By Ashley Herzog

The verdict is in: Dads do matter. Two weeks ago, Swedish researchers released a massive study – covering 22,300 individual sets of data, gathered from 1987 to 2007 – which found that “active father figures play a key role in reducing behavior problems in boys and psychological problems in young women.”

The researchers also found that “regular positive contact reduces criminal behavior among children in low-income families and enhances cognitive skills. … Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioral problems than those who just lived with their mother.” It is telling that this study was published in Sweden, a country that has done its best to facilitate fatherless families by giving single mothers a silver platter of government handouts, as well as social acceptance.

The results are not going to sit well with many Americans, particularly those who hail voluntary single motherhood as a valid “lifestyle choice.” An ugly alliance of feminist ideology and pop psychology has brainwashed the public into believing that fatherlessness has few, if any, social consequences.

Feminism instructs that men are not essential to any of women’s pursuits, including having and raising children. And the “self-esteem” and “self-fulfillment” movements preach that satisfying your own selfish desires is the most important thing in life – regardless of whether others are hurt by your actions.

These beliefs were demonstrated in 1992 when then-Vice President Dan Quayle criticized the sitcom character Murphy Brown for choosing to have a baby out of wedlock. All the usual suspects went ballistic, accusing Quayle of being “out of touch” and “anti-woman.” The progressive crowd kept assuring us that children of single mothers would do just fine as long as Mom was happy and fulfilled, and the consequences of illegitimacy could be remedied through taxpayer-funded freebies – free day care, free preschool, free health care and so on.

Evidently not. Nearly every study conducted here or abroad indicates that fatherlessness has serious ramifications for children and the societies they live in – and experts are now penning articles with titles like “Dan Quayle was Right.” A year after the Quayle controversy, a writer for the Atlantic Magazine pointed out the obvious: “The social-science evidence is in … though it may benefit the adults involved, the dissolution of intact two-parent families is harmful to large numbers of children.”

This is true for children of all racial groups and socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2004, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara examined data from surveys of 15,000 youths and found that children who grew up without fathers in the home were more than twice as likely to commit crimes and become teen parents. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that children from single-parent homes are much more likely to abuse drugs, drop out of school and serve time in jail. And poverty isn’t solely to blame: Numerous studies have found that poor kids who grow up with two married parents tend to stay out of trouble and do quite well in life.

Obviously, sometimes single motherhood is unavoidable, and there’s no use in blaming these women for situations they didn’t create. Still, we should seriously reconsider our culture’s acceptance of casual divorce and voluntary single motherhood as a girl-power lifestyle choice. Instead of passing out government-funded goodies, we should be telling the Murphy Browns of the world to think less about what they want and more about what their child needs.

It’s not difficult to predict where a society of fatherless kids is heading. In 1965, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote that “from the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority … that community asks for and gets chaos.”

It’s a shame for all of us that no one listened.

Related special offer:

“The War on Fathers: How the ‘feminization of America’ destroys boys, men – and women”


Ashley Herzog is a senior journalism major at Ohio University and an intern at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.

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