We Know What We Need to Do

“You can shout in the wind about how it will be.”

               - Townes Van Zandt

Fatherlessness is the public policy of the United States and the several states.  Almost without exception, and in countless ways, we choose to separate fathers from their children and keep them separated.  Our laws encourage fatherlessness; our public servants, from family courts to adoption courts to child welfare authorities to child support agencies and beyond ensure that, absent superhuman efforts by fathers, our anti-father/anti-child policies are implemented, often ruthlessly.

This is true despite the fact that we know to a certainty that fatherless children are at far higher risk of destructive, dysfunctional and anti-social behaviors than children with fathers actively present in their lives.  As long ago as 1993, the April edition of The Atlantic carried this message on its cover:

“The dissolution of two-parent families, though it may benefit the adults involved, is harmful to many children, and dramatically undermines our society.” 

So, 29 years ago, the information on children’s need for fathers was well established.  Today in 2022, it’s far more so, yet we feign shock when young men who’ve grown up without their fathers and with the constant refrain of anti-male messages ringing in their ears, commit horrifying acts of violence.  Our shock is a pretense.  We’ve known this would happen.  We know it will again.

So, to cite just a few of the detriments to children of father absence:

Living without a father doubles a child’s chances of dropping out of high school.  Boys without fathers do substantially worse on achievement tests and make poorer grades than boys living with their dads.  Children without fathers perform worse on tests of social competency than children with fathers.  Children without fathers are more likely to be absent from school and have more suspensions and expulsions than other kids.  Math and science aptitude is substantially lower among children without fathers.  The detriments of father absence last long past the time the child moves out of the home.  Kids without fathers perform less well on college entrance examinations and are 1.5 times more likely to be unemployed.  Fatherlessness sharply increases the chance that both males and females will commit suicide.  About two-thirds of children in mental hospitals come from fatherless homes.  Children’s use/abuse of alcohol and drugs increases markedly in fatherless homes.  Some 90% of runaway children run away from fatherless homes.  Teen gangs are replete with fatherless boys.  Obesity in children is highly correlated with father absence.  Girls without fathers experience menarche earlier and are more likely to become pregnant during their teen years than are girls with dads.  Some 73% of adolescent murderers, 80% of rapists and 90% of repeat arsonists come from fatherless homes.  Generally, 65% of inmates of juvenile criminal facilities were brought up without fathers.

And none of that is due to poverty, class, income, race, religion, etc.  When those factors were held steady in multiple studies, fatherlessness emerged as the one constant in kids’ dysfunctional behaviors, including homicide.

Since the turn of the century, there’ve been seven shootings at schools in which 10 or more people have been killed.  Including the recent atrocity in Uvalde, Texas, we’ve been able to ascertain the family background of six of those killers.  In all six, the killer was a boy who’d been deprived of his father.

With all that dysfunction that’s so strongly related to fatherless boys, can we truly pretend surprise when yet another fatherless boy takes out his pain and rage on whomever he chooses?  We can’t, at least not with a clear conscience.

Homo sapiens is a bi-parental species; we’re one of only about 5%-10% of mammals that are.  Males began assisting females in the care of children about 500,000 years ago.  We’ve concluded that because the part of the male brain that’s involved in parental behavior is the cerebral cortex that evolved in our species at about that time.  The parenting behavior of female humans involves much older cerebral structures like the amygdala, indicating that they’ve been at it far longer.

Men and women tend to parent differently and it’s the synergy of the two that our offspring need for optimal development.  Mothers tend to hold their babies face-to-face, while dads tend to hold them facing outward.  Mothers’ love is about secure self-esteem; fathers’ is about involvement with the outside world.  Most importantly, father’s “rough and tumble” play with children teaches empathy and the importance of boundaries.  Fatherless children tend to lack an “intuitive” grasp of either.

Our four+-decades-long experiment in fatherless kids has spectacularly failed.  The evidence is all around us and more arrives daily.  It instructs us about what we can and must do to make our society safer, less polarized and less hateful.  We must do our utmost to ensure that every child has a father in his/her life, and that, if the parents divorce, the child maintains a healthy relationship with each.  We need to teach that single-parenthood is generally detrimental to kids, parents, society generally and the public purse.  And we must stop the constant denigration of men and boys that should have no place in civilized society.

That is, we need to do all the things we’re currently neither doing nor even talking about.  All the rhetoric about gun control or, alternatively, converting schools into armed camps, is just shouting in the wind.

Will fixing fatherlessness and stopping misandry completely solve our crime problem?  No.  But if we don’t do those things, we can’t even begin.



1 comment

Paul Nathanson


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published