It is past time for us to stop ignoring reality with regard to parenting and the importance of kids growing up with both a mom and a dad.
Although some single moms perform heroically and raise healthy kids prepared to face the challenges of adulthood, most don’t. We have to stop letting our sympathy for the plight of single parents interfere with the reality that single parenting is the worst option for raising kids.
A year ago the New York Times published an article titled “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage.” For some time we had been sobered by the statistic that four in 10 U.S. babies are born to unwed parents. Then came this news, a turning point of epic proportions: More than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside marriage. “It used to be called illegitimacy,” the article written by Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise began. “Now it is the new normal.” Unfortunately, normal doesn’t mean good.
The research about what kind of future awaits most of these children is unequivocal. “According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of all children exhibiting behavior disorders come from fatherless homes. Studies going back a quarter century show that 80 percent of all rapists and 70 percent of all juveniles in state-operated institutions are from fatherless homes.” Adolescents, particularly boys, in single-parent families are at higher risk of committing crimes. Moreover, students attending schools with a high proportion of single parents are also at risk. Youths are more at risk of first drug use without a highly involved father. Living in an intact family decreases the risk of first substance abuse.
According to Patrick Fagan, “When you control for marriage, the crime rates between blacks and whites show no difference.” In other words, if you compare crime rates between black and white families with two married parents and black and white families without two married parents, the statistics don’t vary across racial lines. It is the family relationship that makes the difference, not race. It is unfortunate that sociologists are just now beginning to examine the correlations between family, fatherhood, and the overall health and well-being of our society. On the other hand, we should appreciate that they are finally starting to explain what many have always known: Healthy family environments with strong father role models lead to a healthy social environment.
Sociologist and researcher Bradford Wilcox, author of the book “Soft Patriarchs,” explains why this is true. “Boys who grow up in fatherless homes engage in compensatory masculinity,” he said. “They try to separate themselves from their mothers, yet prove their masculinity by being more aggressive, more violent, and more sexually active. Without an appropriate model in the home, they do not learn the appropriate clues.”
Wilcox adds that the role of a father is indispensable. Nonresidential dads, such as an uncle or big brother, cannot easily fill in for a missing father. “They tend to treat kids to a movie or a sporting event. That’s not what kids really need from men. They need men who can challenge them and show them how to handle stress.”
Girls need fatherly role models as well. Evidence shows that girls raised in fatherless homes often suffer lifelong negative consequences of low self-esteem and underachievement.
It’s hard to avoid letting our sympathy for single mothers and their kids get in the way of facing the tough realities ahead. But we’re not helping anyone by letting them choose this path without confronting those realities.
Lyles, a Poway resident, is a business/management consultant and best-selling author. Reader comments are encouraged at www.pomeradonews.com.