New study: father absence is a strong predictor of depression for young girls

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
If you want your children to grow up happy, commit yourself to marriage

The study is here on PubMed.

And here’s an article about it posted at The Family in America, a public policy journal.


Who has benefitted from the war radical feminists have waged against marriage? Certainly not young women. A very large new Canadian study concludes that one of the strongest predictors of depression among young women is the loss of a biological parent. And it is the easy divorces that feminists have pushed for that have typically occasioned such a loss.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Northern British Columbia, this new study isolates the factors predicting depression among Canadians ages 16 to 20. The researchers limn these factors by scrutinizing data collected between 1994 and 2007 from a nationally representative sample of 1,715 individuals tracked during this 13-year period.

Predictably, the researchers adduce evidence that such things as parental rejection and childhood anxiety predict depression between a young person’s 16th birthday and his or her 21st.  But gender makes a difference: consistent with other inquiries, this study finds that “girls reported more [depression] than boys.” However, not all girls are equally vulnerable: the data reveal that “The loss of a parent by the ages of 4 to 8 years predicted depression at ages 16 to 20 years for girls [p = 0.008] but not for boys.”

Of course, a girl can lose a parent through death. But the researchers realize that such tragedy occurs far less often than the trauma of parental divorce. Consequently, they know how to interpret parental loss as a predictor of girls’ depression at the threshold between adolescence and young adulthood. This is a finding, they realize, that fits hand-in-glove with the results of a 2008 study establishing that “the effects of parental divorce . . . differ between genders in respect to the development of depression with risk increasing for girls but not for boys.” They further realize that their study harmonizes with a 1997 study concluding that “young women whose parents had divorced reported higher levels of depression compared to young men from divorced families.”

Given the paralyzing effects of depression as “a leading cause of disability worldwide,” the researchers hope their study will lead to “targeted, specific and personalized intervention” that will curb such depression. More particularly, they hope that “girls may benefit from interventions designed to address parental loss due to death, divorce, and other causes.”

But since nothing takes a parent away from a daughter more often in the 21st century than does parental divorce, it is very clear that the kind of intervention girls most need is the kind that will keep their parents together. Just how quickly that intervention comes will depend heavily on how much reality can puncture feminist ideology.

This study makes me think of the problems that we have these days getting married and staying married. I think that there are three kinds of challenges. The first challenge is ideology, e.g. – radical feminism. The second challenge is cultural, e.g. – the hook-up culture on campus. The third challenge is political, e.g. – no-fault divorce. It seems likes the odds are really stacked against marriage-minded people.

Most people like the idea of having someone of the opposite sex commit to them for life. I write a lot about what people should be looking for in a mate. Factors that predict a person’s ability to commit, what their worldview should be, etc. But we also have to remember that we have to be turning ourselves into people who are suited to a lifetime commitment, involving self-denial and self-sacrifice.

A lot of people seem to think that if they meet the right person – the person who makes them feel good – then they won’t have to do any self-denying or any self-sacrificing. But that’s not true. Feelings change. It’s possible for two serial killers to feel good about each other, and to having things in common, but marriage isn’t about whether you “like” the other person and whether they “like” you. Marriage works when you have two people who are comfortable making commitments. Two people who are comfortable with responsibilities, expectations and obligations.

The point I am trying to make here is that not only must we be looking for someone who can be faithful, loyal, commitment through thick and thin, but we must also prepare to become a person like that. If we make choices for our own happiness every day – fun and thrills – then we are not making ourselves into the kind of people who take responsibility and make commitments.

The strange thing is that those who choose fun over and over and over again seem to make the worst decisions when it comes to choosing mates. Of course it’s easier to pick someone who is not too moral and not too religious. Then they won’t be able to judge you. They’ll just let you do whatever you want and never shame you for anything.

The problem is that marriage works best when two people are comfortable with moral obligations to others. You have to be someone who is comfortable with obligations over the long term. And you have to choose someone who has a strong sense of morality, otherwise they won’t honor their moral obligations to others. Commitment means doing what is right regardless of how you feel about it, It means giving up on the pursuit of fun, in order to build something strong that will take you into your old age.

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