It’s not easy being a father nowadays, as you can tell from the question in the heading.
Canadian researchers and authors Paul Nathanson and Katherine K. Young have written about the persistant anti-male bias in the media, in their two books Spreading Misandry and Legalizing Misandry (you can read a short summary of their work on Wikipedia).
Fathers are an important subgroup of men that are under attack in the media. Directly or indirectly, they are portrayed as:
- Wife beaters
- Child abusers
- Child molesters
Furthermore, we hear a lot about deadbeat dads in the media (i.e. dads who are avoiding paying child support), but hardly anything about all the men who desperately want to see their children but who have been denied any kind of custody.
Something we almost never hear about are the specific benefits that fathers can bring to their children, even though fathers keep young men away from crimes and a range of other psychosocial problems.
Can this really be true, that fathers have a vital protective effect on their children that their mother cannot replace on her own?
In the book The Case for Marriage, the authors review the available evidence about single parent households (i.e. fatherless families) and conclude that these children are more likely:
- To be poor
- To have health problems
- To have psychological disorders
- To commit crimes
- To exhibit conduct disorders (other than crime)
- To have poorer relationships with their family and peers
- To get fewer years of education
This list holds true even when controlling for parents’ race, income and socioeconomic status.
Other research (Harper and McLanahan, 1998) has shown that boys living without their biological fathers are twice as likely to have spent time in jail. These results also hold up after controlling for race, income and parents’ education. Having a stepfather, however, does not decrease incarceration rates – the protective effect comes from a biological dad alone.
In his book Fatherless America, sociologist David Blankenhorn states that:
“Despite the difficulty of proving causation in social sciences, the wealth of evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men.”
Swedish studies (Weitoft, Hjern, et al, 2002) have found that children of single parents are twice as likely to develop a psychiatric disease, to attempt suicide or to have an alcohol-related disease.
The status of fatherhood needs to be upgraded immediately. The available research clearly demonstrates that growing up without your father puts a child at a real disadvantage in a host of ways. Courts who are nowadays awarding sole custody to the mother “in the best interest” of the child, aren’t doing their job in a satisfactory way.
Shared custody needs to become default ruling in all custody cases that go to court, unless one parent is obviously unfit to raise a child (eg. drug addicts, convicted sex criminals, proven abusers, etc).
Furthermore, parents need to start cooperating after a divorce, instead of using the children as “collateral”. Children are not a way to extort more money from your spouse after a divorce, nor are they a tool to feel good about yourself.
All parents owe it to themselves and to their children to live close to each other after a divorce, so that shared custody can be practically implemented and so that the children can stay close to both parents.