“ ‘Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?’ ” (Matt. 7: 9).
With the change in sexual mores stemming from the 1960s and the impact of divorce on the nuclear family, many children grow up in single parent households who might otherwise have had a father actively involved in their lives [1A].
Single Parent Households
According to the US Census Bureau, twelve million households in the US are headed by single parents, 80% of these by single mothers. And that number is growing .
All too often, children become pawns in the power struggle that can ensue in a divorce. When child support payments are late, women (who may feel powerless to do anything else) at times deny men access to their children. Unfortunately, this can erode the parental bond to a child’s detriment.
A 2011 study found that non-custodial parents – whether male or female – made only 61% of required child support payments to the parent with custody of their children .
As a practical matter, the income of single parent homes is greatly reduced [1B]. One in four American children under the age of 18 is being raised without a father, 45% of these children below the poverty level .
Poverty and No Father
The problems associated with poverty, and the absence of a father in the home are significant. These can range from poor school performance, and high drop-out rates, to emotional and physical abuse or neglect, drug and alcohol use, and delinquent behavior .
Child abuse has, in fact, been called the dark underside of cohabitation . A mother’s boyfriend can pose a real threat to the life of a child not his own .
Love and Security
None of this is meant to suggest that divorced dads do not love their children. While some men do abandon a first family and “trade up” to a second, many more fight for custody when a mother is drug addicted, violent, or otherwise incapable of caring for the children.
The point is that a great many children do not experience a father’s love, a father’s example, or the comfort and security of a father’s “day to day” presence.
Divorced dads need to make a special effort to remain full-time fathers.
[1A][1B] Huffington Post, “The Disappearing Nuclear Family and the Shift to Non-Traditional Households Has Serious Financial Implications for Growing Numbers of Americans” by Sandra Timmerman and Debra Caruso, 3/27/13, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debra-caruso/retirement-plan-the-disappearing-nuclear-family_b_2534622.html.
 Pew Research Center, Social Trends, “1. The American Family Today”, 12/17/15, http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/1-the-american-family-today/ .
 Single Mother Guide, Single Mother Statistics, https://singlemotherguide.com/single-mother-statistics/.
 Princeton University, Future of Children, “The Effects of Poverty on Children” by Jeanne Brooks-Dunn and Greg Duncan, https://www.princeton.edu/futureofchildren/publications/docs/07_02_03.pdf.
 NBC News, Children’s Health, “Children at higher risk in non-traditional homes”, 11/18/07, http://www.nbcnews.com/id/21838575/ns/health-childrens_health/t/children-higher-risk-nontraditional-homes/.
 The Daily Beast, “Why Are Mothers’ Boyfriends So Likely to Kill?” by Samantha Allen, 9/25/15, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/25/why-are-mothers-boyfriends-so-likely-to-kill.html.
 Time, “How Deadbeat are Deadbeat Dads, Really?” by Belinda Luscombe, 6/15/15, http://time.com/3921605/deadbeat-dads/.
This series will continue next week with Absent, Part 3 – Children Having Children
Wishing You All A Happy Easter!
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7 responses to “Absent, Part 2 – The Nuclear Family”
So true, Anna. My wife grew up without a dad (he just abandoned her mom and her four kids). The problem is that he never learned to be a dad, he was dropped at the door of Boys Town by his widowed mother in the midst of the depression. So many boys are growing up without being taught to be dads.
Her childhood and mine couldn’t have been more different; my dad provided for my mom and ten kids. We weren’t wealthy, but never wanted for anything. Security.
Thank you for sharing that, Bill. Kids left to raise themselves run a much greater risk of problems later in life. Fathers make a difference.
In an ideal world it is of course desirable to have a father who is present and loving. In my own situation, I would have preferred it if my father had been absent – but that is another story. I’d like to think that there are more good fathers out there than bad/absent ones.
And of course there are many reasons why fathers are absent (divorce, death, incarceration, separation due to domestic violence etc) apart from those who actively shirk responsibility for their offspring. But I also wonder, Anna, in these modern times where the ‘family’ has changed so much to include same sex parents if they would agree that a father is always essential apart from of course the necessity for conception. Do you think two mothers or two fathers do just as good a job as a female and a male parent? And is it more important for children to have two loving parents (whether they be male/female, male/male, or female/female) rather than a single parent?
For me (perhaps wrongly) I chose to be a single parent rather than recreate my very chaotic and violent experience of childhood as an adult. I must admit I didn’t give too much thought on how single-parenthood would impact my child and I now realise that that was selfish. Fortunately for me, my child’s father played a very active part in her upbringing, but I was so caught up in not being the wife of a violent husband, which for me seemed a very real possibility and which I was anxious to avoid. It didn’t occur to me that I could be involved with someone that might not turn out to be violent – something born out of being the child of a two-parent family. So to me, two parent families can be as much of a disadvantage as a single-parent family.
This post was not meant as an attack on single mothers, divorced fathers, gay parents, or anyone else. It was merely my attempt to map the difficult terrain children face in the modern world, and call attention to the high risk of poverty they run in single parent households.
There was never a golden age, peopled by untroubled nuclear families. Abuse is as old as history. I come from a two-parent Christian family yet was, myself, abused.
Personally, I approve of any parent or parents who love and care for their children.
I know Anna that your intentions were not meant to be an attack on any of the groups you mention. And I very much appreciate the message you were attempting to put across. My own views were expressed to show that we all come at parenting from different angles and whilst we would ( I believe) aspire to be model parents, our life experiences can affect the way we come to parenting. I think the way we parent is very much affected by the way we were parented ourselves and unfortunately abusive parenting can lead to abusive parents – not always but in many cases. I completely agree with you that any parents who love and care for their children are the best model. I sincerely hope that you did not think that my view was an attack on you in anyway as I know you to be a fair and non-judgemental in your views. ❤️
I always value your insights, Marie. You expressed an important viewpoint. As you say, how we raise our children is influenced by how we, ourselves, were raised. Some of us will be better parents than our parents were. Sadly, others will replicate the abuse they experienced (or shy away from parenting altogether for fear of doing that). ❤
“Divorced dads need to make a special effort to remain full-time fathers.”
So well stated, Anna.