Did the family background of Dylann Roof have anything to do with his desire to commit a violent crime?
This article from The Federalist has some answers. (H/T ECM)
As more information slowly seeps out about Dylann Roof, the 21-year-old who murdered nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, one fact should surprise exactly no one: Roof came from a broken home. Roof’s parents divorced three years before he was even born, later reuniting just long enough to produce a child who would later become a mass murderer.
[…]As University of Virginia Professor Brad Wilcox pointed out back in 2013: “From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.” His observation is largely ignored.
In contrast, conversations about black-on-black violence often raise the link between broken households (or fatherless homes) and juvenile delinquency. But when the conversation turns to mass shootings, we seem to forget that link altogether.
[…]On CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History,” seven of those shootings were committed by young (under 30) males since 2005. Of the seven, only one—Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho (who had been mentally unstable since childhood)—was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.
It turns out that fatherlessness is known to cause the character traits that are present in multiple victim shooters.
Let’s revisit some those characteristics of mass shooters. Violence? There’s a direct correlation between fatherless children and teen violence. Suicide? Fatherless children are more than twice as likely to commit suicide. Dropping out of school? Seventy-one percent of high school dropouts came from a fatherless background. Drug use? According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse.” How about guns? Two of the strongest correlations with gun homicides are growing up in a fatherless household and dropping out of school, which itself is directly related to lack of an active or present father.
If we wanted to get serious about stopping these multiple victim shootings, the first thing we should do is repeal no-fault divorce and make it harder for people to leave marriages in which they are “unhappy”. People should be more careful about vetting their candidate spouse before they marry. And people should also be careful about preparing their own character for the constraints and duties of marriage – perhaps by not engaging in recreational sex with a high number of partners before marriage.
But in addition to repealing no-fault divorce, we should also be scaling back welfare for single mothers, because this is basically paying women to have fatherless children.
Welfare contributes to crime in several ways. First, children from single-parent families are more likely to become involved in criminal activity. According to one study, children raised in single-parent families are one-third more likely to exhibit anti-social behavior.(3) Moreover, O’Neill found that, holding other variables constant, black children from single- parent households are twice as likely to commit crimes as black children from a family where the father is present. Nearly 70 percent of juveniles in state reform institutions come from fatherless homes, as do 43 percent of prison inmates.(4) Research indicates a direct correlation between crime rates and the number of single-parent families in a neighborhood.(5)
As Barbara Dafoe Whitehead noted in her seminal article for The Atlantic Monthly:
The relationship [between single-parent families and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime. This conclusion shows up time and again in the literature. The nation’s mayors, as well as police officers, social workers, probation officers, and court officials, consistently point to family break up as the most important source of rising rates of crime.(6)
At the same time, the evidence of a link between the availability of welfare and out-of-wedlock births is overwhelming. There have been 13 major studies of the relationship between the availability of welfare benefits and out-of-wedlock birth. Of these, 11 found a statistically significant correlation. Among the best of these studies is the work done by June O’Neill for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Holding constant a wide range of variables, including income, education, and urban vs. suburban setting, the study found that a 50 percent increase in the value of AFDC and foodstamp payments led to a 43 percent increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births.(7) Likewise, research by Shelley Lundberg and Robert Plotnick of the University of Washington showed that an increase in welfare benefits of $200 per month per family increased the rate of out-of-wedlock births among teenagers by 150 percent.(8)
The same results can be seen from welfare systems in other countries. For example, a recent study of the impact of Canada’s social-welfare system on family structure concluded that “providing additional benefits to single parents encourages births of children to unwed women.”(9)
[…]Current welfare policies seem to be designed with an appallingly lack of concern for their impact on out-of-wedlock births. Indeed, Medicaid programs in 11 states actually provide infertility treatments to single women on welfare.(12)
I should also point out that, once the child is born, welfare also appears to discourage the mother from marrying in the future. Research by Robert Hutchins of Cornell University shows that a 10 percent increase in AFDC benefits leads to an eight percent decrease in the marriage rate of single mothers.(13)
As welfare contributes to the rise in out-of-wedlock births and single-parent families, it concomitantly contributes to the associated increase in criminal activity.
So, it seems to me that we know that there is a link between fatherlessness and crime, and that’s where we should be putting our efforts. Gun control isn’t the solution young people who commit terrible acts of violence, but promoting fathers in the home is.