Father Absence Harms Children?

Myth -- Research on single mother households proves that "fatherlessness" harms children.

Fact: "The relative well-being of children in bereaved families and the poorer outcomes identified among children in step-families suggest that the absence of a parent figure is not the most influential feature of separation for children's development."

Rodgers, Bryan and Jan Pryor. Divorce and separation: the outcomes for children, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (ISBN 1 85935 043 7 (June 1998).

Fact: "[F]ather absence does not significantly influence the level of well-being of either daughters or sons. Rather... children's perceptions of their relationships with both parents have a more direct influence on their psychological well-being than does the physical presence or absence of their father."

Wenk, D., Hardesty, C. L., Morgan, C. S., & Blair, S. L. (1994). The influence of parental involvement on the well-being of sons and daughters. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56 (1), 229-234.

Fact: "T]here is little evidence to support the hypothesis that nonresident father involvement has positive benefits for children."

King, V. (1994). Variation in the consequences of nonresident father involvement for children's well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56(4), 963-972.

Fact: "Using data from subsets ranging in size from 777 to 1,501 children from the child supplement to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), a series of multivariate regression models were tested to determine whether the effects of nonresident father involvement on child well-being vary by race, mother's education, or whether the child was born within or outside of marriage. The results show few interactive effects, and no identifiable set of conditions emerged that increased or reduced the importance of father involvement for child well-being."

King, Valarie, Carolina Population Center, CB# 8120, University Square, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-3997 (U.S.A.)

Fact: "Meta-analysis supports the notion that the impact of father absence appears to be mediated by family conflict; father absence in itself may not affect children's well-being. The family conflict perspective was strongly confirmed by the data. This perspective holds that children in intact families with high levels of conflict should have the same well-being problems as children of divorce, and the data supported this hypothesis."

Amato, P. R., & Keith, B. (1991). Parental divorce and the well-being of children: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 26-46.

Fact: Serious design errors and methodological problems make many studies ostensibly showing harm from father absence inconclusive, e.g. the impact of family-related variables (number of children, sex of parent, cause of parental absence, etc.)

Blechman, E. A. (1982). Are children with one parent at psychological risk? A methodological review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 44, 179-195.

Fact: "A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes."

Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS Ellen C. Perrin, MD, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Fact: "Literature reviewed in this report overwhelmingly supported the notion that father absence has a detrimental effect on children. However, the results of this study did not support the conclusions..."

Grant, T. M. (1988). Impact of father absence on psychopathology of military dependent children.Doctoral thesis, Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. ADA208606. (Father absence was not found to be related to the childhood pathology of military dependent children. Father absence was not found to be related to the severity of diagnosed childhood pathology.

Also see: Applewhite, L. W., & Mays, R. A., Jr. (1996). Parent-child separation: A comparison of maternally and paternally separated children in military families. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 13, 23-39. (However, children of active-duty mothers had more problems with peer-relationships, handling learning demands, expressing feelings and poorer indicators of physical health than children of active-duty fathers.)

Also see: Jensen, P. S., Grogan, D., Xenakis, S. N., & Bain, M. W. (1989). Father absence: Effects on child and maternal psychopathology. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 171-175. (Once maternal symptoms and stress levels were controlled, no significant effects of father absence were noted.)

Also see: Nice, D. S. (1978). The androgynous wife and the military child. In E.J. Hunter & D.S. Nice (Eds.), Children of military families: A part and yet apart (pp. 25-37). Washington, DC: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office. (Children manifested significant gains in their overall personality adjustment during the period of father absence, lending support to the growing amount of evidence suggesting that father absence may be associated with some positive effects.)

Pierce, P. F., Vinokur, A. D., & Buck, C. L. (1998). Effects of war-induced maternal separation on children's adjustment during the gulf war and two years later. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 1286-1311.

You can read more at the Liz Library

No matter which way you slice the pie, fatherlessness is not that serious: evidenced by widowed households, gay families, and military families. You can't just take the research and squeeze to fit your agenda. You can't just eliminate whole populations of groups of people/families, just because the conclusion won't fit your propaganda.

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