly be described as a "new arrival in a foreign land". A qualitative design is chosen over a quantitative procedure despite the fact that a questionnaire could be devised for a survey to measure parenting practices along the lines identified by Murray, that is the extent of supervision, set bed and meal times and parental involvement in education. [...]
[...] Another such critic is Professor of Social Policy, Alan Walker, who argues that Murray's thesis in respect of the contamination of neighbourhoods by young single mothers "is quite simply ridiculous" (Murray, 1990: and that the real problem facing society is poverty, the polarisation of society into the very rich and the very poor. Walker argues, however, that even those in extreme deprivation, "whose behaviour is predictably influenced by their abject poverty . still do not represent an underclass in any sociological sense" (ibid.: 55). [...]
[...] It is intended that as many people as possible will be interviewed, and it is hoped that a sample of thirty will be identified, equally divided between single mothers raising children alone, and married couples sharing parental responsibilities. In this regard it must be noted that the presence of both biological parents in the home does not imply that they are equally or actively involved in parenting their children (see for example Connell, 1987; Friedan, 1963; Segal, 1997). In addition, of course, single parents may be receiving considerable support in their parenting task from parents, relatives and friends, and even from absent biological fathers and their families. [...]
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