Research effects of father absence



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This child was born in 1865 and grew up in Missouri. He was the sixth of seven children. Life was poor and hard. His sister died when he was three, and his brother died when he was six. When he was eight, 24 people in the little town where he lived died from the measles. He himself was sickly. When he was eleven, in fifth grade, his father died of pneumonia, and at that point he had to leave school to help support the family.

He got a job in a printer's shop as what was then called a "printer's devil." That was a boy who ran errands, cleaned the shop, delivered papers, and generally did whatever his boss told him to do. Four years later, when he was 15, he had worked his way up to the job of typesetter. Perhaps it was doing this job, which required him to read carefully, that helped him become good at writing. Here and there he started writing editorials for the paper.

In some ways, his early childhood work experiences in the printer's shop were similar to those of the famous Benjamin Franklin, more than a hundred years earlier. Stories about the industrious and successful Ben Franklin regularly were held up by adults as a role model for children, and Franklin's sayings were printed in the newspaper the child worked for. In his later life, this child would say that "Benjamin Franklin ruined the childhood of every American boy!"

When he was older, this child went west to seek his fortune. He really did not want to be a typesetter but he worked at that job in different cities. Other jobs he held during his lifetime were as a failed prospector for gold, a travel writer for various newspapers, a failed inventor, a political cartoonist, an entertainer, and a publisher whose company went into bankruptcy.

He met and married a young woman from a well-off family, and invested her money badly. When he had money, himself however, he fancied himself a businessman, but he also was a spendthrift. It is said that he inherited his mother's sense of humor, and his father's lack of business acumen.

At different times in his life he was deeply in debt, although he always worked to pay back his creditors. Integrity and an honest character were of the highest importance to him, although it was sometimes unclear to others when he said things whether he was serious or kidding.

During his lifetime he lived in different countries of the world, and became just as famous as that childhood "thorn in his side", the successful Ben Franklin. By the end of his life, he too had become one of America's most beloved icons, and what he had to say on nearly every topic -- especially politics, justice, and equal rights -- was quoted around the world.

It's probable you already know his stories. He wrote many of them under a pseudonym that has become the world's most famous pen name.

This child -- who by the way also worked as a young man as a steamboat captain on the Mississippi River -- was

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, a boy from a "fatherless home."

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* The term "fatherless" is used in this series as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.

"...Just add Dad, the magic ingredient. It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..." Mike Peterson



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