Can you fix fatherlessness with generous social programs and male role models?

From the radically leftist Los Angeles Times. I am not a fan of Kay Hymowitz at all, because she is a man-blamer, but this article was re-tweeted by a whole slew of pro-marriage people who I follow on Twitter, so I thought I should post something about it here.


[Boys’] high school grades and college attendance rates have remained stalled for decades. Among poor and working-class boys, the chances of climbing out of the low-end labor market — and of becoming reliable husbands and fathers — are looking worse and worse.

This spring, MIT economist David Autor and coauthor Melanie Wasserman suggested a reason for this: the growing number of fatherless homes. Boys and young men weren’t behaving rationally, they suggested, because their family situations had left them without the necessary attitudes and skills to adapt to changing social and economic conditions. Anyone interested in the plight of poor and working-class men — and, more broadly, mobility and the American dream — should hope this research, and the considerable biological and psychological evidence behind it, become part of the public debate.

[…]Autor and Wasserman cite a large study by University of Chicago sociologists Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan, which shows that, by fifth grade, fatherless boys were more disruptive than peers from two-parent families, and by eighth grade, they had a substantially greater likelihood of getting suspended. And justice experts have long known that juvenile facilities and adult jails overflow with sons from broken families.

This part is interesting because the data contradicts the liberal narrative:

Liberals often assume that these kinds of social problems result from our stingy support system for single mothers and their children. Provide more maternity leave, quality daycare and healthcare, goes the thinking, and a lot of the disadvantages of single-parent homes would vanish. But the link between criminality and fatherlessness holds even in countries with lavish social welfare systems. A 2006 Finnish study of 2,700 boys, for instance, concluded that living in a non-intact family at age 8 predicted a variety of criminal offenses.

But maybe fathers can be substituted for with “male role models”, like liberals say? NOPE:

Professors Cynthia Harper and Sara McLanahan found that among boys they studied, the ones without fathers were more likely to be incarcerated, but they also found that those who lived with stepfathers were at even higher risk of incarceration than the single-mom cohort.

So fathers really do matter to boys, and they can’t be replaced with money or stepfathers or live-in boyfriends. Now I asked some liberal women about children needing mothers and fathers and they replied that adults should be allowed to do anything they want, and then let children adjust. I think in those conversations we really need to be armed with evidence and work through the evidence with people who want to assert that they are an exception to the evidence because they are “good mothers” or “good fathers” and don’t need a spouse to raise a child. It seems to me that if you are denying a child one parent, then you are not a good parent yourself.

We really need to hammer into the heads of grown-ups that these moral boundaries are in place for a reason – to protect children. A lot of people who support arrangements that deprive children of their biological mother or their biological father might like to think that they are good parents and care about children, but they don’t. And it’s our job to hold them accountable for harming children. Ask them: are you for no-fault divorce? are you for gay marriage? are you for single-mother welfare? And so on. If the answers come back yes, then hold them accountable for harming children. We have to be brave in order to protect children.

4 thoughts on “Can you fix fatherlessness with generous social programs and male role models?”

  1. Ok, just would like to add a little personal experience. My mother died when I was 6, my father, not feeling like he was capable of being a good parent (also a fatherless boy) gave us to our grandmother (for a nice fee), and we then grew up with a single parent (my sister and I) and not only that, (she was a saint to take in two small children at the age of 63, and now that I am in my late 60’s I can truly appreciate what she took upon herself) but she was unable to work, or drive.

    What a challenge! But, I never felt impoverished, (even though we grew up in a very poor neighborhood and in poverty ourselves) and felt sorry for those kids who were. We were given a good Christian foundation which became invaluable in later years. Without that foundation we could never have made it through this life as well as we did.

    There were a number of men in my life (scout masters, ministers, and etc.), but none really who gave the kind of advice a son needs to hear from a father, nor were they able to demonstrate the love a father is to have for his son.

    This was something that was missing all of my life, my mother, for one, but my father was definitely something I missed and needed. Without my father in the picture, I took some paths I may not have taken, I never “hated” my father for abandoning us, even looked up to him in a weird sense. But, it was the absence of the father that caused me a lot of problems, but it was the presence of the heavenly father that brought me through.

    I can remember as a child, always being somewhat lonely, and “different’ and, the only person I could confide in as a youth was Jesus Christ, and I did, and He was there for me.

    I know that concept may be hard for many to understand without putting some kind of “label” on my behavior. It didn’t stop me from having emotional problems as a young teen, and it didn’t stop me from walking in the world as a young adult, but it did bring me back from the “world of the lost” so that my later years (40 and on), have been very peaceful, filled with God’s love, and now I can tell you my childhood was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it sent me seeking God, and I found Him.

    The lesson I learned? We all have difficult situations, all of us, even those who seem to have it good. Without a father in the home is very difficult, no matter the reason, such as mine, but there are many others without fathers due to illness, war, and accidents. It’s all the same, a fatherless home.

    No matter how dire the circumstances, if a child is given a solid foundation in the Christian belief, the odds of them living a normal, productive life regardless of the hardships, are very high.

    This is one of the reasons I personally believe taking Christian training out of the school system is completely foolish. It is the only way many of these young boys and girls will ever have of knowing a better path to take, because in today’s world, it is highly unlikely they will hear it in the home.


    1. When I was growing up, although both my parents were married and present, neither had any more interest in raising me than a stranger might. Their entire contribution to my upbringing was material. They had no spiritual or moral will for me at all, and no wisdom of any kind on any topic was ever shared with me. They were entirely focused on their own wealth and happiness – and still are to this day. I was basically handed off to public school teachers, to the media and to peer pressure. At a very early age I was exposed to the Muslim and Hindu religions which were in our families, but when I encountered Christianity in the public schools thanks to a Gideon New Testament, that made the difference. I was more raised by the Bible, Shakespeare and the classics (Dickens, Austen, Bronte, etc.) than my parents. Even today they have no ability to exercise parental leadership.


      1. Could you e-mail me a copy of your testimony? I am a member of the Gideons and would like to share it with others.


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