In Re: The National Fatherhood Initiative: supporting a misogynistic agenda with "politically correct" jock straps. Also read this important article on the National Fatherhood agenda on the Silver Rights blogspot.
liz responds to Wade Horn's
The Importance of Being Father.
[Horn's text is in dark red italics. liznotes are in black.]
HORN: Despite conventional wisdom, which has held -- and in many quarters still does -- that children do not pay a price when fathers are absent from their lives, research data depict a much different reality. Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers, including 60 percent of America's rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers and 70 percent of long term prison inmates. Children living in a father-absent home are also more likely to be suspended or expelled from school, or to drop out; require treatment for an emotional or behavioral problem; commit suicide as adolescents; and be victims of child abuse or neglect.
LIZ: Let's stop right here. Research on widowed homes, and research which has been done on divorced mother-headed homes which are financially comfortable and unstressed indicates that there is virtually no difference in child rearing outcomes between these children and children raised in intact homes with a mother and father present.
Moreover, the research does not indicate that these percentages of violent criminals, et al. grew up through their entire childhoods (as implied) sans a father in the household, but rather, that they grew up in homes in which that father was absent for some period of their childhood. So right in the first paragraph, you perpetuate two blatant misrepresentations. Your argument, Wade, also misleads in another way: the overwhelming MOST of single mother households do NOT exhibit these childrearing problems.
If children tend to pay any price at all when the father is absent, that price is largely in their standard of living. It's financial. But growing up poor in and of itself also does not necessitate a bad child rearing outcome. The actual causes of negative child rearing problems correlating with the disparate and nonhomogeneous classification of "fatherless homes" (or "single mother households") are disguised and distorted by statistics which lump into that category, not only demographic groups which do NOT exhibit these bad child-rearing outcomes, but also all those homes which are "fatherless" precisely because of the very same factors which down the road affected the children. These factors include: adultery, wife and child abuse; addictions to alcohol, sex, and drugs, other personality dysfunctions; conflict, and plain old abandonment, financial irresponsibility and failure to support (emotionally or financially.) The other primary and telling difference between "fatherless homes" which do and do not have problems is the relative financial stability, educational level, and comfort of the mother.
It is true that a disproportionate number of violent criminals have been shown to have hailed from homes where the biological father was indeed absent at some point, but this ignores that he also was present at some point, and during those periods preceding his abandonment of the family, or the family's flight from him, often left the legacy of his criminality, addiction, abuse, and/or character flaws, as well as his genes. There is a generational dysfunction that is usually ignored by these studies. The absent dad of that violent criminal might have been merely alcoholic, rather than a criminal himself, but he was unlikely to have been an absent Ward Cleaver.
HORN: Why are fathers so important for the well-being of children? The answer is embedded in the larger question of why families are important. The family's importance is nothing short of ensuring the continuity of civilization. The family does this in two ways: first, by propagating the species, and second, by socializing children.
LIZ: Having failed to establish the first premise as true, Wade, you throw out a nonsequitor, a gratuitous plea for reinstatement of the patriarchal "family," which ostensibly is important because fathers are important, because, apparently, if a father is not there, it's not a "family." It's a circular argument: fathers are important because when fathers are there, there is a family (you don't think so, otherwise), and the family is important because (this is a stretch) it is necessary to "propagate the species" and "socialize children."
Well, first off, it's pretty obvious that families (in the Wade Horn sense) are not necessary at all to "propagate the species." Rather, a "family" is what nature creates when a mother bears young, father-presence or not. That leaves us with your argument that the father-headed family is necessary to "socialize children." Obviously, it's not, since MOST single mother-headed households have perfectly well socialized children.Claiming that "most criminals come from fatherless homes" is a far cry from claiming that most "fatherless homes" produce criminals. Clearly, they do not.
It's also well-established that there is plenty of generational dysfunction in male-female two-parent families, but it's of the sort that's more easily disguised under the umbrella of circumstances that mirror "normality" in the society in which this sort of family is considered ideal: e.g. alcoholism, abuse, sex perversion, overeating, secret-keeping.
Your argument goes on to explain why "fatherless" children, presumably being improperly "socialized," are at risk of some sort (you hope) even though research into causation (versus bean-counting) indicates that father-presence or absence in and of itself is not a factor in childrearing outcomes. Father involvement hasn't been shown to have effect to correct the statistics in joint custody situations post-divorce, no matter how high that involvement (in fact, the reverse has been correlated.)
HORN: Proper socialization requires the development of self-control in order to follow the rules of society. Well-socialized children have learned not to strike out at others to get what they want; under-socialized children often have not. Well-socialized children have learned to listen to and obey the directions of legitimate authority figures, such as parents and teachers; under-socialized children often have not. Well-socialized children have learned to cooperate and share with others; under-socialized children many times have not. In short, well-socialized children have developed the ability to self-regulate impulse gratification; under-socialized children often have not.
LIZ: You claim that what's wrong with juvenile delinquents is a lack of proper "socialization, i.e. "self-control." This is a quite pat answer to why we have juvenile criminals. Of course, we could beg the question, and say: well if children turn into juvenile delinquents then they have not been properly socialized by definition, and therefore lack of proper socialization has caused them to become juvenile delinquents, i.e., they are what they are because of what they are. But this doesn't actually work to make a point. Gang members in certain cultures are quite well socialized into their culture; it happens to be one antagonistic to the culture in control, however.
What is the telling factor causing juvenile crime? There are many, not just one. And primary among them, when we look at differences among the various demographic groups comprised in the umbrella of "fatherless" homes, and compare them to "intact" homes, is, not the father, but themother, and not all mothers are alike, or are situated alike.
The singlemost important contribution that a loving father may make to an intact household is to the emotional and financial comfort and happiness of the mother -- and THIS, the mother's personality and situation, has been shown to be the singlemost common common denominator across the board affecting child rearing outcomes. No study has indicated any benefit to the mere presence of the father, where that contribution is factored out. Widowed homes, which typically are without continued post-divorce stress or custody/visitation issues, which are financially more comfortable than never-married or divorced households, which benefit from increased extended family and community support, and in which the mothers have buck-stops-here parental authority, simply do not share these touted "fatherless home" negatives.
HORN: A civil society is totally dependent upon most of its adult citizenry having developed self-control. Absent a significant majority of such well-socialized adults, storekeepers would have to post armed guards in front of every display counter; every woman would live in constant fear of being raped by roaming bands of marauding men; and, children would be largely left to fend for themselves or be exploited for the gratification of their parents.
LIZ: Apparently, in your world, women don't naturally feel protective or loving of their infants -- they only care for their children out of some disciplined sense of "self-control." Or are you implying a natural male lack of parental feelings? To extend your argument, it further would appear that in your world, men must exert learned self-control over themselves in order to suppress a natural drive to gang-rape.
[I thought he was a psychologist. Or is this merely the propagandist's argument ad consequentiam ploy -- disagree with the "father-family values" agenda, and children will starve and women will be gang-raped...?]
Self-control. The something supposedly lacking in the teaching of children in single mother households, according to Horn. Would this be the sort of self-control exhibited by the sires of all those unwed teenage households, most of them adults and most of them involved with or married to other women? Or would this be the sort of self-control exhibited by fathers in many of the divorced households who were wife beaters, alcoholics, cheaters, drug addicts, or spent a few years in jail, and that's why the household is now "fatherless?"
Wade, you imply that there is something about having a man -- any man, so long as he is bio-dad -- being in the family which creates civilisation and self-control. The corollary is that women simply don't have this sort of self-control, civilization, or ability to impart it. This is as ridiculous a notion as it sounds. (And you don't agree with it yourself, below.)
MOST single mother households don't have bad childrearing outcomes. MOST are successful. So, it's not father presence or absence, but the presence or absence of some other factor or factors in SOME of those "fatherless homes" which is key -- not the presence or absence of the father. What are those factors? There are loads to choose from, none of which require the strained sort of argument you have to make in order to "explain" the ostensible importance of the "father factor." Here's the preface to that strained argument:
HORN: Parents socialize children through two mechanisms. Most obviously, children learn through direct tuition reinforced by a combination of rewards and punishments for acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Children are first told how they should behave and then reinforced for following the rules and punished for disobedience to the rules. But children also learn by observing others. Of the two processes, observing others is by far the more important. In fact, most complex human behavior is acquired not through direct instruction, but through observational learning. Children are much more likely to do as a parent does than what the parent says. This is why parents who lie and cheat invariably have children who lie and cheat, despite any direct instruction to the contrary.
LIZ: How true. All of this buildup is simply a reiteration of generally accepted child development theory (although I would argue with the superior placement of "punishment" in the paragraph.) Children learn mostly by modeling themselves after example.
Stating truisms is the best way to pave the way for a con: the best cons mix truth in with false conclusions. Remember that right at the beginning statement of this article was a whopper of a subtle lie: that most violent criminals et al. hail from "fatherless homes," the implication being that there was an absence of a necessary paternal role model. No, they don't hail from "fatherless homes," not if we properly count the numbers to reflect "fatherless" -- as it implies -- as not having that father around during those early and impressionable years. There was indeed a role model of a biological father for part of the time in most of these homes breeding our future criminals, and it was a bad one. And, moreover, most "fatherless" homes do not rear criminals of any sort, violent or otherwise. Do some children require a paternal role model and others not?
The FR movement conveniently describes as "hailing from a fatherless" home, any individual who spent any portion of childhood outside of the traditional patriarchal intact family. In doing so, the FR movement also conveniently gets to leave the impression that "dad's" genes or role modeling or abuse could not possibly have been responsible for any bad trait, genetic or modeled, that has affected the children in these homes. Rather, it was his "absence."
That's ridiculous. The ploy ignores the glaringly obvious: that there likely were some pretty dysfunctional things going on all around, and they likely involved that biological father, which is why the homes are "fatherless" in the first place. And it conveniently ignores all the other factors, from the stress of divorce itself, to the difficulty our social and employment constructs unnecessarily present for women with children, and so forth, which also contribute negatively, but in and of themselves, are irrelevant to father presence or absence. And most of all, it ignores the most important factor, and the ONLY one which holds steady through all kinds of studies and groups as affecting childrearing outcomes: the personality, education, situation and overall happiness and comfort of the children's primary caregiver, usually their mother.
HORN: The socialization of children simply does not get done as well when fathers are absent from the home. When fathers are absent, boys often develop conduct problems -- they act out aggressively and sometimes quite violently toward others. Girls also act out when fathers are absent, but in a different way -- they often become sexually promiscuous. In short, the presence of involved fathers is absolutely critical if we are to successfully socialize children.
LIZ: Isn't this a misogynistic load of crap! Widowed homes don't have these childrearing problems. Neither do most other single mother homes. All that build-up and your argument comes right back to the oft-repeated false correlation between negative childrearing outcomes and "fatherless" homes. The correlation is not true except as to a subset group within "fatherless" homes, and in none of them is father presence or absence per se the causative factor of anything. The blathering about "socialization" and "self-control," as nowhere as it goes, is really just the obfuscating precursor to a theory which, in essence, is "a difference in search of a purpose," below:
WADE: There appear to be at least three reasons for this. First, mothers and fathers tend to parent different. Beginning at the birth of a child, mothers tend to be more verbal with their children, whereas fathers are more physical. Mothers also tend to encourage caution, whereas fathers are more challenging of achievement and independence. But most importantly, mothers tend to be more powerful nurturant figures and fathers stronger disciplinarians. Why should this difference in parenting style make such a difference for children?
LIZ: Gender stereotyping? I suppose we are to ignore all the homes in which Daddy is the indulgent parent and Mom is the disciplinarian -- the majority of them! Apparently we also are to ignore that talk about fathers' early contributions just doesn't fly as an argument regarding outcomes in divorced homes, because all those divorced "fatherless homes" you are talking about become "fatherless" on average, well after the infancy of the children. As for the ones that start out that way -- well take a look at the biological fathers. These men certainly are no disciplinarians, not even of themselves. Abusers, maybe. And apparently, we also are to supposed to suspend belief in your earlier hypothesis, above, that lacking appropriate "self-control," the promiscuous unwed teenage mother, being improperly socialized herself, will be "leaving her children to fend for themselves," not exhibiting warm, overly concerned caution.
What fathers are like, and the function they may serve in homes where the fathers are loving, mature, appreciated, and involved -- well that's what these fathers may indeed be and do in these particular homes. But these are the particular fathers they are, and they are in the successful intact homes they are in, precisely because they DO have attributes which fathers from fatherless homes are far more likely to Just Not Have.
Other than having male reproductive facility in common, there is just no reason to assume that the biological sires of children who hail from fatherless homes share character or parenting attributes in common with the men who also have the sort of personalities and functionality which have enabled them to succeed at maintaining a loving intact marriage.
It's more likely that the fathers from "fatherless" homes just don't have the same talent for maintaining a relationship, or a loving marriage. Quite likely they are not as desirable to have around for a number of reasons, if only for the reason that they do not have a satisfactory level of love and respect for the mother in question, and this in turn affects all sorts of other things. And look at how you completely denigrate and ignore differences in women: heck, they're all the same, whether a 15-year-old teenage girl with an 8th grade education or a divorced 40-year-old college professor.
HORN: We used to believe that families socialize children best when parents demonstrate high levels of love and relatively low levels of control. Research has shown, however, that when children are reared with high levels of warmth and low levels of control there are very predictable results -- they act-out, both aggressively and sexually. In contrast to these 1960's ideas of how to parent children, research has consistently shown that families socialize children best when they use a combination of nurturance and control.
LIZ: On the contrary: we have known for years that the best parent is one who is both loving and authoritative (that's authoritative, not authoritarian.) Even the fleeting trend of "permissive parenting" never actually was about parents relinquishing "control" or letting their households run amuck. Convenient as it has been for a few decades now to blame that straw man for parenting "failures" (it was supposedly the reason for the hippy generation), it never actually caught on with any widespread popularity, particularly among homes with less education and lower socioeconomic status. These homes, which were least likely to have adopted the 1960s "permissive parenting" pseudo-trend (largely a hallmark of the intellectual and financial elite), still yielded the least successful childrearing outcomes.
One of the reasons for negative child-rearing outcomes in divorced homes in which there is something other than sole authority in the custodial parent, e.g. the variety of joint custody "solutions," is precisely that at every turn, the authority of the head of the children's household IS in fact undermined. That is one reason widowed homes, and homes in which one parent is completely absent actually do so much BETTER than every situation of shared, joint, split, switched, and otherwise flipflopped and mixed-up custody.
Additionally, and debunking theories steeped in the presumption of male "discipline" in intact homes, Shere Hite has written extensively on how women as parents are authoritatively undermined in the patriarchal system such that where two parents are present, the constant subtle messages of second class woman status along with father-figure exaltation ultimately (by adolescence) diminish the mother's authority in the eyes of children of both sexes. This is an artificially-created "problem" with mother-parenting. Introduce a higher boss, and then blame her for not "being authoritative" or able to command adequate respect.
By contrast, the children of women who are on their own as parents, and LEFT alone -- those who have no divorce stress or custody hassles undermining authority, and no financial problems or social pariah status or social worker meddling (compare widowed mothers versus welfare mothers versus struggling working single mother with young children) -- do just fine. These mothers are in fact authoritative as well as loving. In fact, in these households, the child rearing outcomes are comparable to those from intact homes. [Also see liznotes on the problems with joint custody.]
Even with the patriarchal systemic status boost, it remains purely a myth that fathers are the disciplinarians in most households. Studies of parents' interactions and roles in intact households instead indicate that most time spent by fathers with their children is in the areas of play, and in most households, the modeling of self-control, the primary nurturing AND the discipline all are tasks befalling the primary caregiver -- most of the time, the mother.
So why do violent inner city boys hailing from those "fatherless" homes appear to exhibit lack of socialization? It's not because they don't have the half hour evening at home of father around or the paternal "discipline" (as the term is misused to mean an occasional whop with a belt.) It's because they are in fact "socialized" quite well, actually, into a culture that doesn't fit in with our civilized notions, and into an outside surrounding world of poverty, drugs (blame the war on drugs for a lot of this), gangs and violence.
Is this new, stemming from the last three decades of feminism? Heck no. Take a look at what we were "socializing" in the inner cities quite similarly earlier in this century during Prohibition.
As for girls' "acting out" sexually (not boys -- or is that not a problem?): how is this really different from the obsessing over coupling we as a culture continually have encouraged in young girls vis a vis their appearance, their popularity, and their "success" with the opposite sex? This is nothing new. Girls have forever in our culture sought attention from boys -- the patriarchal culture demands it, and measures girls' worth by their sexual attractiveness, which in turn is measured by numbers of "conquests." Girls are not engaging in sex for love and attention -- they are engaging in sex because it's become pervasively "out there" in the culture. There are many reasons for that, including a loosening of sexual attitudes generally, and the pervasive sexual messages in the media on television, etc. But it's the same psychological dynamics and behaviors simply carried to a somewhat higher degree. The pregnancies?
Young teenage girls who both eschew marriage and continue their pregnancies are not looking for male love, but babies, and possibly a rite of passage into an adult world that otherwise holds little in the way of potential milestones and achievements for them. They are choosing to not terminate their pregnancies. And according to the Guttmacher Institute, MOST (71%) of unwed "teenage" pregnancies involve males who are not teenagers at all, but men over the age of majority, so perhaps we ought to look harder at male adult, not girl child behaviors here.
Most odd, is that most of the same pro-patriarchy politicos and propagandists who point to teenage pregnancies as a peculiar problem stemming from "fatherlessness" -- a difficult and complex concept to define, let alone solve as a "problem" -- if indeed it is one at all -- are against the simple solution: against sex education, contraceptives, and abortion. The problem for these men isn't the emotional well-being of teenage girls at all. It's the age-old abhorrence of the sexual freedom of women. It's the perception of their OWN lack of control, which is threatening to them.
There are fewer teenage girls having babies today (1998) than there were forty years ago (1958.) The difference is that in 1958 they were married. Were teenage girls in the 1950s getting married so young because they were obsessively looking for father-love they didn't get in their intact homes?
HORN: Given that mothers tend toward nurturance and fathers toward control, children reared in single mother households are likely to experience high levels of warmth, but low control. Conversely, children reared in single father households are likely to be exposed to lower levels of warmth and higher control. Either way, socialization does not go as well compared to when children experience both high warmth and moderately high control.
LIZ: You not only spout a false stereotype here, but then speculate from it. Women soft and sweet and warm, fathers sensible and objective and in control. The speculation is neither true nor rational. Your attempt to assign to women all that is weak and hesitant, and to men all that is strong and brave, breeds an inconsistency and oversimplification in your thesis. As you know yourself, where control is tight, children are LESS likely to develop an internal sense of self-control. And high control is the essence of overtly discouraging risk-taking and exerting undue amounts of caution. Depending upon balance and degree, a controlling parent can cultivate either effect in children: fear and underachieving, or reckless irresponsibility. So which is it. Neither. It's not this simple at all. This is all gender-biased poppycock.
Men and women are equally likely to have either kind of personality, controlling or nurturing, or a combination of both or a lack of both, and the childrearing outcome also depends upon the innate temperament of the child. Aside from all this, and back to the stereotyping: where would we ever be able to observe and compare mothers' and fathers' parenting styles side by side under similar circumstances except in the context of an intact home. (See Shere Hite, above.) There indeed may be some observable reversion to expected role-playing in most intact homes, where male and female parents tend to fall into artificially heightened socially expected gender roles. But, then again, how do we explain the persistence of the father = disciplinarian myth?
And, this still says nothing at all about single parent homes. In fact, a study released last summer (1997) indicated that children reared in sole single mother households compare favorably to children reared in intact homes, and, interestingly, FAR better than children reared in single father homes and other familial arrangements.
HORN: The point here is not to denigrate the parenting style of either mothers or fathers. But contrary to the claims of some, gender differences in parental behavior do not need to be minimized for parents to raise well-adjusted and well-socialized children. Indeed, what children need to grow up to become well-adjusted adults is the combination of parenting styles that mothers and fathers provide.
LIZ: Nonsense. These parenting "gender differences" are myth in the first place. And the point is precisely to denigrate the parenting styles of "women," and render them -- the natural parent of children -- artificially incapable of rearing their own young sans male leadership.
The motivation for this blather really isn't that fathers are needed; it's that patriarchists perceive fathers as needing a special status to be accorded within a patriarchal family system, including the right to control women's reproductive capabilities and lives. (See, e.g. Daniel Amneus's The War Against Patriarchy. ) It's not about children, but about some men's fears that their pro-male, comfortably organized world is crumbling. (Ibid.) Any excuse which sounds more altruistic and benign, however, such as the well-being of children, or "society" (!) and less like what it really is, an attempt to fulfill the needs and wants of the adult men in question, will do as ostensible rationale.
HORN: The second reason why fathers are so critical in the socialization of children is that children -- and boys in particular -- learn to keep their aggressive impulses in check through the observation of a male figure in the home who consistently and regularly controls himself. It is through a boy's observation of the way his father deals with frustration, anger and sadness that boys learn how men cope with such emotions. It is also through a boy's observation of the way his father treats the boy's mother that he learns how to treat women. If the father treats the mother with respect and dignity, than it is likely that his son will grow up to treat women with dignity and respect. If the father treats the mother with disdain and cruelty, then -- unfortunately -- his son is likely to grow up to do the same.
LIZ: Well, dang if this doesn't shoot your entire thesis! So if the father treats the mother with disdain and cruelty... a "fatherless" home would be better, would it not? And women cannot be aggressive, do not ever have anger to be controlled, and cannot role model human (not gender-specific) emotions and reactions?
Bunk. It's the primary parent whose behavior is that primarily observed by the children, balancing all the little tedious chores of the day, organizing, planning, doing, and so forth. Your comments about the significance of role modeling in and of themselves are unassailable. But self-control is hardly a genderized trait that requires role modeling by a specific gender. And peppering a false argument with true statements about child development does not render misogyny more credible and less despicable.
No, this is woman-defamation surfacing: those hussy single mothers, wild and wanton, who have no self-control; the never-married whore who has child out-of-wedlock; the hot-to-trot divorcee; the sweet, soft-spoken, helpless-little-woman mother, etc. The fathers rights arguments don't have to make sense. They only need repeat the buzz-words and phrases often enough to leave the intended impression. It's part and parcel of the pervasive backlash theme that women are out of control, and we need to clamp down on them and clip their wings via traditional patriarchy, marry them off where they can be properly "husbanded."
[And note the classic progression of Horn's claims here: from "children pay a price" to "fathers are important" to "fathers are critical" to "fathers are absolutely critical." Propaganda.]
Wade, according to your comments in your June 1998 Father's Day newspaper essay, you would agree with me that paternal role modeling simply cannot be duplicated via joint custody and visitation schemes post-divorce, or other schemes of sometime father presence. It's all about intact homes. And GOOD fathers; not just any fathers.
Even so, it bears pointing out the inherent contradictions in the male role modeling argument: nothing about it explains the insistence that fatherNESS requires biological paternity; only (we might surmise) a permanent and consistent from-the-beginning father-figure presence. (Where this is an adoptive father or step-father, however, the lesson will be undermined by the irregular, conflicting and confusing occasional presence of the biological father.)
Regardless of the difficulties, touting continuing marriage to the bio-dad come-hell-or-high-water just makes absolutely no sense where that biological father is NOT an admirable role model, does not comport himself appropriately, does not love and respect the children's mother, or has other dysfunctions. And encouraging hissometime presence in an unwed or divorce situation simply does not achieve this particular role modeling.
Ignored through all of the father-necessary arguments is any recognition that failure of the father in question to be the sort of father you describe as "critical" to a child's well-being is a primary reason for the existence of the "fatherless homes" in the first place.
HORN: Finally, for girls, fathers are critical for learning mastery of their sexuality. Indeed, one of the predictable results of father absence for girls is early and promiscuous sexual activity. In contrast, if a girl experiences the love of a father who places her well-being above his own and who acts as a natural protector, than the girl is likely to delay sexual relations until she finds such a man herself. If she is denied such fatherly love, then the girl is likely to try to seek it elsewhere -- often inappropriately and often at very young ages.
LIZ: What unbelievable woman-denigrating arrogance! Boys must have men to learn to be men, but young women also must have men to learn how to be women, rather than older women? This obnoxious claim -- that absent father guidance, girls will be prematurely sexual -- falls apart completely when one looks at the ages of marriage in "intact family times." Delayed sexual relations in the patriarchal society? Nope. Take a look at the relative ages of marriages of women in the most patriarchal familial systems, and the average ages of marriages in the past in the United States.
And, of course, this men-train-girl's sexuality thesis glosses over the issue of fathers who are no longer in "fatherless homes" precisely because they are just not the sort of men who will provide healthy other-centered parenting, and likely have quite harmful and damaging outlooks and attitudes about women and women's sexuality. There's a big "if" in there: "if a girl experiences..." We are, it appears to ignore the significant portion of not-there fathers, perhaps the majority of absent fathers, who are not because they are the cheaters, the pornography users, the abusers, the denigrators and degraders, and the ones who lacked respect and love for the child's mother. No girl's budding sexuality needs to be influenced by this. [liznote]
HORN: Given this understanding of what happens in individual families when fathers are absent due to divorce or abandonment, what should we expect as a society when father absence becomes, not the exception, but the norm? Answer: increasing violence and increasing sexual acting-out. That is precisely what we are seeing.
Children are the fastest growing segment of the criminal population in the United States. Between 1982 and 1991, the rate juveniles were arrested for murder increased 93 percent, for aggravated assault 72 percent, for forcible rape 24 percent and for car theft 97 percent. And although homicide rates have increased for all ages, those for teenagers have increased more rapidly than those of adults.
LIZ: Take a look at the "war on drugs" and its effects here, as well as shifts in the economy, the rise in the population, the rise of media violence and pornography since the inception of television and later, television itself, video games, the relative decrease in per capita student spending on academics in the schools, and the increase in gun ownership and availability. In fact, in the last thirty years in the United States we also haven't had a war to speak of, something which tends to focus young men on getting more serious about their responsibilities, their studies and their futures. Correlation is not causation. (By the way, what about all the children raised by their mothers alone during all those periods in history in which men were off to war, at sea, trapping in the frontier wilds, emigrated to another country...?) [liznote]
HORN: We also know that each and every day: 7,700 teenagers become sexually active; 1,100 teenagers have abortions; 600 teenagers get syphilis or gonorrhea; 2,500 children are born out of wedlock; and 6 teenagers commit suicide.
LIZ: And how many children get tuberculosis or rickets, drop out of school at age 12 or 13 (as in past decades), or attend at least some college, compared with previous decades? There were more teenage pregnancies in past decades -- along with younger marriages -- and far fewer girls who attended college! Floating numbers and "problems" completely out of context is ridiculous. The problem is the father's rightster perception of "fatherless homes." On balance, does society have more problems than in the past? It all depends upon what one chooses to focus, what one personally thinks is important when comparing uncomparable "ills," and the weight one chooses to accord value-wise to the factors and circumstances arbitrarily focused on.
Which is worse: more teenage girls having unwed sex, or more teenage girls getting married, having babies and not getting educated? 600 cases of syphillis or gonorrhea, curable with penicillin, or 6000 cases of polio, incurable? Some young men (often homosexual boys, by the way, shamed and devasted by patriarchal "family values" attitudes) committing suicide, or young men proudly enlisting in (or sent off by old men to) a war which kills or maims them?
HORN: Father absence may not be the sole cause of each of these social ills -- but it certainly makes each one worse. Americans need to remember the important work that fathers do in helping to rear children successfully. We must resolve to restore the institution of good and responsible fatherhood in America. The well-being of our children -- and ultimately our nation -- depends upon us rediscovering the importance of being father.
Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., is director of The National Fatherhood Initiative.
I don't think so, Wade. "Father-absence" may not only not be the sole cause of "social ills"; it's likely not the cause of any social ills at all. If it's anything; if it's even about "social ills" at all, it is as a symptom, versus an arbitrary definition of what is "social wellness," i.e. "normal."
"The institution of good and responsible fatherhood in America" is what yielded centuries of woman-slavery, denied women the right to autonomy over their very bodies and lives, and prevented or restricted women from being educated, from participating in the economy, from being able to support themselves, from owning property, and from having the right to vote.
The "fatherhood movement" around the world now -- and it is a trend, usually couched in religious fundamentalist rubric --can be seen carried to its logical ends in the Taliban in Afghanistan, in the Middle East, and in other horrid, tyrranical and repressive regimes that are rising to power.
How far back, and to which decade shall we return to in the United States in forcing women as individuals once again to kowtow to the dictates of "society" -- men -- regarding when they may have sex, how they may use their own bodies, and how they may live their lives, all for a theory of social welfare?
It's easy to say (as these "fathers" like to say) that all the ills of the brief last three decades are attributable to "fatherlessness" and feminism. Men such as yourself, Horn, with pleasant-sounding, but specious pap, fuel the fires of fundamentalist tyrants. This is an old refrain, from Old Testament Biblical days onward. Change hardly is going to happen instantaneously such that all the pieces fit perfectly at once, and change always has some measure of discomfort. It's not a very smart idea to judge a pudding before it's finished, is it.
And lawyers and legislators take note: these theories do not support post-divorce sometime "fathering." The statistics freely comprise and decry those households as "fatherless." This is all about (see HORN, second paragraph, above) the importance of FAMILIES (as defined to include the father.)
What's this stuff really all about? Behind this movement is not just divorce reform or "getting fathers involved," as the ostensibly harmless, even beneficent, but farcical rhetoric of the National Fatherhood Initiative puts it.. It's a first step in an agenda to get those women back under "control." A patriarchal backlash.
Consider this: even if everything Horn and his ilk claim about intact homes were true, it still wouldn't present a viable argument. This is a "problem" without an acceptable solution. We also could violate individual rights and autonomy in all kinds of nasty and intrusive ways in order to create a society which appears more seemly, neat, utopian, homogeneous, orderly.
We could make the argument that turning another segment of the population, e.g. "blacks," back into slaves would enhance production and the economy (as that argument was made in the old south) and the standard of living for everyone else. We could make an argument for castration of any male caught having sex out of wedlock -- now THAT would solve some of the fatherless family problem, wouldn't it. Similarly, we could pass laws preventing women from exiting marriages, punishing adultery, requiring father custody or control of households. (And if these didn't accomplish a thing for the welfare of children, well at least they would please some self-and-other-controlling men, wouldn't they.) We could pass all manner of oppressive and draconian laws which would prevent and eliminate all kinds of perceived social "ills" and unseemliness. How about sterilizing lesbians? Some of this fathers-rights-anti-woman agenda is succeeding because of the willingness of most to simply presume as a belief that into which they have been inculcated in this father-loving society since childhood: the necessity of having a "father." All we need is a claimed compelling reason, specious or otherwise, to trample again on women's lives, such as a purported "need" of children for two parents, one of each sex.
Most of us have fathers; most of us adore our daddies. But that's not proof of a thing. When it's about willingness to sacrifice one individual's welfare for the sake of another's, the crucial threshhold questions mustbe examined and answered first. In general, with regard to father's rights rhetoric, that has not been done. It makes for great political soundbites.
By contrast, the position that children may NOT "need" two parents, and that this really may be all about what MEN need, elicits high emotion and shocked horror. It is just too upsetting a thought for many to contemplate -- oh my, who would posit such a terrible idea, I love MY daddy, etc. That children "need" two parents, one of each sex, has been presumed, and it's the reason why over the past few years, many of the fathers rights groups have added "children" into the names of their organizations. Being fooled by that is not good scholarship and it's not intelligent.
But to the point: if "fatherlessness" is a problem, then how is it supposed to be cured? With the feel-good prattle of the National Fatherhood Initiative et al. giving lipservice to ineffectual programs, child support collections and such things as the innocuous-sounding "working with men to get them 're-involved' in 'broken homes?' "
Please. Traditionally, patriarchy has cured "fatherlessness" with restrictions (not placed on men) regarding on how women may live their adult lives, and use their very own bodies. This is, when all is said and done, what is implied to follow the yammering about the "problem" of "fatherlessness." Next come the solutions.
First are the "step ones," such as restrictions on divorce, requirements that women name fathers on birth certificates or name their children after the men, the imposition of the accutrements of marriage and "normal family structure" onto the families created by women out of wedlock. After that come the "step twos," a la Father's Manifesto, that women and women's sexuality further be controlled, restricted, and reined in again in all kinds of other ways, legal and social: from restricting entry into jobs, to ending their suffrage, eliminating their right to own and manage property, and otherwise going back the panoply of historical measures that traditionally have been used to "encourage" women to get into marriages and remain married. Pandering to Judaic and Christian religious notions -- completely inappropriate as a basis for law in the United States -- also plays a major role here, as these religions essentially are about the exaltation of "fatherhood" and patriarchy, and originally came about for the purpose of institutionalizing this social ordering scheme.
Fathers are not in the home? Those who are concerned about this, and think it important, should work on making living with men more attractive to women. Obviously, some marriages succeed, and I doubt that many of those in this age of readily available divorce are enduring merely out of altruistic misery and abstract social commitment on the part of the persons in them.
A little cessation of the silly and counterproductive talk about how fathers "parent differently," are "important," are the "authoritative" ones, are the "spiritual leaders," and are "critical" to rearing children, and a little more talk about how men ought to get off that high horse, role up their sleeves, cut the superiority drivel, and pitch in with the housework, might go a lot further toward restoring marriage as a viable and enduring institution. Sorry, guys: your way didn't work for the majority of the population, and the clock is just not going back.