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The Human Carnage of Fatherlessness
"The deteriorating condition of children - ranging from violent
boys and promiscuous girls to abused children of both sexes - has become a
regular feature of the daily news. The linkage of these now-familiar
conditions to Fatherlessness is empirically verified by a voluminous body of
social and behavioral research.
Because children represent the future of
our society, these negative consequences are a social calamity in the making.
It is a misfortune not just for those children affected by it but for every
- Professor David Popenoe: "Life Without
FATHERLESSNESS AND CHILDREN:
"Almost anything bad that can happen to a child occurs with much
greater frequency to the children of divorce and those who live in single
- D. Popenoe
Child well-being over the past thirty years has deteriorated markedly:
LIVING IN A SINGLE- PARENT FAMILY:
- Juvenile violent crime has increased six-fold, from 16,000 arrests in 1960
to 96,000 in 1992, a period in which the total number of juveniles in the
population remained relatively stable.
- Reports of child neglect and abuse have quintupled since 1976, when data
were first collected.
- Eating disorders and rates of unipolar depression have soared among
- Teen Suicide has tripled.
- SAT scores have declined nearly 80 points.
- Poverty has shifted from the elderly to the young. Of all the nation's
poor today, 38 percent are children.
- Evidence is now strong that the loss of Fathering is the most prominent
reason for all of these conditions, independent of economic issues.
The main source of evidence for the social and behavioral
disadvantages to a child of growing up in a single-parent family is five
nationally representative, large-scale social surveys. - per G. Sandefur and
S. McLanahan: "Growing Up With a Single-Parent."
Children who grow up with only one of their biological parents:
- are three times more likely to have a child out of wedlock.
- are 2.5 times more likely to become teen mothers.
- are twice as likely to drop out of high school.
- are 1.4 times as likely to be idle (out of school and out of work).
- are two to three times more likely to have had emotional or behavioral
- are more likely to have repeated a grade in school, to have been expelled,
and to have elevated scores for health vulnerability.
- (females) are more likely to marry and bear children early, to give birth
before marriage, and to have their marriage break up.
"Evidence about the negative effects of divorce on the social and
behavioral development of children is now legion in the social sciences.
Although not always an intended measure of Fatherlessness, divorce-effect
studies provide in fact such a measure because most children of divorce end up
living in single-parent families apart from their biological Fathers." - D.
The children from divorced homes:
- performed more poorly on a wide range of assessments:
- parent's ratings of hostility toward adults, peer popularity,
nightmares, and anxiety.
- teacher's ratings of school-related behaviors and mental health,
including dependency, anxiety, aggression, withdrawal, inattention, peer
popularity, and self-control.
- scores in reading, spelling, and math.
- school performance indices, including grades in reading and math as well
as repeating a school grade.
- physical health ratings.
- referral to the school psychologist.
Per social psychologist Judith Wallerstein, "A significant number of
children (of divorce) suffer long-term, perhaps permanent detrimental effects
- Five years after divorce: over one-third experience moderate to severe
- Ten years after divorce: a significant number of young men and women
appeared troubled, adrift, and were achieving below expectations.
- Fifteen years after divorce: when the children were now in their thirties,
many were having difficulty establishing their own love relationships.
A number of studies reach the same conclusions:
- Data from a national sample of 9,643 respondents collected through the
1987-1988 National Survey of Families and Households yielded this conclusion:
"Family disruption during childhood has long-term consequences for the
subjective well-being of both women and men."
- From eleven General Social Surveys conducted annually from 1973 to 1985 by
the National Opinion Research Center, family scholars Glenn and Kathryn D.
Kramer of the University of Texas concluded: "The increase in the proportion
of adults who are children of divorce in the next few decades will lead, in
the absence of countervailing influences, to a steady and non-trivial decline
in the overall well-being of the American adult population."
- Per Sara McLanahan, a noted family researcher in this area: "While some of
the problems associated with single-parenthood pre-date parent's separation,
others do not. On balance, the average child does worse, not better, after
- Per a particularly sophisticated longitudinal study of the effects of
divorce, done in Sweden" "the experience of family disruption involving
parental separation or divorce has negative effects on later mental health
whenever it occurs and regardless of the socioeconomic status of the household
or of later changes in family structure."
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND VIOLENCE:
"Of all the negative consequences of Fatherlessness, juvenile
delinquency and violence probably loom largest in the public mind: There are
too many little boys with guns." - D. Popenoe
- Since 1960, while the population has gone up by only 41 percent, there has
been a 550 percent increase in reported violent crime. The segment with the
fastest growing crime rate is juveniles.
- Between 1983 and 1992, arrests of juveniles for murder went up by 128
- Studying two groups of Philadelphia boys, one born in 1945 and the other
in 1958, found that the later group was three times more likely to commit
violent crimes and five times more likely to commit robberies. These findings
parallel the increases in fatherlessness.
- From the National Surveys of Children, a major longitudinal study done in
two waves, found that family disruption "was associated with a higher
incidence of several behavioral problems, negative effects being greatest with
multiple marital transitions."
- Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990), in "A General Theory of Crime", concluded
that "such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the
percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached
individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime
- Sixty percent of America's rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers,
and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates come from Fatherless homes. -
National Fatherhood Initiative.
- In 1993 there were 3,647 teenage killers; by 2005, criminologist James Fox
expects there will be 6,000 of them. If Fatherlessness continues to increase,
we face even more dangerous times ahead.
"(Much) serious child abuse, especially sexual abuse, is committed
by men. The men who have greatest access to their children are Fathers. Since
Fathers participate less in the lives of their children today than ever before
and children are (most) often under the sole care of their mothers, wouldn't
you suppose that the rate of child abuse would have dropped? Unfortunately,
quite the opposite has happened. As Fathers have left home, the rates of child
abuse have increased, and reported sexual abuse has increased at a faster rate
than all other forms of child maltreatment."
"By 1990, when over two
million combined cases of child abuse were reported to social service
agencies, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect pronounced that
the amount of child maltreatment in the United States had reached the level of
a national emergency."
So if it's not Biological Fathers, Who is it?:
- One of the greatest risk factors in child abuse, found by virtually every
investigation that has ever been conducted, is family disruption.
- Living in a female-headed, single-parent household ranks as especially
- 43 percent of children reporting as having been abused lived in
female-headed, single-parent households; compared with 18 percent in the total
- Both sexual abuse and physical abuse are affected by single-parenthood.
- Rates of severe and very severe violence toward children are substantially
greater in single-parent households.
"Why does living in a female-headed, single-parent family have
such an elevated risk for child sexual abuse?" First is the decrease in the
quality and quantity of supervision and protection children receive. Second is
that children from single-parent homes tend to be more emotionally deprived
and needy, therefore vulnerable to the ploys of sexual abusers. Finally,
Fathers are not around to provide the supervision and protection that children
need to avoid sexually-molesting acquaintances and strangers. Protecting
daughters from the sexual overtures of other men has long been a major role of
fathers. - D. Popenoe
- Despite the fact that immediate family members have the most access to
children, less than half of the sexual abuse perpetrators are actually family
members and close relatives.
- Strangers make up 10 to 30 percent of the cases.
- The remainder are acquaintances including mother's boyfriends, neighbors,
teachers, coaches, religious leaders, and peers.
- Among sexual abusers who are "blood relatives", only a small fraction are
Fathers. The great majority are uncles, grandfathers, brothers and
stepbrothers, and male cousins.
- Chances of a "daughter" being abused by her stepfather are at least seven
times higher than by her Biological Father.
- Forty-seven percent of cases of sex abuse by stepfathers were classified
as "very serious", vs only 26 percent of cases by the Biological Fathers.
- Compared to abusing stepfathers, abusing Biological Fathers are more
likely to live in circumstances of great personal and social disorganization;
are more likely to have very bad marriages; to be suffering from alcohol and
drug dependencies; and to be of extremely low income. "In other words, they
have been pushed over the edge."
- D. Popenoe.
- There is evidence that the less confident the Father is that a daughter is
really his offspring, the more likely he is to have an incestuous relationship
"An important difference between physical abuse and sexual abuse
is that both women and men are heavily represented as abusers." "A mother is
much more likely to be abusive and to allow others to mistreat her child when
she does not have the support of an actively involved (Biological) Father." -
- Single mothers tend to be more violent abusers than mothers in dual-parent
- Single mothers, in one national survey, reported a 71 percent greater rate
of "very severe violence" toward their children than did dual-parent mothers.
- Probably the most serious threat to children in single-parent families is
the mother's boyfriend.
- Leslie Margolin, an educational expert, found that 64 percent of
non-parental abuse was committed by mother's boyfriends.
- Daycare providers and baysitters accounted for 15 percent of abuse.
Physical Abuse by Stepparents:
- Psychologists Margo Wilson and Martin Daly found that "preschoolers in
Hamilton (Ontario) living with one natural parent and one stepparent in 1993
were 40 times as likely to become child abuse statistics than those living
with two natural parents.
- Daly and Wilson assert, "stepchildren are not merely 'disadvantaged' but
- U.S. data indicates that youngest children (two years and under) have a
hundred times greater risk of being killed at the hands of stepparents than of
VIOLENCE TOWARD WOMEN:
"Fatherlessness appears to generate more violence toward women
just as it increases violence toward children." "Modern family changes have
not decreased violence against women, they have increased it." "As the number
of unattached males goes up, violence toward women increases." "In fact,
marriage appears to be a strong safety factor for women." - D.
Recent surveys of violent crime victimization (1979-1987: Caroline Wolf
Harlow, 1991. "Female Victims of Violent Crime", Washington, D.C.: Bureau of
Justice Statistics, p.4.) have found that:
- 12.6 married women per 1000 (1.3%) fall victim to violence.
- 43.9 never-married women per 1000 (4.4%) fall victim to violence.
- 66.5 divorced or separated women per 1000 (6.7%) fall victim to violence.
Finally, Fatherless children mostly grow up without a "protector"; without
good role models (for sons) and male-relationship models (for girls); without
positive models of mother-father interaction; without the kind of supervision
that Fathers can provide. These children also grow up being subject to much
higher levels of physical and sexual abuse, to say nothing of neglect and
Children Deprived of Fathers: The Most Popular Form of Child
The bulk of this text is directly quoted or slightly
modified from: "Life Without Father" - Professor David Popenoe, 1996.
Dads Against the Divorce Industry