The Birth of Poverty
The disadvantaged lives of children in female-headed sole-parent families have received a lot of publicity. This has led to an increased interest in the effects of family change on children and to a broad concern with child poverty. In the previous chapter we paid special attention to poverty among the children of separated and divorced women. However, it is important to recognize that these are not the only children who may grow up in poverty. We need to take a look at childhood in general, in order to see why the poverty of postmodern children is such a problematic issue.
One of the promises of modernity was the ideal that being born into a particular family should not determine a child's prospects for living a happy and productive life. It was held that, whereas life chances in traditional societies were based on ascription, in modern societies they should be based on achievement. In order to ensure that this was so, the social distribution of resources for children had to be rationalized in two main ways.
First, it was argued that the state should provide the means of enlightenment for all children, by compulsion if necessary. Institutions of mass education were introduced to provide opportunities for individual children to rise above the limitations of their families of origin. It was also argued that economic and cultural resources would have to be redistributed. This was to be done in order that no family could fall so far below the majority that its children would be unable to participate fully in