Dads Against the Divorce Industry

DA*DI is devoted to reinstating the societal valuation of Marriage and the traditional, nuclear American Family, with particular emphasis on the essential role of FATHERS.

DA*DI offers contemporary reports and commentary on culture; its aberrations and its heroes.


The 'Boyfriend Bill': You'd think dads would support it

Gerald L. Rowles, Ph.D.
January 17, 2003

Columnist Betsy Hart wrote the other day that men have won the sexual revolution. To make her point she talked about the 'hooking up' phenomenon that pervades both high school and college campuses. Hooking up is the metaphor for no expensive dates, nor complicated romance, just casual sex. But it's not really sex ya see, because it's not intercourse some, most, all of the time, just lotsa oral, uh, nonsex.

The same pretty much goes for what used to be the marriage culture. As a result of the sexual revolution, we now rarely see prolonged engagements, just limited responsibility, limited romance, and lotsa pseudo-conjugal hookups, or in other words, 'shack jobs'. As the old-timers say, nowadays if a boy and girl who call themselves adults want to shack up, without benefit of cultural rituals, they face little disdain from their contemporaries. Even if they want to, or ooops, have a kid, the same cultural apathy prevails.

But what if a married couple, with kid(s) divorce? And what if the predictably-custodial mom decides to shack up with a new boyfriend? And what if the non-custodial bio-dad objects to the fact that his ex-wife is now, uh, nonsexing the boyfriend in the bedroom next to his child's? Or what if the bio-dad finds out that the boyfriend is smoking a little pot, and occasionally whipping the tar out of his nonkid?

Enter the 'Boyfriend Bill' authored by Representative Dan Boddicker (R) of Iowa. Boddicker "proposed House File 64, which states that if a child is exposed to a 'cohabiting intimate partner,' a court may determine there has been a substantial change in circumstances and award custody to the other parent."

Kaboom! The feminists and single mothers and social workers went postal. The feminists predictably argue that this measure will deprive struggling, put-upon, single moms of the monetary support that the boyfriend provides. Single mothers, who after all have the right to extinguish life before it gets fully out of the womb, argue; "It's just not fair to have a child taken away from you, due to the fact that you've found someone else that makes you happier," or "It's bogus to have your right taken away from you just because you want to live with somebody." And social workers, ever on patrol for intolerance, pout, "The concern always about laws is when they are over-inclusive." (Ask dads about 'rights' and 'over-inclusive laws' like VAWA and the Child Support Enforcement act.)    What - Ever.

Surprisingly, however, Representative Boddicker's bill is garnering national attention because of the potential for setting a powerful precedent. In some cases, such as Florida, even some social workers are supportive - as well they should be if they work in the child abuse division.

The boyfriend bill might be likened to a ban on the abuse that is euphemistically called partial-birth abortion. No one is saying a woman can't choose to shack up, but they are saying that when a viable child is involved, there ought to be limits to choice, and at that point dad should have some options and remedies available. Assuming, one hopes, that he even gives a rip.

But guess who's hooking up with those arguing against the boyfriend bill. Non-custodial bio-dads who themselves are shacking up, that's who. And that's sadly alarming because of the implications.

Why 'should' dads support HF 64? Well, apart from the fact that cohabitation is generally a lousy condition for kids because of the higher likelihood of breakups and instability, shacking up with a boyfriend, or in dad's case, girlfriend who has no biological ties to a child is just plain risky business. "They don't love the kid," said Martin Daly, author of a number of Canadian studies on the issue. "A lot of stepmothers and boyfriends regard the kid as undesired baggage who they wish had never been born. The child remains a resented nuisance at best." But it is more so the case with the boyfriend.

The profound 'boyfriend' concern is raised by a number of robust studies:
The study Broken Homes and Battered Children by Robert Whelan [Family Education Trust, 1993] found that the incidence of child abuse is 20 times higher for children living with their cohabiting parents and 33 times higher among children living with their mother and her boyfriend compared to children living with their biological, married parents. Similar risks apply in cases of fatal child abuse. The overwhelming number of child deaths occurred in households in which the child's biological mother was cohabiting with someone who was unrelated to the child.
The mother's boyfriend appears to be a particularly potent source of danger to a child, according to columnist Maggie Gallagher. The Heritage Organization study found that although boyfriends contribute less than 2 percent of all nonparental child care, they commit almost half of all reported abuse by nonparents. As researcher Leslie Margolin put it, "A young child left alone with a mother's boyfriend experiences elevated risk of physical abuse."
For some teens whose parents divorce, having a parent move out isn't the worst thing that happens. Having Mom's new boyfriend move in is. Researchers looked at data from the Urban Institute's 1997 National Survey of America's Families, which asked questions of 44,000 households. They focused on teens, ages 12 to 17, their race and household type. They also looked at the teens' emotional and behavioral well-being, their connectedness and enthusiasm for school, and whether they had been suspended or expelled. The researchers found that for white and Hispanic teens, living with a cohabiting mother was the most problematic. White and Hispanic teens who lived in cohabiting homes "scored the worst on two out of three outcomes."
So when bio-dads express objections to the boyfriend bill, the implications are that they care less about the risk potential for their child than risking potential inconvenience in losing regular nonsex with their own hookups. And the really lousy part is that they are inadvertently validating one of the most damnable criticisms of the fatherhood movement. Within this context, fathers' protests against the inequities of child support will be interpreted to be the product of a bunch of selfish (cheap/deadbeat) bastards. Never mind the double standard of single-mothers' claims on shack-up rights with sugar daddies.

All things considered, one has to wonder what in the world those dads are thinking in opposing a crucial measure of safety for their kids. Or, just maybe, it's better that we don't know. We might find they think too much like single-moms.



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