Male youths need role models, says minister

A generation of young men are failing at school and turning to crime and violence because old images of masculinity are disappearing from society, a Government minister has said.

David Lammy MP – who himself grew up without a father – also blamed a “fetishisation of money” for contributing to a culture where crime becomes a perceived shortcut to wealth.

He said the lack of good male role models was not just a working class, single parent problem. He also blamed middle class dads who become strangers to their children because of long working hours.

However, Mr Lammy distanced himself for what he called “back-to-basics speeches” which criticise single-parent families and emphasise a return to family values.

While he recognised the need to give greater support to families, he emphasised the role of Government policy, community projects and youth services in addressing the problem.

Mr Lammy was writing about youth violence in the New Statesman magazine. According to statistics quoted in the magazine, almost all (97 per cent) of juvenile offenders aged 15-17 are boys. Over 70 per cent of males aged under 18 who are charged for one offence go on to commit further crimes.

Mr Lammy wrote: “Masculinity is largely made up of learned behaviour and without a model of that behaviour emphasising an ability to express emotions, young boys have to look elsewhere to make what mark they can.

“Violence – or at least the power to inflict it – becomes a displacement activity. An aggressive street culture replaces success in other spheres of life as an expression of masculinity.”

He also wrote: “In society, the fetishisation of money and the growth of consumerism add new pressures. In a ‘bling’ culture, criminality easily becomes a short cut to symbols of wealth and power that will otherwise take years of hard work to achieve.”

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