We understand the tendency of newspaper readers to skip over unusually long stories.

That sea of gray words on a big, white page can intimidate even the most diligent reader.

That’s why we fear many people might have skipped over an excellent column in Sunday’s Sun Journal titled, “How to raise a dangerous criminal.”

It was on the front page of our Perspective section, and if you missed it we urge you to dig it out of the recycling stack and take another look.

In her guest column, Margaret McGaughey pulled together a series of threads that, we believe, account for a host of social ills ranging from single parenthood, to poverty, to substance abuse, sex abuse and, ultimately, serious crime.

Based upon her 35 years as a federal prosecutor handling hundreds of criminal cases, McGaughey identifies five common patterns shared by nearly all serious criminal offenders:

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* “Families that have fractured and reconfigured repeatedly;

* “childhoods dominated by drugs, alcohol, physical abuse, verbal mistreatment, sexual predation, or other forms of abuse;

* “upbringings that reflect no respect for education;” and

* “the absence of an influence of, or involvement in, religion.”

Last year, in an editorial, the Sun Journal presented an array of evidence showing that children from fractured, single-parent households are much more likely to suffer serious consequences as they age.

This is a problem few seem willing to discuss. As a society, we have talked ourselves into a fashionable belief that single women, or single men, are as capable of raising children as two committed parents.

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There are examples of dedicated single mothers doing a good job of raising children. Bill Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s mothers were obviously successful.

But for a large number of children born into such circumstances, things do not go nearly as well.

Too often, single parenthood is a quick route to poverty and a dependence upon social services.

As McGaughey points out in her column, too many children in such “fractured” family circumstances grow up with a parade of father figures who come and go, yet invest little in the child’s development.

Suffering from such instability at home, it’s little wonder that children suffer in school and at home.

The most devastating fact is that this sort of family model is turning from the exception to the rule.

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In 2012, 40 percent of Maine children were born to unmarried mothers or, to put it just as correctly, unwed fathers. For women under 30, 51 percent of babies are now born to unmarried mothers, signaling that this unfortunate trend will continue.

This is a formula for more crime, more drug abuse and more poorly educated citizens unable to support themselves and likely incapable of serving as good role models for their own children.

While we have pointed out the growing problem, McGaughey offers a solution — developing a more aggressive response to child welfare that involves intervening before children are repeatedly exposed to corrosive parenting.

Parents have too many rights in the current process, and children have too few, she argues.

It’s great that McGaughey is speaking out.

The problem now is that too many politicians, academics and government officials have their heads stuck in the sands of political correctness, refusing to even acknowledge the root problem.

[email protected]

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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