The National Fatherhood Initiative: Supporting a Misogynistic Agenda


A little cessation of the silly and counterproductive talk about how fathers "parent differently," are "important," are the "authoritative" ones, are the "spiritual leaders," and are "critical" to rearing children, and a little more talk about how men ought to get off that high horse, role up their sleeves, cut the superiority drivel, and pitch in with the housework, might go a lot further toward restoring marriage as a viable and enduring institution. Sorry, guys: your way didn't work for the majority of the population, and the clock is just not going back.

The FR movement conveniently describes as "hailing from a fatherless" home, any individual who spent any portion of childhood outside of the traditional patriarchal intact family. In doing so, the FR movement also conveniently gets to leave the impression that "dad's" genes or role modeling or abuse could not possibly have been responsible for any bad trait, genetic or modeled, that has affected the children in these homes.
Rather, it was his "absence."
And most of all, it ignores the most important factor, and the ONLY one which holds steady through all kinds of studies and groups as affecting childrearing outcomes: the personality, education, situation and overall happiness and comfort of the children's primary caregiver, usually their mother.
Widowed homes don't have these childrearing problems. Neither do most other single mother homes

One of the reasons for negative child-rearing outcomes in divorced homes in which there is something other than sole authority in the custodial parent, e.g. the variety of joint custody "solutions," is precisely that at every turn, the authority of the head of the children's household IS in fact undermined. That is one reason widowed homes, and homes in which one parent is completely absent actually do so much BETTER than every situation of shared, joint, split, switched, and otherwise flipflopped and mixed-up custody.

Additionally, and debunking theories steeped in the presumption of male "discipline" in intact homes, Shere Hite has written extensively on how women as parents are authoritatively undermined in the patriarchal system such that where two parents are present, the constant subtle messages of second class woman status along with father-figure exaltation ultimately (by adolescence) diminish the mother's authority in the eyes of children of both sexes. This is an artificially-created "problem" with mother-parenting. Introduce a higher boss, and then blame her for not "being authoritative" or able to command adequate respect.

By contrast, the children of women who are on their own as parents, and LEFT alone -- those who have no divorce stress or custody hassles undermining authority, and no financial problems or social pariah status or social worker meddling (compare widowed mothers versus welfare mothers versus struggling working single mother with young children) -- do just fine. These mothers are in fact authoritative as well as loving. In fact, in these households, the child rearing outcomes are comparable to those from intact homes. [Also see liznotes on the problems with joint custody.]

Even with the patriarchal systemic status boost, it remains purely a myth that fathers are the disciplinarians in most households. Studies of parents' interactions and roles in intact households instead indicate that most time spent by fathers with their children is in the areas of play, and in most households, the modeling of self-control, the primary nurturing AND the discipline all are tasks befalling the primary caregiver -- most of the time, the mother.

Moreover, the research does not indicate that these percentages of violent criminals, et al. grew up through their entire childhoods (as implied) sans a father in the household, but rather, that they grew up in homes in which that father was absent for some period of their childhood. So right in the first paragraph, you perpetuate two blatant misrepresentations. Your argument, Wade, also misleads in another way: the overwhelming MOST of single mother households do NOT exhibit these childrearing problems.

If children tend to pay any price at all when the father is absent, that price is largely in their standard of living. It's financial. But growing up poor in and of itself also does not necessitate a bad child rearing outcome. The actual causes of negative child rearing problems correlating with the disparate and nonhomogeneous classification of "fatherless homes" (or "single mother households") are disguised and distorted by statistics which lump into that category, not only demographic groups which do NOT exhibit these bad child-rearing outcomes, but also all those homes which are "fatherless" precisely because of the very same factors which down the road affected the children. These factors include: adultery, wife and child abuse; addictions to alcohol, sex, and drugs, other personality dysfunctions; conflict, and plain old abandonment, financial irresponsibility and failure to support (emotionally or financially.) The other primary and telling difference between "fatherless homes" which do and do not have problems is the relative financial stability, educational level, and comfort of the mother.

LIZ: Having failed to establish the first premise as true, Wade, you throw out a nonsequitor, a gratuitous plea for reinstatement of the patriarchal "family," which ostensibly is important because fathers are important, because, apparently, if a father is not there, it's not a "family." It's a circular argument: fathers are important because when fathers are there, there is a family (you don't think so, otherwise), and the family is important because (this is a stretch) it is necessary to "propagate the species" and "socialize children."

The singlemost important contribution that a loving father may make to an intact household is to the emotional and financial comfort and happiness of the mother -- and THIS, the mother's personality and situation, has been shown to be the singlemost common common denominator across the board affecting child rearing outcomes. No study has indicated any benefit to the mere presence of the father, where that contribution is factored out. Widowed homes, which typically are without continued post-divorce stress or custody/visitation issues, which are financially more comfortable than never-married or divorced households, which benefit from increased extended family and community support, and in which the mothers have buck-stops-here parental authority, simply do not share these touted "fatherless home" negatives.

MOST single mother households don't have bad childrearing outcomes. MOST are successful. So, it's not father presence or absence, but the presence or absence of some other factor or factors in SOME of those "fatherless homes" which is key -- not the presence or absence of the father. What are those factors? There are loads to choose from, none of which require the strained sort of argument you have to make in order to "explain" the ostensible importance of the "father factor." Here's the preface to that strained argument:

What fathers are like, and the function they may serve in homes where the fathers are loving, mature, appreciated, and involved -- well that's what these fathers may indeed be and do in these particular homes. But these are the particular fathers they are, and they are in the successful intact homes they are in, precisely because they DO have attributes which fathers from fatherless homes are far more likely to Just Not Have.

Read more at americanmotherspoliticalparty.org