Tag Archives: Fatherless

What do research studies say about the bond between fathers and daughters?

Texas senator Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz and their two daughters
Texas senator Ted Cruz, his wife Heidi Cruz and their two daughters

Many people today think that biological fathers are not essential for raising daughters. In fact, we even support this view by passing no-fault divorce laws, single-mother welfare laws, and by opposing shared parenting laws. The story goes that children do fine without their biological father in the home. Having children is something that women decide to do, and the man is superfluous. So I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at the research.

Here is a recent article from the centrist Institute for Family Studies.

It says:

The dynamic between fathers and their daughters has been characterized by one expert as the most “fragile and unstable” when compared to other parent-child relationships.1 It can be further described as one of the most powerful and vital relationships to individuals, communities, and nations. For instance, fathers have a profound impact on their daughters’ body image,clinical depression, eating disorders,self-esteem, and life satisfaction,to name but a few.

But of all the unique contributions a father makes in his daughter’s life, perhaps there is none of greater significance than in the area of sexual development and activity and romantic relationships.

  • Numerous studies have discovered female pubertal timing occurs later in girls whose fathers are consistently present in their life.5
  • An extensive body of research has revealed that early pubertal maturation in girls is associated with a variety of negative biological, psychological, and social outcomes, including, mood disorders,substance abuse,adolescent pregnancy,and a variety of cancers of the reproductive system.9
  • Fatherless daughters are seven times more likely to become pregnant as teens.10

[…]The conditions in our culture of both rampant fatherlessness and sexual promiscuity are incompatible with forming secure and healthy relationships with boys and with establishing stable families for the next generation. A young girl’s sexual development can significantly outpace her neurological and emotional development—the very resources needed to guide her sexual choices.

Herein lies the danger. Much of our culture today promotes sexual activity but void of healthy attachment or true intimacy. There is a great deal of evidence to suggest that high levels of father involvement (regardless of dad’s marital status) are predictive of high levels of intimacy, commitment, and trust in young female adults’ romantic relationships; whereas low levels of father involvement are predictive of the opposite.11

And:

How a father treats both his daughter and her mother can help a young woman feel safe and secure in her relationships with the boys and men in her life, including her future husband. Family scientists and evolutionary psychologists have discovered that girls appear to be born with an emotional, relational, and evolutionary void that a father is designated to fill. If left vacant, girls will be more likely to seek to fill it in with other, unhealthier substitutes. The father-daughter relationship is the one that best teaches young women about true love and intimacy, self-worth, and respect.

Professor Linda Nielsen summarized this in one profound sentence: “[T]he father has the greater impact on the daughter’s ability to trust, enjoy, and relate well to the males in her life.”

So, a father’s love keeps her from getting into relationships with boys before the boys are ready to commit to her. By the way, I don’t think that boys should even be allowed to TALK to girls about a relationship, unless they have a STEM degree, and two years of private sector work experience. I really hate when unemployed, penniless boys waste a girl’s time when they can’t afford to commit to her. People think I am pretty rough on women, but I really am much meaner to men who don’t have STEM degrees and gapless resumes. (I guess a skilled trade would work as well, in place of the STEM degree – something like electrician, for example).

Anyway, back to the research. When a woman is deciding which men to have sex with, she has to be thinking of more than just her own needs. She has to choose a man who is going to stick around long enough to raise her daughters, so that they grow up with the confidence to resist the advances of boys who aren’t ready to commit. To be pro-woman means to be pro-daughter, and that means that women need to be persuaded to be careful about the choice of sex partner, and the timing of sexual activity. This is why people used to keep sex for marriage in the past: to protect children by making sure that they would get the stability and engagement they need from their parents.

Also, I have talked about the research about father-son bond in a different post.

If you want to do right for your children, then you need to control yourself and make wise choices. And if you’re struggling to make good choices, then don’t leave it up to your emotions and peer approval. Disregard your emotions. Disregard peer approval. Instead, let your decision-making be guided by your Christian convictions, and strengthened with scientific evidence. The Bible tells you not to have sex before you’re married, and science tells you why this is good policy. The Bible gives you the goals, and science tells you how to how the world works, so you know how to make plans that will make sure you are never in a place where you are pressured to do the wrong thing. The more science you pack into your head, the easier it will be for you to convince yourself to do the right thing, and to convince your partner to do the right thing. Science takes moral decision-making outside the realm of feelings and opinions.

And if your partner says “I don’t care about the needs of our future children”, then you have a good reason to dump them and move on. You can’t be in a relationship with someone who thinks that children’s needs are less important than adult desires. In fact, the whole design for relationships should start with what children need from the marriage and parents, and work backward from there to the obligations on the man and the woman. And men and women ought to discuss this. What are we trying to achieve with this relationship anyway? And what is the right way to achieve it? This is where the research comes in – it shows you how to do it right.

Research from the Heritage Foundation

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.

Large-scale UK study confirms the importance of fathers to children

A family praying and reading the Bible
A family praying and reading the Bible

Dina sent me this article from the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

A father’s love is as important to a child’s emotional development as a mother’s, a large-scale study has confirmed.

Examining the cases of more than 10,000 sons and daughters revealed how a cold or distant father can damage a child’s life, sometimes for decades to come.

The review of 36 studies from around the world concluded that his love is at least as important to youngsters as that of their mothers.

Researcher Professor Ronald Rohner said that fatherly love is key to  development and hopes his findings will motivate more men to become involved in caring for their offspring.

‘In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother,’ he said.

‘And that dads are there as support for the mother and to support the  family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children.

‘But that belief is fundamentally wrong. We have to start getting away from that idea and realise the dad’s influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother’s.’

His conclusions came after he examined data from studies in which  children and adults were asked how loving their parents were.

Questions included if they were made to feel wanted or needed, if their  parents went out of their way to hurt their feelings and if they felt loved.

Those taking part also answered questions about their personality. These ranged from ‘I think about fighting or being mean’ to ‘I think the world is a good, happy place’.

Tallying the results showed that those rejected in childhood felt more anxious and insecure as well as hostile and aggressive.

Many of the problems carried over into adulthood, reported the study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Crucially, a father’s love was often just as important as a mother’s. In some cases, it was even more so. One reason for this may be that rejection is more painful when it comes from the parent the child regards as more powerful or respected.

You can read more about how fatherlessness damages children here.

I think the first question we should ask the people who want to redefine marriage is this: “which parent to do you think that a child can do without? the mother or the father?”. We must do everything we can as a society to keep both of a child’s natural parents in the home while the child grows up. If we really care about children, then we should prefer to meet their needs, even if the grown-ups have to be a bit more responsible in their decision making. if the conflict is between innocent children and selfish grown-ups, then the children should win.

We need laws and policies that promote traditional marriage, not laws and policies that break it down and destroy it. Repealing no-fault divorce, lowering subsidies for single motherhood, and making shared parenting the default position, would all help solve the problem. Policies like school choice and lower corporate tax rates helps men to be able to perform in their role as provider. We have to be practical and ask: “what makes men capable of marriage and parenting?” If we want strong fathers, then it makes sense to ask how to make fatherhood more reasonable: what do men need in order to do what we want them to do?

Christians should be especially concerned about the presence of fathers, given the evidence I blogged about before showing how the presence of quality fathers is essential for passing Christian beliefs on to children. Churches need to ask themselves tough questions: Are we teaching women how to choose men based on practical concerns and proven abilities in our churches? And are we doing a good job of attracting men to churches by promoting the masculine, practical aspects of Christianity that men like – like science, apologetics debates, economics and foreign policy?

Jennifer Roback Morse lectures on sex and sexuality at Harvard University

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Morse delivers a talk based on her book “Smart Sex” at Harvard University.

The MP3 file is here. (21 Mb) (Link in case that doesn’t work)

Topics:

  • the hook-up culture and its effects on men and women
  • cohabitation and its effect on marriage stability
  • balancing marriage, family and career
  • single motherhood by choice and IVF
  • donor-conceived children
  • modern sex: a sterile, recreation activity
  • the real purposes of sex: procreation and spousal unity
  • the hormone oxytocin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the hormone vassopressin: when it is secreted and what it does
  • the sexual revolution and the commoditization of sex
  • the consumer view of sex vs the organic view of sex
  • fatherlessness and multi-partner fertility
  • how the “sex-without-relationship” view harms children

52 minutes of lecture, 33 minutes of Q&A from the Harvard students. The Q&A is worth listening to – the first question is from a gay student, and Dr. Morse pulls a William Lane Craig to defeat her objection. It was awesome! I never get tired of listening to her talk, and especially on the topics of marriage and family.

Why do famous atheists believe that God does not exist?

Women need to learn to choose a man who is prepared to be a father and husband
The importance of fathers for teaching children about a God who cares

Here’s a lecture by New York University professor Paul Vitz to explain a connection between atheism and fatherlessness:

Here’s an article by Paul Copan (related to the lecture) which points out how father presence/absence and father quality affects belief and disbelief in God.

Excerpt:

Seventh, the attempt to psychologize believers applies more readily to the hardened atheist.It is interesting that while atheists and skeptics often psychoanalyze the religious believer, they regularly fail to psychoanalyze their ownrejection of God. Why are believers subject to such scrutiny and not atheists? Remember another feature of Freud’s psychoanalysis — namely, an underlying resentment that desires to kill the father figure.

Why presume atheism is the rational, psychologically sound, and default position while theism is somehow psychologically deficient? New York University psychology professor Paul Vitz turns the tables on such thinking. He essentially says, “Let’s look into the lives of leading atheists and skeptics in the past. What do they have in common?” The result is interesting: virtually all of these leading figures lacked a positive fatherly role model — or had no father at all.11

Let’s look at some of them.

  • Voltaire(1694–1778): This biting critic of religion, though not an atheist, strongly rejected his father and rejected his birth name of Francois-Marie Arouet.
  • David Hume(1711–76): The father of this Scottish skeptic died when Hume was only 2 years old. Hume’s biographers mention no relatives or family friends who could have served as father figures.
  • Baron d’Holbach(1723–89): This French atheist became an orphan at age 13 and lived with his uncle.
  • Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72): At age 13, his father left his family and took up living with another woman in a different town.
  • Karl Marx(1818–83): Marx’s father, a Jew, converted to being a Lutheran under pressure — not out of any religious conviction. Marx, therefore, did not respect his father.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche(1844–1900): He was 4 when he lost his father.
  • Sigmund Freud(1856–1939): His father, Jacob, was a great disappointment to him; his father was passive and weak. Freud also mentioned that his father was a sexual pervert and that his children suffered for it.
  • Bertrand Russell(1872–1970): His father died when he was 4.
  • Albert Camus(1913–60): His father died when he was 1 year old, and in his autobiographical novel The First Man, his father is the central figure preoccupation of his work.
  • Jean-Paul Sartre(1905–80): The famous existentialist’s father died before he was born.12
  • Madeleine Murray-O’Hair (1919–95): She hated her father and even tried to kill him with a butcher knife.
  • We could throw in a few more prominent contemporary atheists not mentioned by Vitz with similar childhood challenges:
  • Daniel Dennett (1942–): His father died when he was 5 years of age and had little influence on Dennett.13
  • Christopher Hitchens (1949–): His father (“the Commander”) was a good man, according to Hitchens, but he and Hitchens “didn’t hold much converse.” Once having “a respectful distance,” their relationship took on a “definite coolness” with an “occasional thaw.” Hitchens adds: “I am rather barren of paternal recollections.”14
  • Richard Dawkins (1941–): Though encouraged by his parents to study science, he mentions being molested as a child — no insignificant event, though Dawkins dismisses it as merely embarrassing.15

Moreover, Vitz’s study notes how many prominent theists in the past — such as Blaise Pascal, G.K. Chesterton, Karl Barth, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer — have had in common a loving, caring father in their lives.16

Here are some corrections to the list:

1) Voltaire was not an atheist but a deist who rejected claims of the Bible’s inspiration, like Paine. Voltaire’s aphorism, “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him,” far from being the cynical remark it is often taken for, it was meant as a retort to the atheistic clique of d’Holbach, Grimm, and others.

2) David Hume’s religious views remain uncertain. He never said he was an atheist. A gentle skeptic suits him more.

3) Bertrand Russell was an agnostic.

Not only is there that anecdotal evidence of a psychological explanation for atheism, but there is also statistical evidence.

Excerpt:

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Let us look at the figures the other way round. What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goesupfrom 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and to 44 percent with the non-practicing, as if loyalty to father’s commitment grows in proportion to mother’s laxity, indifference, or hostility.

[…]In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

Basically, anyone who doesn’t have a benevolent, involved father is going to have an enormously difficult time believing that moral boundaries set by an authority are for the benefit of the person who is being bounded. The best way to make moral boundaries stick is to see that they apply to the person making the boundaries as well – and that these moral boundaries are rational, evidentially-grounded and not arbitrary.