Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 11:05 UK

Boys harmed by 'get rich' culture

David Lammy
David Lammy warns against 'demonising' single mothers

A generation of boys is growing up with inadequate male role models and see crime as a short cut to wealth and power, a minister has warned.

David Lammy said boys were seduced by the "get rich or die trying" lifestyle - echoing the title of an album by US rapper 50 Cent.

And the problem was not just confined to those from poor backgrounds.

Middle class children were often starved of parental guidance too, he writes in The New Statesman.

"While there may be young men on estates missing fathers who left them, there are also children in Middle Britain whose parents become strangers in a culture of long working hours," said Mr Lammy.

'Bling culture'

The Tottenham MP - who was himself brought up by a single mother - called for more male role models in the community, of the kind he had when he was growing up.

In a warped world of gang culture, carrying a weapon has come to be associated with being a man
David Lammy
Skills minister

He also urged society not to "demonise" single mothers - blaming wider factors such as the disappearance of traditional male jobs and the rise of consumerism.

"In society, the fetishisation of money and the growth of consumerism add new pressure.

"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.

"Inequality plays its part, as young men from poor backgrounds feel they have less to lose.

"Why, one boy asked me, was I worried about his grades at school, when he might not live long enough to get a job?

"This is the world of 'get rich or die trying'."

'National civic service'

Many young males grew up unable to control their emotions or relate to their peers other than through violence, the skills minister says.

And they carried knives or guns not because they hope to use them but because they are seen as symbols of status and power.

"The issue is one of self-image. In a warped world of gang culture, carrying a weapon has come to be associated with being a man.

"Rather than being seen as a risk, the knife confers "respect"."

Mr Lammy called for a compulsory "national civic service" and universal entitlement to apprenticeships to tie young men into the world of work.

He also suggests companies should be encouraged to offer mentors to young men - and says advertising's impact on young people should be investigated.

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