Mother Absence v Father Absence

Myth -- Mother-absence is no different from father-absence; it's a single-parent family, and "gender" of the parent is irrelevant.

Fact: Gender may be irrelevant, but motherhood isn't. "...children residing without biological mothers fare worse than those without biological fathers, across most outcomes. In addition, only longitudinal measures of mother absence directly influence school outcomes. The time lived away from the biological mother is related to adolescents' grades and school discipline, while the number of mother changes significantly reduces adolescents' college expectations."

"The Longitudinal Effects of Mother and Father Absence on Adolescent School Success." Population Association of America, Minneapolis, MN. (May 1-3, 2003)

Fact: "Using data from four national surveys, Biblarz and Raftery (1999) show that mother-absence is much more detrimental than father-absence to children's educational and occupational attainment. They find that once parents' socioeconomic status is taken into account, children raised by single mothers are much better off than children raised by single fathers or fathers and stepmothers, and are just as likely to succeed as children raised by both birth parents. Biblarz and Raftery conclude that the pattern of effects across family types and over time is consistent with an evolutionary perspective which emphasizes the importance of the birth mother in the provision of children's resources (Trivers 1972). According to this view, children raised by their birth mothers do better than children raised apart from their birth mothers. Furthermore, being raised by a single birth mother is better than being raised by a birth mother and step-father since step-fathers compete with children for mother's time and lower maternal investment."

Case, Anne, I-Fen Lin and Sara McLanahan. Educational Attainment in Blended Families, August 2000.

Fact: "Recent work on the determinants of children's human capital investments suggests that the absence of a child's birth mother puts the child at risk. Those investments that are typically made by a child's mother -- in food, health, and education, for example -- are made at a lower level when the child is raised by a non-birth mother."

Case, Anne, I-Fen Lin and Sara McLanahan. Educational Attainment in Blended Families, August 2000.

Fact: "[H]ypotheses posit that the impact of family structure on adolescent behavior is, in part, explained by the different types of communities within which families reside and that community characteristics moderate the impact of family structure on drug use. The results of multilevel regression models fail to support these hypotheses; adolescents who reside in single-parent or stepparent families are at heightened risk of drug use irrespective of community context. Moreover, adolescents who reside in single father families are at risk of both higher levels of use and increasing use over time. A significant community-level effect involves jobless men: Adolescents are at increased risk of drug use if they reside in communities with a higher proportion of unemployed and out-of-workforce men."

John P Hoffmann (2002) The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2), 314?330.

Fact: "Some argue that single fathers adapt to single parenting by taking on more stereotypical "mothering" activities (Risman, 1987), making their involvement no different from that of single mothers. Downey (1994), however, finds that single mothers provide more interpersonal resources, whereas single fathers provide more economic resources. Given mothers' greater involvement in school activities, biological mother absence may have a more negative influence than biological father absence. Downey, Ainsworth-Darnell, and Dufur (1998) found mixed evidence of gender differences among single-parent families on a comprehensive list of child outcomes; all of the significant differences, however, occurred in educational measures and consistently showed a disadvantage for children living with single fathers... I find support for the hypothesis that, at least in early childhood, mother changes have more lasting influences on college expectations and school discipline than father changes..."

Holly E. Heard (2007) Fathers, Mothers, and Family Structure: Family Trajectories, Parent Gender, and Adolescent Schooling Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2), 435-450.

Fact: "Some research... suggests that resident fathers may not be as involved with (Hawkins, Amato, & King, 2006), or as close to (Clarke-Stewart & Hayward, 1996), children as resident mothers and that resident stepmothers take over more parenting responsibilities than resident stepfathers do (Pryor & Rodgers, 2001). Consistent with this premise, Buchanan et al. (1996) report benefits of a close father-child relationship for adolescent outcomes in father-resident families but found these effects to be weaker than the benefits of a close mother-child tie in mother-resident families."

Valarie King (2007) When Children Have Two Mothers: Relationships With Nonresident Mothers, Stepmothers, and Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1178-1193.

Fact: "[Children's residing in single mother households was associated with a double risk of incarceration, but] youths from stepparent families are even more vulnerable to the risk of incarceration, especially those in father-stepmother households, which suggests that the re-marriage may present even greater difficulties for male children than father absence."

Cynthia C. Harper, Sara S. McLanahan. FATHER ABSENCE AND YOUTH INCARCERATON, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University, Working Paper #99-03. [email protected]

Please read more on the Liz Library.

No wonder the National Fatherhood Initiative was created. All this research must be depressing for some men. They needed to re-create their role. Problem is, few are seeing the positive benefits of this social experimentation.

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