A Labour MP and a prominent national newspaper columnist have warned that an absence of fathers is a key factor in the riots which have blighted English cities this week.
Tottenham MP David Lammy cautioned: “We are seeing huge consequences of the lack of male role models in young men’s lives”.
Meanwhile, commentator Melanie Phillips pointed out that while the causes of the problems are “many and complex”, a lack of a father is a major factor.
She said: “Of course there are many lone parents who do a tremendous job. But we’re talking here about widespread social collapse. And there are whole areas of Britain, white as well as black, where committed fathers are a wholly unknown phenomenon.”
The Bishop of London also noted the “background to the riots is family breakdown and the absence of strong and positive role models”.
And Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks, writing in The Times newspaper, said: “Too much of contemporary society has been a vacation from responsibility.”
He commented: “Children have been the victims of our self-serving beliefs that you can have partnerships without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality, and self-esteem without the responsibility of hard work and achievement.”
Mr Lammy MP warned that in areas like his there is, “none of the basic starting presumption of two adults who want to start a family, raise children together, love them, nourish them and lead them to full independence”.
He continued: “The parents are not married and the child has come, frankly, out of casual sex; the father isn’t present, and isn’t expected to be.
“There aren’t the networks of extended families to make up for it.” He warned that children, without male role models, turn to “hip-hop”, “gang culture” and peer groups for their masculinity.
Londoners have also spoken of their concern about the breakdown of the family. One mum, Chris, who was speaking to The Guardian, said: “It’s all very well trying to be liberal, but parents need to be given back their right to parent.”
She also commented: “Responsibility has been taken away from parents. People here will call social services if they hear you disciplining your children.”
And Harry from South Norwood in Greater London, warned: “Children are making children.”
Melanie Phillips also criticised the “liberal intelligentsia” for “its onslaught upon marriage — the bedrock institution of society — with a tax system that penalises married couples with a wife who doesn’t work”.
She said this was among the problems that had led to children being “without any moral compass”.
The columnist asked whether David Cameron, while “commendably talking tough”, will “remove the incentives to girls and women to have babies outside marriage?”
And she concluded: “Repairing this terrible damage also means, dare I say it, a return to the energetic transmission of Biblical morality.”
She added that church leaders need to “start preaching, once again, the moral concepts that underlie our civilisation”.