Sunday, 15 February 2009

Broken Britain

A journalist's catchphrase, and not the economic crisis this time but a depressing if familiar story about teenage pregnancy.

The dad is 13-year-old Alfie Patten, and the mother is his 15-year-old 'girlfriend', Chantelle Stedman. Or alleged dad, since two other lads have now come forward saying that they too have had intercourse with Chantelle - who was just 14 when she became pregnant.

The part that depressed me most is not the particular case - it is unusual only in that Alfie is so young - but that lack of critical thinking in our politicians and those who craft our social policies.

Let me digress ever so slightly to mention Signal Detection Theory by Tanner and Swets, which was the product of research done at Bell Labs in the 50s. They looked at the problem of detecting a weak signal in the presence of noise and they reached an important conclusion. If you wanted to detect most of the signals, you would also generate a lot of false alarms. If you wanted to avoid false alarms, you would miss many signals. It's a law of nature and you can't avoid its consequences.

So consider social policy. If you will put up with a lot of discomfort (moral, social, financial) around teenage pregnancy, you would have few of them. If you protect those teenagers from the consequences of their pregnancies, you will have more of them.

If you are willing to allow unemployment to be unpleasant, you will have more people willing to work. If you cushion unemployment, you will end up with more people out of work.

Now don't get me wrong. I don't like people to suffer, not at all. But what I don't like is policies crafted without both sides of this equation being looked at. And it's not even that the policies we do have prevent suffering. Both families are completely dysfunctional. Alfie's dad seems to have had nine children, every one I believe by different partners. Chantelle's family seems to have condoned the two of them sleeping together. And now we have a new poor innocent entry into the dysfunctional stakes. This child is not going to have a good life. For a start, I wouldn't leave her alone in a room with her father for five minutes.

Matt Dunkley, director of children's services at East Sussex County Council, said: "Any birth to parents this young is a cause of great concern to us and in these circumstances we will always offer substantial support to the families involved". Well, that's nice of course, but let's just rephrase that as "We will make sure that the individuals concerned and shielded from the consequences of their behaviour".

There have been the usual bleatings about sex education. Frankly that has nothing to do with it. When I was that age we had virtually none, but we also had no intercourse and no pregnancy.

And shame, regret, remourse, guilt ....?

Not a dot as far as one can tell. It's a pity. I don't know where the idea has sprung from that guilt is a bad thing. It is the surest sign that you do actually have a superego and that you have a modicum of maturity.


i beati said...

I had not heard this - good post - your flowering sidebar captivates moi sandy

Clare W said...

Oh here here. The man that came to do some painting in my house had a good philosophy when he preached as I made an omelette a month ago. He reckons everyone should be sterilised at birth. If you want to have a baby at say sixteen you have to sit a test on child care, social responsibility etc. If you pass this stringent exam you can have the sterilisation reversed. If you fail you have to wait 5 years before resitting the test and so it goes on.
Get Gordon Brown out, I say, and get Phil in (as it were).

Anonymous said...

You make (as usual!) a very salient point. If people are cosseted by the State their entire lives they are kept in a state of perpetual childhood, with the State as the parent shielding them from the harm their actions invoke.

Until some of that nannying is removed the 'children' are unable to learn from their actions.

The grey area tends to be (in this instance) the children born to such unions. They do not bear any of the responsibility and yet can suffer the greatest. How can this be addressed?

Lehners in France said...

Surely the worst part of the whole ghastly business is the way the Sun allegedly paid them £50k for the photos and Max Clifford has apparently said that if the story continues to be marketed 'well' they could collect a cool £500k from on-going photo shoots, book, TV and film rights - MY GOD ! If that is not going to encourage others down the same path ...

Personally I would take the feckless couple into the town sqare and publicly cut off his knackers (with no anaesthetic)and spay her - and do the same for all their parents and siblings.


Baino said...

Oh Ernest. I've been following this one and almost Friday F'witted him. Apparently the latest is a 'paternity' test as he only had sex once and there are allusions that the young lady involved had more than one partner . . .you're right, dysfunctional just doesn't describe it. Poor little thing, she has little chance of a good life. Since both parents are under age, there's a good case for taking the child and putting it up for adoption. Reminds me of that case in the US where a woman gave birth to Octuplets and already had six kids! Ludicrous.

Dumdad said...

Wise words, Ernest. The French press has followed this story with glee (look how low the UK has sunk sort of tone).

What can one say? No doubt the people involved are loving the attention and the money and now there will be even younger children coming forward to say they're up the duff and can you take my picture mister for the newspaper? Sad beyond words.

Janelle said...

totally agree. what a fuck up. a reflection of a deeply spoilt society. yet the other side of the coin is here...where nothing is cushioned and it still doesn't make any difference...honestly. but that, undoubtedly is because of humongously bad governance...corrupt, greedy and evil..still sulking because i am back from horse safari and don;t want to be home...aaaargh. x j

Ernest de Cugnac said...

Hi all, can you believe that after losing comms to the storm, a large agricultural machine drove right through the phone line again. Back to square one and find a wifi hotspot.

i beati - those flowers are about to bloom again - the daffodils are already out in the woods

clare w - blimey, he's a brave man. But the social planners do need to understand what creating "consequence free" policies does to behaviour though

mud - exactly. Back to the drawing board guys. How come these policies to prevent privation and suffering have ended up creating so much of it?

bob - hear hear, and you are just the man to do it!!

baino - yes, the American case caught my eye too. How could anyone give her IVF treatment when therapy was obviously called for?

dumdad - yes, the lack of shame and or remorse makes me sad. Surely there must be a middle path between "never darken my door again" and "we'd like the exclusive rights please"

janelle - back on the horse and out of here I say. Leave the effing mess behind. If only we could.

Lulu LaBonne said...

Good old shame and guilt - bring back the Catholics that's what I say, I gather that they are having a tremendous effect on population issues elsewhere in the world.

If I've understood this correctly, the wealth of this couple is coming from the newspapers who are selling lots of newspapers to it's 'horrified' readers rather than out of State pockets.

SJW said...

Nail on the head as always Ernest.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

lulu - shame and guilt, but only where necessary! For example, I have absolutely no problem with people having sex who are unmarried or who have just met. My problem is that we have policies that stop the chickens coming home to roost when they should. Rich? No, I agree, not on the state, but this family is going to get the equivalent of a graduate salary thanks to their fecklessness.

sjw - ta v much.

Working mum said...

I read this story with much disbelief and sadness. Now, as more and more of the story comes to light, I am horrified.

Sarah, of St Bloggie de Riviere, has an excellent post on this subject:

I do hope she is wrong, because the ramifications if she is correct fill me with despair.

Ernest de Cugnac said...

wm - thanks for that, had a read, bloody depressing.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I saw this on sky news - boggles the mind (but then again, I suppose one might say, how old were Romeo and Juliet when they eloped... just to play devil's advocate, of course).

But I think your point about guilt is so spot on. We're increasingly taught that guilt is a bad thing - it's bad to carry guilt around etc - yet, without guilt where's our indicator to help us detect right from wrong.

You make some uncomfortable but salient points and it poses some very critical questions about society.

By the way, because I know you abhor them (and recently lamented that you never got any), there's something for you at my place...

lakeviewer said...

This is not a new problem, of course, but it does take us back to the dilemma you discussed. If society gets involved, society takes responsibility, one way or another. In the meantime, let's work something out before it happens again.

In the States we are talking about the mother of the octoplets she had with the assistance of a fertility doctor.

I'm glad I dropped in from Absolute Vanilla.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

all your wonderful issues and commentary aside, I want to just say I think it is f**king shameful how the media are exploiting these kids.....and not only the british tabloids, but the french press too according to dd....oy!

Ernest de Cugnac said...

back after a long break:

av - thank you and you are a total sweetie pie

lakeviewer - nice to see you here, thanks for dropping in. I read about the octuplets. What the heck ...??

mouse - too true. It's in the papers. Why? Because we can't get enough of it.