Reviewed Books & Films

« Are Black Feminists on to Something? | Main | "A Role Model for Resilience — But Does It Help You or Your Clients Change?" »

Thursday, July 02, 2015

How Do We Solve the Problems of Poor Families: Turn Drifters Into Planners?


Tanya Telfair LeBlanc reviewed Generation Unbound: Drifting Into Sex and Parenthood Without Marriage by Isabel V. Sawhill. Sawhill and LeBlanc describe the myriad problems (physical health, mental health, etc.) of poor families and trace the problem back to the breakdown of the married two parent family structure. LeBlanc notes,

Sawhill makes an important distinction between the Planners (p. 3), those who plan for having children, and the Drifters (p. 3), young women who simply become sexually active, with no plan to use contraceptives, no plan to care for a potential pregnancy and no plan to take care of herself and raise a child. (para. 7)

 Later LeBlanc states,

Sawhill’s remedy for this social problem appears straightforward: Turn the Drifters into Planners (pp. 105-128).  One step toward turning Drifters into Planners is to help young girls take control over results of their introduction to sex and expanding the utility of long-term birth control methods.” (para. 10)

This in turn would improve educational attainment, income, and health outcomes.

Could this suggestion be a major solution for which many have craved to help eliminate unplanned pregnancies and consequently poverty, poorer physical health, lower education, etc.? LeBlanc notes that long-term birth control methods such as Depo-Provera are controversial.  But even if this particular method is not acceptable, are there other methods and programs that could accomplish the same outcome?

Read the Review
ReviewEnd of Denial: Family Structure Predicts Life Chances for Children
By Tanya Telfair LeBlanc
      PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol. 60(24)


Andrew Stock

Results from a recent pilot study in Colorado (that state seems to be doing lots of things right lately, at least from afar) would suggest that Sawhill might be onto something...

Andrew Stock

Tanya Telfair LeBlanc

In my view, this single issue undergirds so many of the problems faced by American society in the 21st century. I may be bold to write this, but it appears that parenting may be a lost art among some segments of the population! My earlier research demonstrates the “disconnect” between having children and the responsibilities of raising them for many disadvantaged women. The growth of day care centers is probably a contributing factor. Young people should understand that having a child is a life- long responsibility, and that responsibility goes far beyond simply providing shelter, food and clothing. Raising a child includes moral and discipline training, self-control, education, life skills, how to navigate in the world, how to stay healthy and so much more. Too many young mothers expect schools to provide comprehensive training to their children. Some think “All I have to do, is get them into school!” The startling reality is that by then, it is too late! A plethora of studies have shown that critical background knowledge acquired from birth to age 3 or 4 sets children up for success or failure in school. Children with mothers who fail to interact with them in a loving way, converse with them, or teach them the fundamentals of life orientation at home are significantly behind their more fortunate peers. And these deficits breed anger and frustration in classrooms with children who have been provided the skills required to learn in a classroom environment. Sadly, too many classrooms are filled with “kids” and not children. What’s the difference, you might wonder? In my opinion, a child is a young person who is respectful of authority, eager to learn and curious about the world, enjoys playing and learns from it, is polite and appreciative, is able to make the connection between going to school and the rest of his/her life. A kid is an immature grown-up, in a smaller body, rude, disrespectful, wise cracking, ungrateful, jaded; thinks he/she is cool; tries to act older and fails at it. Kids are way too cool to pay attention and learn in school. School is a waste of time. After all, they know everything!
In years past, you might find one or two “kids” in a classroom. They used to be called the class clowns. But nowadays classrooms are full of clowns, dancing and acting up while wearing the expensive designer clothes. Buffoonery has risen to epidemic proportions. If you ask these “kids” what they intend to do when they grow up? They are quick to tell you that they are going to drive an expensive car, live in a big house and wear the finest clothes. What I find really interesting is that most have no idea how they will obtain these material trappings. The quest for material goods often leads to criminal activity and incarceration. Barely reaching sexual maturity, many of these “kids” go on and have more “kids” repeating the cycle of intergenerational disadvantage.
Schools were never designed for raising children. But, with each decade since the 1970s, schools are being called upon to provide ever increasing numbers of services that used to be provided at home.
Raising a child and not a “kid” is serious business. It requires maturity, intelligence, self-discipline, sound values, delayed gratification, unselfishness, self-sacrifice and patience. Young people who have not yet stabilized their own lives should be made to realize that bringing a child into the world before the “planning” has been done, does that child an extreme disservice.


Colorado seems to be having similar discussions with long term birth control. Their program seems effective (but some say teen pregnancy rates were dropping anyway) but the primary issue is whether taxpayer funds be used. Some argue that using some tax funds now saves money in the long run.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Note: We are experiencing issues with legitimate comments sometimes being marked as spam by the system. If you post a comment and are wondering why it isn't showing up right away, please know we are checking the spam filter frequently and will publish your comment as needed.

Thanks for your comment, and for your patience as we work on this issue.

Editor of PsycCRITIQUES

Danny Wedding, PhD

Chair of Behavioral Sciences,
College of Medicine,
American University of Antigua

Associate Editors of PsycCRITIQUES

Related Links

Bookmark and Share

Send Feedback

rss Subscribe to the Blog

rss Subscribe via FeedBurner

Subscribe to Blog Updates via Email Here…