Family Breakdown Is A Matter of Concern

Chapter One: Introduction

Family breakdown is one of the serious issues and affects a growing number of families. In 2010, family breakdown was said to cost at least £20-24 billion per year (Benson,, 2010). The problem has grown over time (Moffett, 2019) for children of families that have suffered family breakdown. This is a serious problem because family breakdown has serious repercussions for them in social, economic and legal sense, as summarised by Moffat (2019) as follows: “… children whose parents split up when they are under 18 are 2.3 times more likely to experience homelessness; twice as likely to get into trouble with the police or spend time in prison; 1.9 times more likely to experience educational underachievement; 1.9 times more likely to separate from the parents of their own children; 1.8 times more likely to experience alcoholism; 1.7 times more likely to experience teen pregnancy. The list goes on”.

The issue of family breakdown is serious as it has serious implications for the children of the family. These implications are related to the experience of homelessness, imprisonment, educational underachievement, family dysfunction, alcoholism, and teen pregnancy. Nevertheless, there are concerns that despite causal links between family breakdown and negative effects on children, there is lack of adequate policy response from the government and policy makers (Moffett, 2019).Comparing UK with other OECD nations, it can be seen that the problem is more serious in the UK; on an average, 84% of children under 15 in OECD countries live with both parents; whereas in the UK, only about 66% children under 15 still live with both parents (Moffett, 2019). Finland, with 95% of children still living with both parents, is on the higher side and also contrasts with the lower percentage of children living with both parents. Clearly, the UK has a bigger rate of family breakdown. When that is considered along with the problems that children from broken homes face, the issue assumes more serious proportions in the UK where a higher number of children under 15 years live with both parents.It is also relevant that the UK is considered to be ‘partially defamilialised’ in terms of family policy, which means that the family policies are only partially coordinated and legitimised by the government so that while “government rhetoric is supportive of families, policy actors are reluctant to interfere in private life” leading to creation of family policies that are implicit and indirect (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009, p. 4). In other words, family breakdown while being a matter of concern for the government, it cannot be expected that there will be too much emphasis on policy as that may be seen as being interfering and intrusive in family life. For children however it presents a problem because many children in the UK who are from broken families, do not have adequate support outside of the immediate family as there may be lack of addressing to the issues that affect children related to family breakdown. In the UK, several negative implications of family breakdown for children and younger persons are already reported in research. The purpose of the current research is to conduct a systematic literature review for collating and synthesising the findings in the research with respect to the African origin children and young persons with a view to generating a better understanding of how family breakdown is experienced by African origin children.

Objectives

The following are the objectives of this research study:

  • To gain more understanding on family breakdown in African origin family context in the UK;
  • To gain more understanding on how family breakdown affects younger people in African origin family context in the UK; and
  • To gain more insight into the specific issues that are related to the experiences of younger people in African origin families that have broken down.

Family breakdown is on the rise in the United Kingdom (UK) as reported by Leach (2014) who writes that family breakdown has risen considerably in the UK as in the other western countries of the world, with a significant number of children and young people caught in the family justice system. Statistics maintained by the UK government in 2010 estimated that 42 percent of all marriages ended in divorce (Leach, 2014). As families are not just constructed through marriage and can be constructed from cohabitation, the actual number of family breakdown statistics may be much higher because unlike divorce, breakdown of cohabited families may not be a matter for public record. In a now dated work (but relevant to this discussion), the authors have noted: “There is no dispute among sociologists, medical practitioners, or the legal profession that the huge increase over the last two decades in the number of children under the age of 16 who will experience their parents’ separation presents a challenge. It presents a challenge to the children themselves, to their parents and relatives, to their teachers, to family doctors, legal advisers, and to those required to provide specialist support when the challenge threatens to overwhelm” (Tripp & Cockett, 1998, p. 104) Another researcher has also noted that the UK has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe, which leads to one in three children experiencing parental separation before the age of 16 years, Most of them being African Carribean and Asians. According to the census carried out 2011 (England and Wales 2011 census) 38.1% of black Caribbean householdswere made of a sngle parent ,18.9% of black families were made of one parent with dependent children. Almost half of all children having a non-resident parent during some part of their childhood with impacts on psychological adjustment in children and adolescents (Culpin, Heron, Araya, Melotti, & Joinson, 2013). As family breakdown is emerging as serious issue with implications for families, children, and the wider society, research in this area is necessary.

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The researcher’s interest in this area was ignited due to its significance not just in the legal sense, but also in the social and economic sense. Having come across few individuals from broken families, and understanding how the breakdown of the family affected the social and financial position of the individuals made the researcher more aware and concerned about the social and financial repercussions of family breakdown on the lives of the younger members of the family. For instance, as observed in one case known to the individual, the divorce of her parents deprived the individual of an opportunity for university education because the family assets were divided post divorce and neither parent (both remarried) was willing to support the individual for university fees because they were committed to their current spouses and their step children. There are also cases of children or young adults becoming more impoverished after their parents’ separation as the parent in custody may not have financial resources to support the previous lifestyle. There are also social repercussions as family breakdown may also lead to loss of relatives and friends of the family. While these problems may be seen in families across racial categories, this researcher was more curious about how family breakdown affects children of African origin families as research on this area appears to be not as deep as it is with white families. African origin families and families with mixed parentage (with one parent African), may experience family breakdown differently and the researcher seeks to explore how the experiences of the children and younger persons of African origin are reported in existing research in this area

2.1. Concept of family breakdown

The concept of family breakdown is a complex one and its impacts on the children of the family present complex challenges as noted above. These challenges represent the different ways in which children and young people of African origin may be impacted by the breakdown of their families - legally, academically, emotionally, and economically. As the number of young people impacted by this phenomenon of family breakdown is significantly high, this is. For the purpose of this study, young people is defined as individuals who are minors (less than 18 years of age).

At the outset, it is important to define ‘family breakdown’ as this is one of the important variables of this research and the scope of this research is to understand the impact of family breakdown on the youth belonging to African origin families in the UK. The term ‘family breakdown’ has been defined as “not a single event, but a process that involves a number of risk and protective factors that interact in complex ways both before and after parental separation or divorce to increase or limit the risk of the adverse outcomes associated with family breakdown” (Mooney, Oliver, & Smith, 2009). Thus, family breakdown has been defined in terms of inter-related factors or events and not just in the final act of parental separation or divorce and the process of family breakdown is not just limited to the act of divorce but continues thereafter. The inter-related factors that are part of the process of family breakdown may include parental conflict, financial hardship, repeated changes in living arrangements and family structure, and the quality of the relationship between the parents and the children or young people in the family. Family breakdown can also include experience of change in custody patterns of single parent families (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009, p. 39). Families may also experience breakdown with the breakdown of cohabitation of the partners, also called as cohabitation breakdown (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009). The argument that family breakdown is a process that involves both pre-divorce/separation and post-divorce/separation situations, is also supported by a longitudinal study that demonstrates that the after effects of the actual event of the family breakdown, which may be a divorce or separation, may last a long time for the children of the family (Kim, 2011). The study is based in the United States, but it is relevant to the UK as well due to the similarities of the social structures in the two countries; the author of the study has employed a multi-wave longitudinal dataset, and has found that from the in-divorce stage onward, negative effects of divorce do not appear to intensify or abate in the ensuing study period (Kim, 2011). For the purposes of this research study, the term family breakdown is not just conceptualised as the actual divorce or separation between the parents, but as the process of breakdown of the family relations as defined by Mooney, Oliver, and Smith (2009), which would include the conflict between the parents prior to the actual divorce and the after separation change in family structure. This would allow the researcher to understand the effects of the process of family breakdown and not just the more limited situation of divorce or separation between the parents. In effect, this would broaden the scope of research to include relevant situations that are a part of family breakdown process and can have significant effects for the children or young adults of the family, and not limit the research to the situation of divorce and its effect on the young adults. There are different kinds of experiences that can result from family breakdown, including, emotional, psychological, financial and even related to housing (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009). Indeed, housing arrangements can be a significant factor in how children may also experience homelessness due to the breakdown of family (Pleace, Fitzpatrick, Johnsen, Quilgars, & Sanderson, 2008; Quilgars, Johnsen, & Pleace, 2008; Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009).

It is also important to define the term ‘African origin’, which apart from the Black community, can also be used to refer to children of interracial marriages (Twine, 2010). This is particularly relevant to the topic of research because young Black persons affected by the family breakdown can also belong to families with a white and a black parent. There is much gap in literature as to how young people from interracial families are impacted by family breakdown, whereas it can be reasonably expected that the intersection due to race may affect such individuals in ways that may not be explained by general literature or empirical research on Black families. Therefore, in this research, African origin youth is not just defined in terms of young people belonging to Black families but also young people belonging to interracial families where one parent is Black.

Emile Durkheim’s theory on social life is based on what he called social facts, wherein he spoke about norms, beliefs and values of the social life that are external to the individual but have a coercive impact on the individual (White, Martin, & Adamsons, 2018). This also has implications for the formation of family and familial structure and the norms related to the same (White, Martin, & Adamsons, 2018). With respect to family breakdown, Durkheim’s theory explains that there are situations when norms break down and there is consequent social disorganisation (White, Martin, & Adamsons, 2018). This social disorganisation also leads to the many forms of family that are seen in the society today. In the context of the current research, these many forms of family can be seen in the way parents can be married, or not married but cohabiting, or same sex parents, or parents who are separated or divorced (White, Martin, & Adamsons, 2018, p. 33). There are other theories that explain family relations, which need to be discussed briefly here. The conflict framework theory is especially relevant because it relates to the way conflict plays out in family relations. The conflict framework theory explains that as humans are motivated by self-interest the most, conflict is common and inevitable in social groups. The theory argues that conflict is the normal state of society, and it could be based on resources allocation and competitive social structure; even where negotiation is used as a form of conflict management, the outcomes of negotiation may generally favour the person with the greatest resources in the family (Klein & White., 1996). In families that are more democratic in nature, material resources may not in themselves predict family coalitions and outcomes (Klein & White., 1996). In the context of the current research study, conflict framework theory can explain how families breakdown because if conflict within the partners and how children get affected by the conflict not in least through how they align themselves with the conflicting parents and how they are affected by the negotiations for conflict resolution which may be related to distribution of family property, resources and parental rights and custody. Another theory that is relevant here is the ecological framework theory, which explains the biological and social nature of human beings and their dependence on their environment for sustenance as well as their dependence on other human beings. The family is the immediate ecosystem of the human being and one with which the human being is the most familiar (Klein & White., 1996). When the family ecosystem changes (such as through family breakdown), this affects the members of the family in social and economic senses (Klein & White., 1996). In the context of the current study, this theory explains the close connection between the individual and their family because the individual is dependent on the members of their family. Any change in the family ecosystem is bound to affect the members of the family. With respect to children of the family, such effects may be even more pronounced because they are more dependent on their parents for sustenance and emotional and economic support than adult members of the family. Therefore, it can be expected that changes to the family ecosystem would have implications for the children of the family.

The systems framework is another theory that can be used to explain the effect of family breakdown on the children of the family (Klein & White., 1996). The systems framework theory posits that all parts of the system (family) are interconnected and in order to understand one, it is important to understand the whole. The behaviour of the system affects its environment and vice versa (Klein & White., 1996). This has implications for the way the members of the family communicate with each other and how this affects the family. In the event of family breakdown, there is also a communication breakdown between the parent and children once separation occurs between them due to changed family conditions. This may have implications for the environment in which the children are then brought up and how this impacts them as well. A theory that relates to family and transition is the family development framework, which relates to the changes experienced by families. Such changes can be positive, like marriage of children and birth of grand children, or negative like divorce or separation between the parents (Klein & White., 1996). Developmental processes can be inevitable as family change and development is natural, but with negative development, like divorce, there is a situation that the family or individual becomes “out of sequence” with the normative ordering of family events, which leads to higher probability of later life disruption (Klein & White., 1996). Stress in the family can be an example of a negative development within the family that leads to conditions wherein the individual deviates from the normal or routine ways of family ordering to abnormal way of family ordering. In the context of this study, this may happen when separation between the parents forces children into undesirable housing conditions, conditions of homelessness and other abnormal conditions of life. Children may have a difficult and challenging time dealing with these changes, and may not always be able to deal with these issues in a positive way. In other words, there may be negative or adverse effects of such changes within the family for the children of the family and this can be explained by the family development framework theory.

2.3. Significance of family breakdown for young people

Research suggests that despite their behaviour which may suggest otherwise, family is important to teenagers as they need to spend time with both their parents and need positive adult-to-teen relationships in their lives (Marbury, et al., 2010). Family serve as one of the strongest sociological forces in their lives. The African community has strong family values and in its culture divorce and separation is a common practice (Kama,L.ya,2018) In African culture children hold their parents in high regards and idolize their parents. Breakdown in family, particularly due to divorce can be traumatic for many teenagers and young people because it is a major emotional event in their lives (Kim, 2011). The study recommends that the children who live with married parents have better outcomes as they are associated with a more settled atmosphere (Brown, 2004). Parents are significant to the development of child because it is associated positively with socialisation and personality development which is based on experiences, memories, and fantasies that children have and these have an enduring influence on the development of parent–child relationships (Lamb & Lewis, 2010). The significance of the family for the emotional, physical and psychot socilogical well being of the children of the family has been reported consistently in research studies over the years (Anderson, 2014). It is understood that children living with their married, biological parents have better physical, emotional, and academic well-being as compared to children who are not (Anderson, 2014). The author of this research recommends that the society should take measures to protect the institution of marriage from breaking down as it is important for children of the family (Anderson, 2014). This is also confirmed in a recent UK research which indicated that family life is a significant factor in the emotional and psychological well being of young teenagers; the study found that there is significant influence of family behaviour on teenage mental health for both girls and boys

2.4.Varied impacts of family breakdown

It is important to understand how impacts can be varied for children because this can help in the formulation of responses and strategies that are based on the understanding of how different young people can be impacted differently by family breakdown. Impacts of family breakdown may not be the same for all young people in such circumstances (Coleman & Glenn, 2010). While some young people can be impacted by such breakdown of family in a way that has short‐term distress for them, there can be some young people who may experience long term outcomes of family breakdown which may include socio‐economic disadvantage, behavioural problems, impacts on educational achievement, and problems with physical, psychological and emotional health (Coleman & Glenn, 2010). For some young people long term consequences of the family breakdown may include sustained disadvantage factors like poverty, continuing parental conflict, deteriorating parent–child relationships, to name a few (Coleman & Glenn, 2010). In one study on effects of family breakdown, the researchers explored both long term and short term impacts of parental separation for the young people (Guinart & Grau, 2014). It reported varied degrees of effects on the participants, including sleep disorders, confusion, aggressiveness, behavioural problems, and academic problems (Guinart & Grau, 2014). However, they did not report long term effects of the negative nature (Guinart & Grau, 2014). However, as the researchers had employed self-report questionnaires for the collection of the data, it is possible that some respondents may not have reported such effects if there were any. An extensive literature review on family breakdown impact on children was carried out by Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, and Unell (2009) in which they drew on a range of quantitative and descriptive data on family breakdown in all EU Member States. Their research focusses on the socio-economic impacts of family breakdown on the children of the family, with at-risk poverty and exclusion identified as two of the most prominent impacts of breakdown of family for the children and young adults (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009). The risk of poverty is more pronounced in single parent families with younger children who need care as the single parent struggles to cope with earning and caring responsibilities at the same time that places them at higher risks of poverty and unemployment (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009). Children of such families are more susceptible to low living conditions and poverty in most of the EU countries (Roberts, Stafford, Duffy, Ross, & Unell, 2009). In the UK, research suggests that there are high levels of child poverty in the UK and is starting to rise in absolute terms with there being some ill effects of child poverty is associated with a wide range of health-damaging impacts, negative educational outcomes and adverse long-term social and psychological outcomes (Wickham, Anwar, Barr, Law, & Taylor-Robinson, 2016). Poverty is linked to family breakdown in this research study, with the authors reporting that family breakdown can be a cause for poverty and homelessness (Wickham, Anwar, Barr, Law, &

implication of mental health problems due to family breakdown. A recent study on the link between family breakdown and mental health of the young people has indicated that there is a significant link between the two (Benson & McKay, 2017). It has been found that there is a clear link between dysfunctional family environment and mental health of young persons in the study in which the data was collected from 10,929 mothers with 14 year old children and mental health problems were even more common among children whose parents were not married (Benson & McKay, 2017). The study also found that the mental health problems were more pronounced among teenage girls who were more susceptible to emotional problems while teenage boys were more susceptible to behavioural problems following family breakdown or family life becoming dysfunctional (Benson & McKay, 2017). The study reported that in families where parents have separated, or there is less certainty about their relationship happiness, there is more likelihood of mental health problems for the teenage children: the study shows that in intact married families, 20 per cent of 14 year olds exhibit high level of mental health problems but in cohabiting families, the mental health problems increase to 27 per cent and among divorced families, the mental health problems increase to 32 per cent (Benson & McKay, 2017). The exhibition of mental health problems is the highest in teenage children of separated parents, with 38 per cent teenagers reporting mental health issues (Benson & McKay, 2017). In an American study on comparison between white and black teens who have experienced violent behaviour, the researchers found that higher rates of self-reported violent behaviour in black teens is attributable to lower family income and higher rates of associating with deviant peers at school and not to parent separation or parental tension (Haggerty, Skinner, McGlynn-Wright, Catalano, & Crutchfield, 2013). In a study that used data from both the United States as well as the UK, the findings support the argument that family tensions and breakdown can contribute to violent behaviour in younger persons (Parcel, Campbell, & Zhong, 2012). The authors of the study analyse the effects of family capital on behavioural problems using a longitudinal survey sample of 5 years old to 13 years old children with a total sample size of 3,864 children in the age group in one year and 1,430 in the next (Parcel, Campbell, & Zhong, 2012). In both countries, the authors found that it was male children who were more at risk of behavioural problems when their parents were divorced as compared to male children in stronger home environments (Parcel, Campbell, & Zhong, 2012). The study also found that the effects of breakdown in family were more pervasive in the UK. Interestingly, the authors attributed this difference to the more racially diverse sample in the United States (Parcel, Campbell, & Zhong, 2012). The authors concluded that the findings suggested that despite a stronger welfare state model, the findings from the United Kingdom presented an argument that there is no substitute for family capital and that family breakdown can have a negative impact on the children of the family irrespective of the welfare state (Parcel, Campbell, & Zhong, 2012).

2.6. Experience of homelessness

Black and Black Caribbean youth homelessness indicates homelessness of individuals between 16 to 24 years (Quilgars, et al., 2008). Family socioeconomic status appears to be especially influential in the UK with some noting that the majority of homeless youth come from disadvantaged homes (Pleace, Fitzpatrick, Johnsen, Quilgars, & Sanderson, 2008). Moreover, research indicates that for the majority of the youth(70 percent), one of the reasons for leaving their homes was the relationship problems with their parents or step-parent (Pleace, Fitzpatrick, Johnsen, Quilgars, & Sanderson, 2008). More relevant to this research, one existing study found that poor quality family relationships during adolescence predicts homelessness as a young adults (van den Bree, et al., 2009 ). Therefore, one of the effects of family breakdown or tensions within the family may be leading to the homelessness of the affected youth as literature suggests that families that provide limited emotional, physical, or financial support to the children may see increased susceptibility to homelessness for the affected youth. With respect to African origin youth, homelessness can be caused by family breakdown because family breakdown can become an indicator of disadvantage and homelessness is caused by disadvantage.

2.7. Grandparent involvement

n general, there has been an increase in grandparent involvement in the lives of children in the UK with research indicating that a significant number of children are either in the care of grandparents or are somehow looked after by their grandparents (Tan, Buchanan, Flouri, Attar-Schwartz, & Griggs, 2010). This is clear from the following statistics: “The Grandparents’ Association in the United Kingdom estimates that the 13.5 million grandparents provide some 60% of all the childcare—be it full- time or part-…—and one child in every hundred lives with a grandparent... on March 31, 2005, 12% (7,500) of the total of 60,900 children in state care (or 0.8% of all children in England and Wales) were in “family and friends care.” The majority of these children would be in the care of grandparents” (Tan, Buchanan, Flouri, Attar-Schwartz, & Griggs, 2010, p. 993). These statistics indicate that grandparents are increasingly involved in the lives of the grandchildren. There can be a difference however, in how white and African origin grandparents perceive their role in the lives of their grandchildren as noted by Tan, Buchanan, Flouri, Attar-Schwartz, and Griggs (2010) who write that traditionally a widely accepted within the White societies was of non-interference by grandparents in the upbringing of their grandchildren but that this norm may be less true for grandparents of lone-parent families where grandparents can become replacement partners and replacement parents. Two points are significant here: first, in speaking of the traditional non-interference norm in white societies may point at an inference of an opposite norm in minority societies; second, there may be an impact of family breakdown on how grandparents perceive their role in the lives of their grandchildren in both white and minority societies. In the UK, research indicates that poorer communities have shown stronger kin networks as these were the principal source of family support (Tan, Buchanan, Flouri, Attar-Schwartz, & Griggs, 2010). Therefore, in the case of minorities, it is not just race, but also class and working class background that may modulate the extent of involvement of grandparents in the lives of the children in case of family breakdown. An older study on a diverse sample from one region in England does show that there is a link between family breakdown and the involvement of grandparents in their grandchildren’s care (Dunn & Deater-Deckard, 2001). The study was focussed on the perspectives of children for which a sample of 467 children was taken from diverse family backgrounds from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children data set in Avon; the study found that grandparents became confidants for children facing family changes such as family breakdown and also were important factors in decreasing the stress for children undergoing adjustment problems (Dunn & Deater-Deckard, 2001). Children with grandparents in their lives at such times showed lesser propensity to adjustment problems (Dunn & Deater-Deckard, 2001).

3.1. Research philosophy

The selection of the research philosophy is central to the way the researcher would create the research design (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2012). Positivism research philosophy is employed in this research study. Positivism employs objective and scientific approach to collection and analysis of the data collected by the researcher and it sees the researcher accepting some assumptions about the way he views the world (Collins, 2010). Although, realism and interpretivism may also be chosen by the researcher, the objectives of the research and the methods that the researcher wishes to employ to collect the data or interpret it may make one research philosophy more relevant than the others. The positivist research philosopher uses a systematic and objective method for collection of data and does not subject the data to interpretation, but accepts the data as it is. As the choice of the philosophy is based on the purposes and motivations of the researcher, this dissertation uses positivism as the guiding philosophical framework for the research (Wilson, 2014). The researcher seeks to gain more insight into the ways in which Black youth experiences family breakdown and what the effects of such events are in the lives of the youth from African families. At this time, there is limited data or research that is specific to youth from the Black communities in the UK and their experience with family breakdown; however, there are some studies that have considered this issue and which form part of the literature review in this dissertation. The existing research has allowed the researcher to create research questions and use the existing data in literature and empirical studies for formulating the findings on the experiences.

3.2. Research approach

This research aims to identify and analyse the ways in which young people from Black families are impacted by family breakdown in the UK. Although there is not significant amount of research on the specific experiences of Black youth with family breakdown, the subject of family breakdown in general has been explored in many studies, which allows the formulation of theory for the purpose of this research. This impacts the choice of the research approach chosen by the researcher for this dissertation. There are two approaches from which a researcher can choose one for their own research study – inductive approach and deductive approach. Each research approach relates research to the theory, but in opposite ways (Bryman & Bell, 2015). Inductive approach is a bottoms up approach, which sees the researcher involve themselves in the process of observation of cases, analysis, and identification of pattern, which ultimately leads to the formulation of theory. The pattern helps the researcher to formulate a theory on the subject matter (Bryman & Bell, 2015). On the other hand, the deductive approach is top down approach where the researcher first identifies a general theory, then applies that theory to the research in a specific way thus creating a specific context of the research as related to the general theory (Perrin, 2015). As family breakdown and its impacts on youth is already studied and researched by other theorists, it is possible for this researcher to use existing theory for the purpose of this research, that is, in a way that is specific to the Black youth or young people with African lineage. Initially, the researcher is involved in making broad assumptions about the research topic; in this case, the broad assumption is that there are emotional, psychological and economic impacts on the youth due to family breakdown. During the course of the research, the researcher will get the opportunity to narrow down the broad assumptions as literature review opens up new themes that may not have been considered earlier by the researcher (Creswell, 2013).

3.3. Research method

Researchers may choose any one method out of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods approaches (Creswell, 2013, p. 12). The selection of the method depends on the orientation of the researcher as well as research subject, aims and goals. In this research, the researcher seeks to understand how family breakdown impacts Black youth in the UK. This is a complex subject that involves nuances as well as a certain subjectivity, which cannot be captured by the quantitative method of research. For that reason, the researcher chose qualitative method for this research study. This is explained and justified below. Quantitative inquiry examines the relationship between variables by putting the variables through testing (McLeod, 2013). It is based on numerical data, wherein generally, the researcher is testing the formulated hypotheses (Maxwell, 2013). Although, quantitative research can be useful for testing such relationships between what is known and what can be learned through testing, it is not able to provide deep insight about the opinions, experiences, and other nuances. In this research study, where the researcher seeks to gain better and deeper insight into how Black youth experiences family breakdown and how this phenomenon impacts them, a quantitative method will be inadequate. Therefore, the researcher has chosen a qualitative research method. Although positivism is not thought to be generally appropriate for qualitative research, social research scholarship considers that researchers may use it in qualitative studies (Bryman & Bell, 2015). In this research study, where a systematic literature review is being utilised, positivism will be appropriate research philosophy to use because it is aligned to systematic literature review because the latter needs to be conducted in an objective approach, which is provided through positivism. The advantages of using a qualitative method for this research study is that it will provide a degree of flexibility to the researcher for the analysis of the data collected through systematic literature review (Opoku, Ahmed, & Akotia, 2016). In a study on a complex topic such as the one chosen for this dissertation, a qualitative method allows the researcher to gather and analyse data related to experiences with more flexibility (Creswell, 2013).

3.4. Data collection and analysis

This research involves the collection of only secondary data. The systematic literature review yields the secondary data, from books, journals and reports (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012). Primary data, which is collected directly from the participants is not collected in this study (Bettany-Saltikov, 2012). However, empirical studies conducted by other researchers and which involve primary data collection methods are used in this dissertation. Bashir and Murudhar (2018) write that where there is a paucity of data on the subject matter, it is more appropriate to choose research methods and philosophy that help in the task of increasing of empirical knowledge by collection of primary data (Bashir & Marudhar, 2018). While that is indeed an important point made by them, there are justifiable reasons why it was thought more appropriate in this situation to use secondary sources for collection of data and answering research questions. First, because of the pandemic situation that most of the world finds itself in currently, it has become difficult to collect primary data for research through interviews. Second, surveys and questionnaires would have been used in this research, but these would not have yielded the kind of data that would have led to reasonable and credible results for the study. Third, the participants of this research study, that is, Black youth that have undergone family breakdown and have been impacted by such events, may form part of a vulnerable population of participants, and it would be difficult to conduct primary research with them that is non-reactive in nature. For these reasons, it was thought that the most appropriate method that could be used at this time would be systematic literature review as this would allow the collection of a wide range of data which would also include empirical data from earlier research.

The literature on impacts of family breakdown on children in African origin families reveals important themes regarding marriage, breakdown and family values in African origin community in the United Kingdom. African origin communities have strong family values and family breakdown, at least in the form of divorce is not common practice in African communities (Kama, 2018). Culturally, African origin children are respectful to their parents and for that reason there can be strong bond between children and parents in the African origin families (Kama, 2018). Marriage is also considered to be sacred and separation, divorce, and other breakdown of the marriage is not culturally encouraged in African origin communities (Kama, 2018). The communities are also involved in the safeguarding of the family unit and there may be attempts to resolve the situation between the spouses in order to prevent separation or divorce between the spouses by other members in the family or even the community leaders or religious leaders within the community (De Jong, 2005). These practices can be linked back to the practices in countries like South Africa, Zambia, and Swaziland where social norms work in certain patriarchal way in regard to marriages as well (Kama, 2018). In traditional African communities, the husband has a dominant role in the marriage as per the patriarchal set up and this is reflected in the practices within the society; for instance, at the time of marriage, the husband pays the family of the bride in return for the marriage. This also means that the husband owns the right to the wife in the way that she can be perceived to be his property (Kama, 2018). Research based on Malawi, a sub-Saharan African country has shown that the communities show centrality of extended family networks as a source of social and economic support, which gets impacted by divorce; children who are brought up in broken families may lose crucial access to resources or social capital due to the breakdown of their family and can fail to adapt to difficult times (Grant & Pike, 2015). This is an explanation of how African origin communities may also serve as strong networks of social and economic support even in the United Kingdom owing to the cultural capital of the communities. Such community networks may support the family and by extension children of the family, therefore, children may have access to social support within the broader extended family and social networks in the communities that may be broken by the divorce or family breakdown. In the African countries like Malawi, there is also a culture of out-fostering of children to other relatives after divorce; this can happen when both parents are incapable of taking care of the children independently or when a need is felt to buffer children from disruptions due to breakdown of family structure and change in such structure due to remarriage of parents (Grant & Pike, 2015). Grandparents are generally the preferred common caregivers for fostered children and African societies do show the culture of not putting the children beyond the care of family members as is the case in western societies where children are put in the care of foster family (Grant & Pike, 2015). In African societies, the Church also plays an important role in reconciling families that are on the verge of breakdown (Tsuma & Atony, 2019a). In that context, Church also plays a role in extending support to families going through such transitions due to breakdown of family (Tsuma & Atony, 2019b). Church interventions are common in Kenya for example when a family is undergoing a transition after breakdown or when there is a possibility

of reconciliation between the partners; however, research from Kenya shows that such intervention may be becoming less effective as family structures become more vulnerable especially in cities where families have lesser social support in form of close knit communities as compared to villages (Tsuma & Atony, 2019b). In African contexts, considerable research shows that the notions of respectability and marriage and religion are interconnected and to a great extent this is the influence of Christianity wherein marriage and family is treated as sacred and threats to the institution of marriage and family often attracts community intervention or intervention of the Church (Rai, 2018).

Data interpretation

Seen against the above background, the first thing that can be understood about African origin families is that there is a sanctity attached to the relationship of marriage; marriage is a construct in which man has the dominant position and can be seen in some contexts to ‘own’ the wife; and children are attached to their parents and respectful to their parents. In South Africa for example, women were considered to not have any rights under the customary law, and it is only with the application of the common law that women of African origin in South Africa were allowed certain rights against the husband: “They were also allowed to institute claims against their husbands for alimony or contributions towards the cost of the petitions. This was significant, as it allowed women the freedom to leave their husbands, or hold them accountable for desertion. This was particularly important as African women did not enjoy many rights under customary law. In particular, women had the same legal capacities as children, and were expected to remain under the care of their fathers, husbands, or brothers (or anther male relative), who managed their property for them” (Rai, 2018, p. 52). Therefore, in traditional African customs, the position of the woman in the marriage and family life was subordinated to the man; although legal status of women has changed over time, in African origin societies, including in the west, the patriarchal structuring of the family is still relevant (Rai, 2018). The family is an important social unit, which needs to be protected and for that purpose, the community too may get involved in the protection of the family unit by intervening in situations where family is threatened by a breakdown or divorce. Although the above studies are related to communities in African countries, the findings can also be reflective of the cultural practices of the African communities in countries like the United Kingdom with sizeable African origin populations. This is also important against the background of the way the cultural diffusion with Christianity and Islam in African communities in Africa itself had impacted the way African communities view love, marriage, and family life as reported in a study as follows: “While passionate attraction and attachment had long been a source of intergenerational tension in many parts of Africa, the elaboration of European colonial rule—and specifically the spread of Christianity, Islam, and school education during the twentieth century—infused such tensions with new political dynamics and cultural meanings. Certain intimate and emotional relations were depicted as ‘civilized’ ‘modern,’ and ‘Western’ and contrasted with others deemed ‘primitive,’ ‘traditional,’ and ‘African.’ The elaboration of ideologies of love was part of this process. Turning attention to the specifics of this process enables us to move away from vague and often obfuscating references to tradition and modernity and, instead, to examine how people have variously deployed such categories to negotiate changing sensibilities and social processes, and to make political claims to inclusion” (Thomas & Cole, 2009, p. 16).

As communities in Africa were influenced by the Christian and Islam religion in how they constructed love and marriage and divorce, it can be expected that similar effect may be seen in the way African communities in the UK construct these social notions. It is stated that “Christianity has had a profound impact on how Africans have perceived and practiced love and marriage in the twentieth century” (Rai, 2018, p. 9). Therefore, against this background one may understand how the Church and religious leaders may play a role in the African communities in countries like the United Kingdom and the United States to safeguard the institution of marriage and family and how this role may extend to providing support to the children within broken families or children caught in domestic conflict. For instance, in a study related to African origin communities in the United States, shows that Church leaders of the African American communities are involved in family and relationship intervention with faith leaders providing health information for various health and wellness issues pertaining to spousal relationship including on access to sexual health information (Senteio, 2019). Intervention into the family life therefore remains an important aspect of the relationship between the Church and the members of the congregation or parish and this is also extended to providing support to children who come from broken families (Sandler, et al., 2020). Divorce in general has negative impacts on children (Barron, 2010). Children are not part of the decision making with reference to their parents’ separation or divorce and the y are usually the individuals who get affected by the breakdown of the family even when they are not the decision makers. The children of divorce and broken families are dependent on their parents for resources, guidance, security and attachment (Barron, 2010). As such, a divorce in the family or the breakdown of the family affects children in similar ways irrespective of their ages, ethnicities, races, gender, and socio-economic levels (Barron, 2010). Children are not just affected by the breakdown of the family but also by the factors involved in the pre and post divorce relationship as all these are detrimental to the children (Barron, 2010). For very young children, the effects of the divorce or separation can be seen in the adjustment levels in their schools as one research shows where children’s adjustment in the first grade post the breakdown of the family was explored (Bezuidenhout, Theron, & Fritz, 2018). The question that this research seeks to explore is that if the transition to the first grade is made any more difficult by the fact of another transition in the form of family breakdown and how the latter affects the former (Bezuidenhout, Theron, & Fritz, 2018). In other words, children from broken families are not only faced with the transition to a new grade but also with the disintegration of family life, which poses additional risks to the children’s ability to cope with transition in a positive manner (Bezuidenhout, Theron, & Fritz, 2018). The children who are faced with such transitioning have to cope with adjustment challenges both in the school environment and home environment which makes it challenging for them to cope and address the transition in the same way as children from other families might do. Parental divorce and separation have the potential to challenge development of children, both in the academic as well as emotional sense (Bezuidenhout, Theron, & Fritz, 2018). While this is common to both African origin and other children, it may have specific links to African origin children because of the way family life and marriage is constructed in African culture. Research based in South Africa for instance shows that divorce is still considered to be a sensitive topic for many parents and children and in general it is thought to be a negative outcome; children raised by their mothers are considered to be troublesome or vulnerable and may be marginalised or stigmatised in their school environment (Bezuidenhout, Theron, & Fritz, 2018). While the same experience may not be met in London schools because divorce may not be seen as a stigma to that extent, it is possible that within African communities of London, cultural construction of divorce or family breakdown is negative and this impacts the children and how they adjust in their school environment.

Older children, such as teenagers, may have different kinds of impacts due to being raised in broken families (Slack, 2007). A report by a group of MPs explained how criminality in Black teenagers was linked to their being brought up in broken families; it revealed that although black youth make up less than 3 per cent of the population of 10 to 17-year-olds, they account for 26 per cent of arrests for robbery, 6 per cent of those in contact with criminal justice system, and 8.5 per cent of those arrested for all crimes (Slack, 2007). This disproportionate representation of Black youth in criminal justice system has been attributed to deprivation and growing up in a single-parent household with no father figure (Slack, 2007). In 2007, when this report came out, 59 percent of black Caribbean children were in single-parent families, while only 22 per cent of white British children were in single-parent families. 42 percent of mixed white/black African were in single-parent families (Slack, 2007). One of the reasons that the report attributed to the higher rates of arrest and contact with criminal justice system was the absence of a positive male role model in the family which led many young black men to emulate negative and violent lifestyles popularised in some forms of black music, such as rap, and in films (Slack, 2007). As children grow into adults, an impact of divorce or family breakdown in their lives could be the possible marital breakdown of their own (Grant & Pike, 2015). Research based on Malawi, an African country with the highest rates of divorce in Africa reports this finding that there is a significant association between parents’ marital status and the odds of divorce for the children of the parents (Grant & Pike, 2015). The study reports the following: “odds of divorce were 1.5 times higher for women whose parents were divorced relative to women whose parents were still married to each other. The formality of the union was also significantly associated with the odds of divorce... A woman’s odds of living with their parents after a divorce were 64 percent lower if her parents were no longer married to each other. The death of either parent also decreased the odds of living with parents following a divorce, but increased the odds of living with other family members. Respondents who were the head of their own household in the survey round after their divorce lived in households with significantly lower asset ownership and living standards than respondents who had remarried or were living with their parents or other relatives” (Grant & Pike, 2015, p. 4). Clearly then, in African communities in Africa there is a link between parental divorce and the future marital life of the children of the family. Similar results were reported in a study with British cohort and although the study is dated, the results are relevant and also reflected in other research (Kiernan & Cherlin, 1999). Exposure to conflict between the parents that led to the divorce and post divorce or family breakdown conflict can contribute to similar marital outcomes for the children of such families (Grant & Pike, 2015). Therefore, there is an intergenerational impact of divorce on the children of the families that are exposed to such conflict while growing up. In order to address this conflict and also provide support to African origin children in the United States, a programme called the “New Beginning Program” was designed to address two factors that are empirically associated with child outcomes following divorce: these are related to the quality of parenting and child exposure to interparental conflict; the programme is premised on the idea that the improving these factors can lead to improved child outcomes following divorce (Sandler, et al., 2020). The study reported the following, which is also relevant to the UK because like the United States, the UK also has substantial African origin populations, where similar outcomes for children of a minority community like African origin community may be achieved: “This effectiveness trial tested whether the positive short-term effects of the NBP found in two efficacy trials could be obtained when the program was delivered by community agencies to a heterogeneous population of divorced and separated families. Significant

moderated effects of the NBP to strengthen post-divorce parenting and to reduce children’s mental health problems were found, with ethnicity of the parents and age of the children being the primary significant moderators. The findings are discussed in terms of explanations for the subgroup differences in effects and implications for translating the NBP into a community service” (Sandler, et al., 2020, p. 75). The findings of the study by Sandler, et al. (2020) are relevant to understanding how negative impacts of divorce can be reduced by involvement of community and Church. This can also have implications for African origin families in the UK because the involvement of the community and Church leaders or extended family may be beneficial to the children who are struggling to cope with the transition due to family breakdown. The absence of father or mother in single parent homes after a family breakdown may have negative impacts on the children of the family, which may be addressed to some extent by positive involvement of the community or the religious leaders in the community. Culture does play a role in African origin families and how they respond to family related issues as reported in a research by Centre Point (2016) in which the researchers interviewed children from different ethnic backgrounds to get information related to their experiences with family related issues or problems. The issues related to finance, welfare and employment, and culture were stated to be key reasons for breakdown of relationships in some families. Culture especially was spoken about in terms of being something that led to African parents being quite strict with their children as one participant noted “I think it’s a culture thing. I’ve seen it with my friends. Especially African households, their families are quite strict” (Centre Point, 2016, p. 11). Culture could also play an important role in the differences arising between parents from African communities and their children who were first generation to be born in Britain as some participants reported that they struggled to balance the culture of their family heritage and the culture of being a teenager in Britain (Centre Point, 2016). Relationships between parents and children can also suffer a breakdown, according to this research if a young person acted in a way that went against the expectations of their parent’s culture (Centre Point, 2016). Therefore, there is still scope for traditional and cultural norms in African families in the UK and there are also pressures on how children in African families should behave. There are problems of communication between parents and young people in situations of family breakdown that are sometimes seen in African origin families of UK (Centre Point, 2016). What this point illustrates is that culture is an important aspect of African families’ experiences of family life and family breakdown. Also important is the point that relatives in African communities mediate between couples and even parents and young person when cultural differences arose (Centre Point, 2016). An important point made in the context of African families and their experience with family breakdown is that cultural issues can be barriers to accessing professional support beyond the family unit as it may be disapproved of in the cultural sense (Centre Point, 2016); this may leave children of such families exposed to emotional or other problems without professional help to address their issues to support them in that period. The negative impacts of father absence is already reported in studies that have explored how the absence of the father impacts the emotional well being of the children. A study based in the UK to explore the link between absence of father and depression in children was conducted with a sample of 5631 children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in which self-reported depressive symptoms at 14 years were assessed by the researchers (Culpin, Heron, Araya, Melotti, & Joinson, 2013). The researchers found that there was evidence of association between father absence and depressive symptoms in children at about 14 years of age, with the association being stronger in girls than in boys (Culpin, Heron, Araya, Melotti, & Joinson, 2013). The risk of depression was found to be the greatest when children in the early years are deprived of father’s presence as compared to children in middle years from 10 to 14 years (Culpin, Heron,

Araya, Melotti, & Joinson, 2013). Therefore, one of the effects of divorce or family breakdown is the psychological or emotional effect on children with girls being more at risk of depression with the absence of father. Similarly, the effects on boys may be increased criminality as reported on a study involving African origin teenage boys, where a group of MPs explained how criminality in Black teenagers was linked to their being brought up in broken families and growing up in a single-parent household with no father figure (Slack, 2007). in 2007, when this report came out, 59 percent of black Caribbean children were in single-parent families, while only 22 per cent of white British children were in single-parent families. 42 percent of mixed white/black African were in single-parent families (Slack, 2007). This has impacts for the boys, who may choose to involve themselves in criminal conduct or behaviour. The age at which the breakdown of the family occurs may be important to predicting the outcomes for the children of the family (Mooney, Oliver, & Smith, 2009). Research suggests that adolescents may be more negatively affected by parental conflict than younger children and may not adjust to the remarriage or repartnering of the parents than the younger children (Mooney, Oliver, & Smith, 2009). However, research also suggests that the younger the children at the time of parental separation, the more likelihood of exposure to repeated transitions in family structure as the parents may change family structure more than once and this places them at a greater risk of adverse outcomes; these risks include increased delinquency during adolescence (Mooney, Oliver, & Smith, 2009). This supports the findings of Slack (2007). Therefore, there can be a link between family breakdown and delinquency of teenagers as reported by Slack (2007) in the context of African origin boys. In young males, one of the impacts of the family breakdown and criminalisation is also seen in the context of the rising knife crime by younger members of the African origin communities (Achinewhu-Nworgu, Nworgu, Azaiki, & Nworgu, 2013). The change in the family structures in African-Caribbean community and the increase in incidence of family breakdown is reported to be one of the factors that is leading to higher incidence of knife crime (Achinewhu-Nworgu, Nworgu, Azaiki, & Nworgu, 2013). The deterioration of the family contributes to high levels of offending in the African origin youths and this is reflected in the increased incidence of knife crime (Achinewhu-Nworgu, Nworgu, Azaiki, & Nworgu, 2013). Also compared to other ethnic groups that see a participation of grandparents and extended family in the care of children, data suggests that in African origin communities family structures are weaker and the support of the extended family including grandparents is not as prevalent, which also contributes to the increasing delinquency by African origin youth, and which also goes against the traditional values of the African community (Achinewhu-Nworgu, Nworgu, Azaiki, & Nworgu, 2013). These findings are consistent with earlier research (Squires, 2009); as well as later research (Osidipe & Palmer, 2018). There is evidence to support the deduction that adverse family circumstances are more prevalent among African origin young people (Youth Justice Board , 2010). This is not to say that girls are not affected by the family breakdown in negative ways because literature suggests that girls may also experience negative impacts like greater risk of educational underachievement, dropping out of school before completion of studies, lower occupational status, early family formation and divorce or family breakdown in their own adult life (Mooney, Oliver, & Smith, 2009). At the same time, Mooney, Oliver and Smith (2009) find that there are considerable differences in how children respond to family conflict and breakdown based on their age, gender, social and economic circumstances, to name a few, which suggests that instead of family breakdown triggering negative outcomes for the children, such triggers may be located in a number of complex factors which lead to differences in how children respond to family breakdown, noting in particular:

“Understanding family breakdown as a process rather than an event is fundamental to an awareness of the ways in which pre- as well as post-separation factors may be implicated in child outcomes and debates concerning the direction of causality. We therefore aim to give due weight to the complexities of the evidence, while also highlighting key factors commonly identified in the literature as associated with children’s well-being (or lack thereof). These factors include: parental conflict; the quality of parenting and of parent-child relationships, including those with the non resident parent; maternal mental health; socio-economic factors, and repeated changes in family structure and living arrangements. These factors interact in complex ways and are often mutually reinforcing. Financial hardship, for example, may be the result of family breakdown which may, in turn, contribute to inter-parental conflict and reduce the resources (emotional and financial) required for adequate parenting” (Mooney, Oliver, & Smith, 2009, p. 10).

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Data analysis

Clearly then, there is an argument for saying that instead of family breakdown itself leading to negative outcomes for children, there are a number of factors that can be responsible for such negative outcomes. For African origin children and young people in London, the effects of family breakdown on the delinquent behaviour of the children however, is reported as a strong factor (Slack, 2007). This may be because in the African culture, parenting is considered to be an important aspect of the upbringing of children and there is usually a close relationship between not only the parents and children, but also the children and adult members of the extended family who are also under certain circumstances responsible for the children’s well being (Amos, 2012). In African societies, there is a strong culture of extended families so that parenting in the traditional African communities involves not just responsibility of the biological parents, but also extended family based on the African proverb on parenting that says: “a single hand cannot nurse a child” (Amos, 2012). Although African origin families in the UK live in a nuclear family set up, these cultural values are still as part of the communities. Considering this, two areas of interest are raised: first, whether the breakdown of the family has a negative impact on children in African origin families because family structure is held in significant position and second, whether the extended family has any role to play in the reduction of the negative impacts of family breakdown for such children. In this context, it is important to note that in the UK, family breakdown may not only affect the relationship between the partners but also their relationship with the children; this is a point that sometimes gets missed in the discourse on family breakdown as per the Centre Point (2016) report. It is important to consider how family breakdown may impact the relationship between parents and children because the impact of the breakdown may be that the children are left homeless as reported below: “Two thirds (59 per cent) of the young people who come to Centrepoint had to leave home because of family relationship breakdown.Wider evidence also indicates that a breakdown in family relationships is the main cause of youth homelessness. Although relationship breakdown is cited as the central cause of youth homelessness, a plethora of issues may have pushed a family towards this breaking point. It is a complex process not a single event, often drawn out over a long period of time. It can be the result of individual problems and support needs, interpersonal difficulties, manifestations of childhood trauma or structural factors such as poverty.Due to this, it is extremely difficult to evidence the way in which multiple problems interact and escalate to cause family breakdown” (Centre Point, 2016, p. 5). The above statement shows that there is a significant link between family breakdown and

the children. This can support the findings of Centre Point (2016) that there can be relationship breakdown between parents and children in African families. The African origin youth needs interventions from services that are more reflective of the particular conditions of family life and lack of support so that these services can effectively respond to the family conditions that lead to behavioural and other problems amongst the African origin youth (Youth Justice Board , 2010). It is also important to provide professionals with the skills to deliver interventions to young African origin offenders, such as through specific area-focused diversity training needs and by engaging local communities (Youth Justice Board , 2010). In general, literature on support and services for African youth emphasises on the need for culturally sensitive interventions (Gleeson, Duke, & Thom, 2019). In the case of children and youth from African origin communities, it has been found that they find it easier to engage with interventions if family involvement is included in their treatment or support (Gleeson, Duke, & Thom, 2019). However, for youth who have family breakdown this option may not be easily available for which some culturally sensitive interventions, involving community and church may be devised.

Chapter 5: Conclusion

African families in the UK are still bounden to their culture in significant respects and this is reflected in the way family is structured and perceived. The family is a sacred unit which is not to be easily broken down. The relationship between the parents and children is important and children are supposed to be respectful and obedient to their parents. Even though African communities have settled in the UK, cultural norms about family, relationship between spouses and relationship between children and parents are still significant. However, family breakdown does occur in the African communities as well and there are significant impacts of such breakdown for the children and young people in the families. These impacts are related to emotional, economic, and behavioural aspects. Emotional impacts are related to loss of family life, need to adjust to new family structuring, and loss of company of either parent. Economic impacts are related to the loss of family income that may lead to poverty, homelessness, and destitution. Behavioural impacts can be felt on the way children or young people may respond to the family breakdown by bad behaviour or even criminal behaviour at times. These impacts have been reported in the research (Moffett, 2019; Leach, 2014; Slack, 2007). Even with specific reference to African origin people, these impacts have been reported in the research; for instance, Slack (2007) reports that the cases of robbery and delinquency by African origin teenagers in London are usually attributed to the family breakdown and the absence of father in the lives of the young boys. Similarly, negative effects have been reported in the case of young girls, who may marry early or have teenage pregnancies or early divorce or behavioural problems that are associated with the family breakdown and loss of parental support at a young age. Even younger children may have adjustment problems in their transition to school because they may be facing transition in family life as well as school life. Therefore, there are impacts felt in the lives of both younger children as well as teenagers and adolescents. Three questions were asked in this research, which have been answered through review of literature. These questions were whether African parents in the UK understand the impact divorce and separation have on their children; whether divorce and separation contributed to African children’s involvement in knife crime in the UK; and the ways in which African children in the UK impacted by divorce or separation, can be supported. The research found that family breakdown in African families may not just lead to the divorce or separation between spouses but also breakdown of relationships between parents and children, which affects their communication with each other and may lead to lack of understanding on the part of the parents with regard to what their children are going through. In African communities, children are very much in awe of their parents and have a respectful relationship with them; breakdown in family relations can therefore be more traumatic for children and they may have a difficult time dealing with it. This is one of the reasons why some children or youth may exhibit behavioural issues and criminality, like involvement in knife crime. The statistics do show that African youth are overrepresented in knife crime and that the majority of such youth comes from broken families. This supports the contention that family breakdown does contribute to criminal behaviour or delinquent behaviour in African origin youth, especially males. What can be done to support these youth is to provide culturally appropriate interventions and services when such youth shows delinquent behaviour. As involvement of family may not be possible for such youth, involvement of community or church may be done to help support them if their family is undergoing breakdown.

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