Tag Archives: Decisions

Study: raising children without a father causes harm to the children

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at a recent research paper on father absence. My purpose in posting this study is to remind people to think about what children need when making relationship decisions. Fathers are more of a necessity for children than a nice-to-have.

The paper about a large-scale study was posted at NCBI NIH.

The abstract says:

The literature on father absence is frequently criticized for its use of cross-sectional data and methods that fail to take account of possible omitted variable bias and reverse causality. We review studies that have responded to this critique by employing a variety of innovative research designs to identify the causal effect of father absence, including studies using lagged dependent variable models, growth curve models, individual fixed effects models, sibling fixed effects models, natural experiments, and propensity score matching models. Our assessment is that studies using more rigorous designs continue to find negative effects of father absence on offspring well-being, although the magnitude of these effects is smaller than what is found using traditional cross-sectional designs. The evidence is strongest and most consistent for outcomes such as high school graduation, children’s social-emotional adjustment, and adult mental health.

I was curious to see what specific problems fatherlessness causes for children, according to this redo of previous studies.

The conclusion explains:

The body of knowledge about the causal effects of father absence on child well-being has grown during the early twenty-first century as researchers have increasingly adopted innovative methodological approaches to isolate causal effects. We reviewed 47 such articles and find that, on the whole, articles that take one of the more rigorous approaches to handling the problems of omitted variable bias and reverse causality continue to document negative effects of father absence on child well-being, though these effects are stronger during certain stages of the life course and for certain outcomes.

We find strong evidence that father absence negatively affects children’s social-emotional development, particularly by increasing externalizing behavior. These effects may be more pronounced if father absence occurs during early childhood than during middle childhood, and they may be more pronounced for boys than for girls. There is weaker evidence of an effect of father absence on children’s cognitive ability.

Effects on social-emotional development persist into adolescence, for which we find strong evidence that father absence increases adolescents’ risky behavior, such as smoking or early childbearing. The evidence of an effect on adolescent cognitive ability continues to be weaker, but we do find strong and consistent negative effects of father absence on high school graduation. The latter finding suggests that the effects on educational attainment operate by increasing problem behaviors rather than by impairing cognitive ability.

The research base examining the longer-term effects of father absence on adult outcomes is considerably smaller, but here too we see the strongest evidence for a causal effect on adult mental health, suggesting that the psychological harms of father absence experienced during childhood persist throughout the life course. The evidence that father absence affects adult economic or family outcomes is much weaker. A handful of studies find negative effects on employment in adulthood, but there is little consistent evidence of negative effects on marriage or divorce, on income or earnings, or on college education.

Despite the robust evidence that father absence affects social-emotional outcomes throughout the life course, these studies also clearly show a role for selection in the relationship between family structure and child outcomes. In general, estimates from IFE, SFE, and PSM models are smaller than those from conventional models that do not control for selection bias. Similarly, studies that compare parental death and divorce often find that even if both have significant effects on well-being, the estimates of the effect of divorce are larger than those of parental death, which can also be read as evidence of partial selection.

Right now, we’re living in a time where people think that it’s ok to do whatever they feel like doing. People seem to treat relationships as if they are meant to provide the grown-ups with satisfaction, and the needs of the children are often neglected. Any kind of warning or appeal to evidence is dismissed by those who want to bend and break the rules.

Well, when you take a look at the studies, you actually find that there are rules about how to go about relationships in order to achieve results. It seems to me that children’s needs ought to be an important consideration when making relationship decisions. Men shouldn’t have babies with bad mothers, and women shouldn’t have babies with bad fathers. It ought to be an important criterion for choosing a mate and conducting a relationship: are we making decisions protecting children and giving them what they need?

And it turns out that there are studies that tell you how to prepare for making a stable commitment, too. Like this one, which found that the number of premarital sex partners reduces relationship stability and quality. This is just an example, there are many more studies that provide a lot more information about how to do things right.

I think today, people want to make decisions about what to do based on feelings. If it feels good, do it. But this approach doesn’t work anywhere in life. It doesn’t work when choosing a major, when choosing a job, when choosing how to spend money. It just never works. Nothing useful is ever achieved by putting feelings above reason and evidence.

People shouldn’t be surprised when they break the rules and then get negative outcomes. It just takes a little reading first to find out what is likely to work and what isn’t. There are real victims to bad decisions. There are mistakes that can’t be fixed with happy talk and a positive attitude. We seem to have gotten addicted to the idea that every damaging mistake can be fixed by making everyone around say happy words about the mistake. But the truth is that when you make bad decisions, the damage exists independently of what people say about it.

It’s not the mean people making moral judgments that causes fatherless kids to have higher anxiety or be more violent or get pregnant earlier or abuse drugs. It’s the fatherlessness. The only hope that children have to avoid the consequences of bad decisions by parents is for the moral people to set boundaries and teach moral wisdom with evidence.

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. In his post, Neil explains the Biblical model for making good decisions.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person does whatever they feel like, completely disregarding the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends.

For a lot of people today, Christianity only comes into play after you’ve made a mistake and you’re feeling guilty. For example, suppose you decide to go to a party with your secular friends, then you drink too much, and you do something sexual that you shouldn’t have done. Or maybe you watched some prosperity gospel preacher on TV, then made irresponsible business decisions thinking that God would bail you out and make you rich, and you went bankrupt. Most people think Christianity is for this situation: you’re a Christian so that you don’t have to feel guilty about sin. And so that you can tell people that God forgives you, so that they can’t think anything bad about you, either. You sort of get your idea about what you should be doing in order to feel good from the culture, and God is just there to forgive it all when it blows up in your face.

But in my case, putting myself in a situation like that is not even possible. I’m more likely to try to plan to do something for God. Like, I might try to mentor a young Christian by sending them books. Or, I might try to teach a class in apologetics at my church. These are things that are for God, not for me. I’m not just being dragged along by the culture, and trying to find happiness by feeling good (e.g. – with alcohol) or being liked by non-Christians. And if my plans fail because the mentoree doesn’t grow up into anything, or nobody comes to my apologetics class, that’s when I go to God and say “I screwed up. but can I still be in your army?” And God always says yes to that. You don’t have to be the best player on the team for the Coach to like you. He already likes you.

One of the great things about being a Christian is that you can never lose your identity as a Christian by failing to do something for him that you planned to do. That’s what forgiveness is for. If you set out to do something for God’s glory, and you mess it all up, that’s OK. But I do think that, like Dodd, our ambition should not be about just making ourselves happy, or making non-Christians like us. We should be trying to make plans and carry them out for God.

That’s how I understand forgiveness. It’s not just something that’s there for you to use to fix your feelings when you’ve been irresponsible while seeking your own happiness in secular ways. It’s also there when you’re trying to do something good for God, and you fail. A lot of times in life you try your best, but you fail, and then you lose something that you really wanted. With God, when you try your best for his glory, and fail, you don’t lose your identity as a member of his team. I think that not losing your identity in Christ is even more important than not feeling guilty about selfish decision making.

So, have you got a plan to serve your General? Let’s focus more on what operations we’re planning for God than on being happy and being popular with non-Christians. Your life should not be all about you, with God just there to make your bad feelings go away. Your life should be about God’s goals and God’s interests.

Study: raising children without a father causes harm to the children

Lets take a closer look at a puzzle
Lets take a closer look at a puzzle

I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at a recent research paper on father absence. My purpose in posting this study is to remind people to think about what children need when making relationship decisions. Fathers are more of a necessity for children than a nice-to-have.

The paper about a large-scale study was posted at NCBI NIH.

The abstract says:

The literature on father absence is frequently criticized for its use of cross-sectional data and methods that fail to take account of possible omitted variable bias and reverse causality. We review studies that have responded to this critique by employing a variety of innovative research designs to identify the causal effect of father absence, including studies using lagged dependent variable models, growth curve models, individual fixed effects models, sibling fixed effects models, natural experiments, and propensity score matching models. Our assessment is that studies using more rigorous designs continue to find negative effects of father absence on offspring well-being, although the magnitude of these effects is smaller than what is found using traditional cross-sectional designs. The evidence is strongest and most consistent for outcomes such as high school graduation, children’s social-emotional adjustment, and adult mental health.

I was curious to see what specific problems fatherlessness causes for children, according to this redo of previous studies.

The conclusion explains:

The body of knowledge about the causal effects of father absence on child well-being has grown during the early twenty-first century as researchers have increasingly adopted innovative methodological approaches to isolate causal effects. We reviewed 47 such articles and find that, on the whole, articles that take one of the more rigorous approaches to handling the problems of omitted variable bias and reverse causality continue to document negative effects of father absence on child well-being, though these effects are stronger during certain stages of the life course and for certain outcomes.

We find strong evidence that father absence negatively affects children’s social-emotional development, particularly by increasing externalizing behavior. These effects may be more pronounced if father absence occurs during early childhood than during middle childhood, and they may be more pronounced for boys than for girls. There is weaker evidence of an effect of father absence on children’s cognitive ability.

Effects on social-emotional development persist into adolescence, for which we find strong evidence that father absence increases adolescents’ risky behavior, such as smoking or early childbearing. The evidence of an effect on adolescent cognitive ability continues to be weaker, but we do find strong and consistent negative effects of father absence on high school graduation. The latter finding suggests that the effects on educational attainment operate by increasing problem behaviors rather than by impairing cognitive ability.

The research base examining the longer-term effects of father absence on adult outcomes is considerably smaller, but here too we see the strongest evidence for a causal effect on adult mental health, suggesting that the psychological harms of father absence experienced during childhood persist throughout the life course. The evidence that father absence affects adult economic or family outcomes is much weaker. A handful of studies find negative effects on employment in adulthood, but there is little consistent evidence of negative effects on marriage or divorce, on income or earnings, or on college education.

Despite the robust evidence that father absence affects social-emotional outcomes throughout the life course, these studies also clearly show a role for selection in the relationship between family structure and child outcomes. In general, estimates from IFE, SFE, and PSM models are smaller than those from conventional models that do not control for selection bias. Similarly, studies that compare parental death and divorce often find that even if both have significant effects on well-being, the estimates of the effect of divorce are larger than those of parental death, which can also be read as evidence of partial selection.

Right now, we’re living in a time where people think that it’s ok to do whatever they feel like doing. People seem to treat relationships as if they are meant to provide the grown-ups with satisfaction, and the needs of the children are often neglected. Any kind of warning or appeal to evidence is dismissed by those who want to bend and break the rules.

Well, when you take a look at the studies, you actually find that there are rules about how to go about relationships in order to achieve results. It seems to me that children’s needs ought to be an important consideration when making relationship decisions. Men shouldn’t have babies with bad mothers, and women shouldn’t have babies with bad fathers. It ought to be an important criterion for choosing a mate and conducting a relationship: are we making decisions protecting children and giving them what they need?

And it turns out that there are studies that tell you how to prepare for making a stable commitment, too. Like this one, which found that the number of premarital sex partners reduces relationship stability and quality. This is just an example, there are many more studies that provide a lot more information about how to do things right.

I think today, people want to make decisions about what to do based on feelings. If it feels good, do it. But this approach doesn’t work anywhere in life. It doesn’t work when choosing a major, when choosing a job, when choosing how to spend money. It just never works. Nothing useful is ever achieved by putting feelings above reason and evidence.

People shouldn’t be surprised when they break the rules and then get negative outcomes. It just takes a little reading first to find out what is likely to work and what isn’t. There are real victims to bad decisions. There are mistakes that can’t be fixed with happy talk and a positive attitude. We seem to have gotten addicted to the idea that every damaging mistake can be fixed by making everyone around say happy words about the mistake. But the truth is that when you make bad decisions, the damage exists independently of what people say about it.

It’s not the mean people making moral judgments that causes fatherless kids to have higher anxiety or be more violent or get pregnant earlier or abuse drugs. It’s the fatherlessness. The only hope that children have to avoid the consequences of bad decisions by parents is for the moral people to set boundaries and teach moral wisdom with evidence.

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. In his post, Neil explains the Biblical model for making good decisions.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend – and his objectives. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person completely disregards the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends. Maybe it’s time to remember what this is all about.

Are Christians responsible for making plans and making good decisions?

Here’s a wonderful post on decision making and the will of God posted on Neil’s blog. Neil links to another post where someone is trying to figure out what God wants him to do.

Excerpt:

Really short version: Aside from direct and clear personal revelation from God, you don’t have access to his sovereign will when making decisions.  Therefore you must look at other factors.  If it isn’t moral, don’t do it.  If it is moral but not wise, don’t do it.  If it is moral and wise, then use your personal preferences.

Using this model you can end up with a wise and biblical decision, but you have avoided the traps of the “God told me to ____” routine.  People who run around saying that God told them this and that convey a super-spirituality that can leave less mature believers wondering if they really have a relationship with God (i.e., “God doesn’t tell me every little thing to do, so maybe I don’t really know him.”).

He has a helpful picture posted as well:

This is actually a very important topic for me, because I like making plans and making good decisions. I like being the quarterback or squad leader of my own life. I like to pick objectives and then make plans to achieve them. (Nothing too exotic, just simple stuff like saving money or reading more books)

Actually, I really oppose the idea that God has a magical fairy tale will for each person that will make them happy and fulfilled. For me, life isn’t like that. I don’t expect God to lead me along like a child at a scavenger hunt. I expect to survey the battlefield where I am and then do something to make a difference. There are lots of things you can do that will please God. Should you focus on your career and sponsor apologetics conferences? Or should you use your spare time preparing Sunday school lessons? There are lots of good things you could do to please God. Your job is to pick the one that will be the most effective. It doesn’t matter if it makes you happy, it only matters if it’s effective and if you are good at it.

Who is Rifleman Dodd?

A while back, I was busily working my way through the U.S. Marine Corps Official Reading List, and I came across a book by C.S. Forester called Rifleman Dodd, or alternatively titled Death to the French. It’s a work of historical fiction that takes place during the Napoleonic wars. The story is about a British marksman named Dodd, who is cut off from his own lines during a withdrawal maneuver. He is subsequently left to fend for himself behind enemy lines. An ordinary man might be full of despair and forget about his mission entirely. But Dodd is no ordinary man. Not only does he find a way to survive by finding food to eat, water to drink and places to sleep, but he also tries to remember his orders and to think about what he can do to advance the cause of his General, the Duke of Wellington.

Here’s an excerpt from a gritty book review:

It’s about a green-coated British infantry rifleman in the Napoleonic Wars, an age when rifles were a novelty and most of the army was red-coated and carried muskets. Private Matthew Dodd gets separated from his regiment during a retreat and finds himself stranded behind enemy (French) lines in Portugal. With the occasional aid of some natives, but mostly on his own, he harasses the French with his rifle and tries to prevent them from building a bridge across the Tagus River. It’s a remarkable tale of survival and solitary achievement, of a rank-and-file soldier who lives by his wits and slowly learns to make plans without orders, and shows leadership qualities and a knowledge of warfare.

I think we’re in the same situation as Dodd.

There is no point in us looking for breadcrumb trails to happiness at this point. That’s not the point of Christianity. The point of Christianity is friendship with God, imitation of Christ, honoring moral obligations, self-sacrificial love for your neighbor (and even your enemies!), and dedication to the truth – whether anyone else likes you or not. It’s not supposed to make you happy, and it’s not necessarily going to be a normal life like everyone else has. Things may not work out the way you’d like them to.

We seem to be making such a big deal about compassion and forgiveness in the Christian life these days – such a big emphasis on our feelings. Almost like we have forgotten that we have obligations to our friend – and his objectives. A relationship doesn’t mean that one person completely disregards the character and goals of the other person and then is automatically granted forgiveness whenever they want it. That’s not a friendship – that’s using someone else for your own ends. Maybe it’s time to remember what this is all about.