Anders Breivik’s broken family

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In the news coverage of the Norwegian tragedy perpetrated by Anders Breivik much has been made of Norway’s open society -- something that made it all the easier, apparently, for Breivik to carry out his shocking and insane plot against his own countrymen.

In another context, Norway is one of those Scandinavian countries which are often lauded for their social security and even “family-friendly” policies. But it appears from this tragic episode that there are some things social welfare and openness do not guarantee.

They do not, for example, guarantee a happy family life, which is the thing most likely to provide a person with security and safeguard their sanity growing up. The editor of MercatorNet has commented on this aspect of the killer’s life in his article on the main page.

London Telegraph blogger and teacher, Katharine Birbalsingh, has also homed in on Breivik’s broken family background and in particular on the absence of his father from the time he was one year old. She has been attacked by commenters for finding the origin of his problems in his father’s lack of responsibility towards his son (among others), as though she were excusing his crime. She is not. The editor of MercatorNet is not. But I believe they are right to draw attention to the broken family factor in Breivik’s withdrawal into the online world and madness.

The 32-year-old grew up in a Norway in which marriage rates were falling and divorce and cohabitation increasing. According to a recent OECD report on the wellbeing of families Norway is doing just fine regarding poverty and female employment, but it is one of the developed world’s leaders in out of wedlock births -- more than 50 per cent of children were born to parents without a marital commitment in 2007.

The fact that it shares these trends with many other countries does not mean they are not bad for children. The fact that family breakdown is bad for children does not mean they will grow up to be criminally insane. But Norway would do well to reflect on all possible factors in the Oslo tragedy and ask whether it is really doing the best for its children.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS | family breakdown, Norway

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Family Edge looks at news and trends affecting the family in the light of human dignity. Our focus is the inspiring, creative, humorous, annoying, ridiculous, and dangerous ideas in the evening news. Send tips and brainwaves to the editor, Tamara Rajakariar, at tamara.rajakariar@

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