Child Neglect and Fatherless Households

Much is made of the tragic problems of child abuse and child neglect. The latter can take many forms, but one of the most important, yet underrated, examples of neglect is when a child is deliberately brought into the world without one of the two most important people the child will ever know. I speak here of the growing problem of fatherless households.

Of course there have always been such households. Because of the death or desertion of the father, a mother is left to struggle on, raising the children the best she can. And such single mums deserve all the support and help they can get from the rest of the community.

But it is another thing altogether when we deliberately bring a child into existence without a father. This is now becoming a social problem of plague proportions. More and more women are deciding they want kids, but they don’t want a husband, or even a male partner.

And the desire of same-sex couples to have children is simply exacerbating the problem, making an already grievous social tragedy even greater. An example of this was reported in the world’s press just recently. The lesbian daughter of US Vice President Dick Cheney is pregnant.

Mary Cheney, 37, and her 45-year-old partner Heather Poe will raise the child together when born next year. But the fact that we now have so many different ways to create a child is not an argument that we should. And all the talk and love is still a poor substitute for a child’s most important need: a mother and a father who are committed to each other.

Of course activist homosexual groups and other social libertarians are applauding the announcement of Mary’s pregnancy. But not everyone is so ecstatic. As Janice Shaw Crouse notes in the December 7, 2006, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy affects us all”.

She writes, “Mary Cheney’s pregnancy poses problems not just for her child, but also for all Americans. Her action repudiates traditional values and sets an appalling example for young people at a time when father absence is the most pressing social problem facing the nation. With 37 percent of American children born to fatherless families, Mary Cheney is contributing to a trend that is detrimental to all Americans who will live with the ramifications of millions of children whose anger and frustration at not knowing their father will be felt in the public schools and communities of our nation.”

Mary Cheney is part of a new demographic group which is contributing to various social problems. “Mary Cheney is among that burgeoning group of adult women over age 20 that are driving the trend of women who don’t want a man in the picture, but want to have a baby. These older women are pushing out-of-wedlock birth statistics higher and higher. At a time when teen births and teen abortions are declining dramatically, older women are having more un-wed births and more abortions, including repeat abortions (indicating that they are using abortion as birth control).”

More and more children are deliberately being deprived of their own father, and the consequences are not good. “Well-educated, professional Mary Cheney is flying in the face of the accumulated wisdom of the top experts who agree that the very best family structure for a child’s well-being is a married mom and dad family. Her child will have all the material advantages it will need, but it will still encounter the emotional devastation common to children without fathers.”

Indeed, the problems associated with fatherlessness are many: “When fatherless children get to be teens, the girls tend to start looking for love in all the wrong places and the boys tend to find as their role model the bad-boy celebrities of MTV, NFL and NBA. As they grow older, fatherless children tend to have trouble dealing with male authority figures. Too often children in single-mother households end up angry at their absent fathers and resentful of the mother who has had to be a father figure, too. Typically, the boys who have a love-hate relationship with their mother end up hating all women. Numerous of them look for vulnerable women where they can act out their anger and be in control.”

When high profile figures like this purposefully eschew fathers, they are being a poor role model for others. “Mary Cheney’s action sets an example that is detrimental for mothers with less financial resources who will start down an irrevocable path into poverty that tends to be generational – children in households without a father tend to themselves have unwed births later in life. Experts from both the left and the right cite a disastrous litany of negative outcomes that are predictable when a child grows up in a fatherless family. Such children tend to get involved in drugs, alcohol abuse, and delinquency; they tend to drop out of school and have teen pregnancies. An assistant principal in a Junior High School said that many of the behavioral problems that teachers face in the classroom stem from households without a father’s influence.”

Indeed, the anecdotal evidence backs up over thirty years of social science research: children raised without a father are seriously deprived and short-changed. They enter life disadvantaged and have to work hard to overcome such obstacles. This is a real case of child neglect.

Crouse concludes: “All those people who talk about doing what is best ‘for our children’ need to get back to the basics: children need a married mom and dad. Children can do without a lot of the trimmings of childhood, but nothing can replace a home where the mother and dad love each other enough to commit for a lifetime and are absolutely crazy about their kids – enough to be willing to sacrifice their own needs to see that their children get the very best.”

Fathers are an indispensable part of any child’s life. Sure, there have been some bad dads, but exceptions do not make the rule. What every child needs, and what every child is entitled to, is to be raised in a home with his or her own biological mother and father, preferably cemented by marriage. No other household structure provides such a safe, secure and nurturing environment for a child. The social data backs this up overwhelmingly. It is a pity so many people put adult wants ahead of the very real needs and interests of the child.

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2 Replies to “Child Neglect and Fatherless Households”

  1. I was just thinking today before I read this article how absurd it is that our Australian Federal government has made it’s ‘baby bonus’ cash payment available to all women: married, single, and defacto. And people say that we have a ‘conservative’ government in Canberra! Truly they don’t know the meaning of the word.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria

  2. My three sisters and myself were raised solely by our mother. Though she did the best job she could do, I whole-heartedly agree with your argument on the best environment for raising a child. I am now 22 and the amount of emotional baggage I have had to deal with is astounding.

    Keep fighting for this issue Bill, it is certainly of grave importance.

    Many thanks,

    Rachel Gleeson, Victoria

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