SEE ALL MYTHS AND FACTS PAGES
This page is http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/018.htm|
SEE FATHER CUSTODY - MOTHER ABSENCE RESEARCH
(No, it's not a gender-neutral thing.)
MOTHERHOOD AND MARRIAGE:
AND THE FACTS
In red: what thepundits, spin-meisters, and study summarizers SAY the studies have found (frequently
interposed with could-bes, should-bes, what-ifs, comments, faulty conclusions, and suppositions without
cites), and, in black: what the research actually says!
Myth -- "Maternal instinct" means that in general women both seek fulfillment through children and are naturally
Fact: "Women [are] more likely than men to hold positive attitudes about childlessness."
Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox and Gretchen Pendell, The Gender Gap in Attitudes About Childlessness in the United States,
Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 69 Issue 4, Pages 899 - 915 (2007)
Fact: To the extent there are biological forces at work in connection with mothering behavior, they also are not
necessarily "maternal instinct" asthat term has been used to mean indiscriminately nurturing.
While "maternal responses that are biologically based are surely going on in the human species," nevertheless
"mothers do not automatically and unconditionally respond to giving birth in a nurturing way."
Hrdy, Sara Blaffer. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, 1999.
Fact: "A number of studies have shown that human females in almost any age group prefer pictures of infants
to those of adults more than males do, and are more likely to interact with live babies in a variety of
circumstances than males are (e.g. Berman,1980; Blakemore, 1983; Edwards, 1993; Feldman, Nash & Cutrona, 1977;
Fullard & Reiling, 1976; Maestripieri & Pelka, 2002). Female responsiveness to infants is greatest
in childhood and adolescence, and declines in middle-aged and elderly women, whereas a similar pattern is not observed for males
(Berman, 1980; Feldman et al., 1977; Frodi & Lamb, 1978; Fullard &Reiling, 1976; Maestripieri &
Dario Maestripieri, JamesR. Roney, Nicole DeBias, Kristina M. Durante and Geertrui M. Spaepen,
Father absence, menarche and interest in infants among adolescent girls, Developmental Science 7:5 (2004),
Fact: While there is no scientific support for the kind of "maternal instinct" that has been used for ages to
restrict women into child-bearing, child-rearing and homemaking roles, there is some scientific evidence that during pregnancy,
women are physiologically "primed" for the tasks of nurturing their owninfant.
Walsh, Anthony. The Science of Love, Prometheus Books (59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, New York
14228-2197,USA), 1996, 276pp, £16.99, ISBN 1 57392 091 6.
Fact: "Despite clear evidence of hormonal and physiological factors in maternal instinct and behavior,
there is no indication that this applies to the care of grown men, let alone those outside one's immediate family."
Davis, Elizabeth. Women, Sex and Desire, by arrangement with Hunter House Inc., Publishers, 1995
Myth -- There is no such thing as "maternal instinct" at all.
Fact:While there indeed may be no universal longing of all women for motherhood (which sometimes has
been mis-called "maternal instinct"), or instinctual knowledge of women about how to care for infants,
as applied to women's actual pregnancy and post-childbirth experiences, "scientists have yet to find a definitive
explanation for the heightened sensitivity so often associated with mothering... Some research and
informal observation ssuggest that the caregiving experience develops a stronger intuitive tie between the infant and the
parent most often responsible for meeting the infant's needs. But, other studies -- and many women's
experiences -- suggest that there is something beyond the caregiving duty that produces the responsiveness
called maternal instinct. Extensive animal studies indicate that among rats, rabbits, mice and hamsters, for instance,
hormones trigger a maternal response that prompts the female to ready a nest or engage in other such activities
before or after giving birth. However, researchers say the hormone-related response is not so readily or uniformly
clear among humans."
How Natural is Maternal Instinct?, Lowell General Hospital, 295 Varnum Avenue, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854 Main
Telephone: (978) 937-6000, http://www.lowellgeneral.org/text/MaternalInstinct.html
Also see: Schore, Alan, "Effects of a Secure Attachment Relationship on Right Brain Development, Affect Regulation,
and Infant Mental Health,"2001; Carter, C.S., Willams, J.R., Witt, D.M., Insel, T;;.R. (1992). Oxytocin
and social bonding. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Jun 12.652:204-211; Prescott, James W., PhD,
"The Origins of Human Love and Violence," From Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal, Volume 10, #3: Spring 1996,
Henry Holt, 1997; Montagu, Ashley, "Touching : The Human Significance of the Skin," Harper, 1986; Ainsworth, M.D.S.,
"Attachments Across the Life Span." Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 61, 1985; Ferris, C.F.,
Foote, K.B., Melster, H.M., Plenby, M.G., Smith, K.L., Insel, T.R. (1992) "Oxytocin in the amygdala facilitates maternal
aggression," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. June 12.652:456-457; Gutkowska, J., Antunes-Rodrigues, J. and
McCann, S.M., "Atrialnatriureticpeptide in brain and pituitary gland." Physiological Review 1997;77; 2:465-515;
Insel, T.R. (1992). Oxytocin--a nuropeptide for affiliation: evidence from behavioral, receptor autoradiographic,
and comparative studies. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 17(1):3-35; Kamimura, S., Eguchi, K., Sekiba,K. (1991).
Tryptophan and its metabolite concentrations in human plasma and breast milk during the perinatal period.
Acta Medica Okayama. April 45(2):101-106; Winslow, J.T., Shapiro, L., Carter, C.S., Insel, T.R. (1993),"Oxytocin
and complex social behavior: species comparisons, "Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 29(3):409-414
Fact: The American Psychological
Association officially has recognized that in general, women
are better parents than men. "...Flaks, Ficher, Masterpasqua, and Joseph (1995) found
that lesbian couples had stronger parenting awareness skills than
heterosexual couples. Bos, van Balen, and van den Boom (2005, 2007)
reported that lesbian social mothers (non-biological mothers) had
higher quality parent-child interactions, were more committed as
parents, and were more effective in childrearing when compared to
fathers in heterosexual marriages."
American Psychological Association Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients (2011), Guideline 8.
[liznote:This isn't about sexual orientation.
It's obviously about the sex of
the parent. That women are better parents is a strong enough determinant to create measurable
results when multiplied by two in research assessing both heterosexual couples and homosexual
couples. And now reported -- or rather, buried -- in the APA LGBT Practice Guidelines,
where it's more politically correct to say so, is
the official APA position and recognition of this fact.]
Myth -- Parentalbonding (attachment to the child) begins at birth; mothers and fathers feel the same about their
Fact: Mothers have a lower threshhold of response to their infant's needs than fathers, that is,
they are physiologically aroused to a greater degree by infant signals and cries, and also respond
more readily; however, in instances of severe distress, the response reactions of mothers and fathers
(and probably other adults in proximity) are similar.
See generally, Hrdy,Sara Blaffer. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, 1999.
Fact: An experiment providing ultrasound imagery of their fetus over a period of two weeks to both mothers and fathers
resulted in increases in mothers' but not fathers' antenatal attachment to the fetus.
Righetti, P.L., Avanzo, M.D.,Grigio, M. & Nicolini. (2005). Maternal/paternal antenatal attachment
and fourth-dimensional ultrasound technique: a preliminary report. British Journal of Psychology,
96, 129-139. http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2005/02/born-already-attached.html
Myth -- Mothers and fathers feel the same about their children.
Fact: Men suffer significantly less than women do upon the
death of a child. In fact, men suffer less than women do upon the deaths of all loved ones
"Death, Happiness, and the Calculation of Compensatory Damages" from IZA
Discussion Paper No. 3159, November 2007.
Myth -- Newborn infants are "blank slates" who will feel the same about any caregiver,
and have no special feeling for or bond with the gestating mother.
Fact: Infant learning and familiarity with its environment begins in utero.
Atkinson, J. and Braddick, O. (1982). Sensory and Perceptual Capacities of the Neonate. In Psychobiology of
the Human Newborn. Paul Stratton (Ed.), pp. 191-220. London: John Wiley. Birnholz, J., Stephens, J. C.
and Faria, M. (1978). Fetal Movement Patterns: A Possible Means of Defining Neurologic Developmental Milestones in Utero.
American J. Roentology 130: 537-540. Birnholz, Jason C. (1981). The Development of Human Fetal Eye Movement
Patterns. Science 213: 679-681. Busnel, Marie-Claire, Granier-Deberre, C. and Lecanuet, J. P.(1992).
Fetal Audition. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 662:118-134.
Chapman, J. S. (1975). The Relation Between Auditory Stimulation of Short Gestation Infants and Their Gross
Motor Limb Activity. Doctoral Dissertation, New York University. Chayen, B., Tejani, N., Verma,
U. L. and Gordon, G.(1986). Fetal Heart Rate Changes and Uterine Activity During Coitus. Acta Obstetrica
Gynecologica Scandinavica 65: 853-855. deVries, J. I. P., Visser, G. H. A., and Prechtl, H. F. R. (1985).
The Emergence of Fetal Behavior. II. Quantitative Aspects. Early Human Development 12: 99-120. Fox, H. E.,
Steinbrecher, M., Pessel,D., Inglis, J., and Angel, E.(1978) Maternal Ethanol Ingestion and the Occurrence of
Human Fetal Breathing Movements. American J. of Obstetrics/Gynecology 132: 354-358.
Giannakoulopoulos, X., Sepulveda, W., Kourtis, P., Glover, V. and Fisk, N. M.(1994).
Fetal Plasma Cortisol and B-endorphin Response to Intrauterine Needling. The Lancet 344: 77-81.
Montagu, Ashley (1978). Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Harper & Row. Roffwarg,
Howard A., Muzio, Joseph N. and Dement, William C. (1966). Ontogenetic Development of the Human Sleep-Dream
Cycle. Science 152: 604-619. Salapatek, P. and Cohen, L.(1987). Handbook of Infant Perception.
Vol. I. New York: Academic Press. Schaal, B., Orgeur, P., and Rognon, C. (1995). Odor Sensing in the Human
Fetus: Anatomical, Functional, and Chemeo-ecological Bases. In: Fetal Development: A Psychobiological
Perspective, J-P. Lecanuet, W.P. Fifer, N. A., Krasnegor, and W. P. Smotherman (Eds.) pp. 205-237. Hillsdale, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Shahidullah, S. and Hepper, P. G. (1992). Hearing in the Fetus:
Prenatal Detection of Deafness. International J. of Prenatal and Perinatal Studies 4(3/4): 235-240.
Slater, A., Mattock, A., Brown, E., and Bremner, J. G. (1991). Form Perception at Birth: Cohen and Younger
(1984) Revisited. J. of Experimental Child Psychology 51(3):395- 406. Smotherman, W. P. and Robinson, S. R.(1995).
Tracing Developmental Trajectories Into the Prenatal Period. In: Fetal Development, J-P. Lecanuet, W. P. Fifer,
N. A. Krasnegor, and W. P. Smotherman (Eds.), pp. 15-32. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Tajani, E. and Ianniruberto,
A. (1990). The Uncovering of Fetal Competence. In: Development Handicap and Rehabilitation: Practice and Theory,
M. Papini, A. Pasquinelli and E. A. Gidoni (Eds.), pp. 3-8. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers.
Also see, e.g."The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing
different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language
they have heard during their fetal life, within the last trimester of gestation." Current
Biology, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 5 November 2009, Birgit Mampe, Angela D. Friederici, Anne Christophe
and Kathleen Wermke. Newborns' Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language,
Science Direct http://www.sciencedirect.com/ News article (Fetus Learns Intonations of Mother's Tongue by
Jennifer Thomas, HealthDay Reporter) at http://www.myfoxal.com/Global/story.asp?s=11451377&clienttype=printable
Cf Prescott, J.W. (1996). The Origins of Human Love and
Violence. Pre- and Perinatal Journal of Psychology. 10 (3):143-188; Prescott, J.W. (2001) "America's Lost Dream:
Life, Liberty And the Pursuit of Happiness," The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 10th
International Congress: Birth - The Genesis of Health; Raine, A., Brennan, P. and Mednick, S.A. (1994),
"Birth complication combined with early maternal rejection at Age 1 year predispose to violent crime at age 18 years,"
Arch.Gen. Psych. V51:984-988; Salk, L., Lipsitt, L.P., Sturner, W.Q., Reilly, B.M. and Levate, R. HJ. (1985),
"Relationship of maternal and perinatal conditions to eventual adolescent suicide, "The Lancet,
Fact: A newborn infant has an immediate bond with its mother. So long as that mother remains present,
until age2 to 3, the child's closest bond and primary attachment will remain its mother.
Schwartz, P.(1994). Peer Marriage. New York: Macmillian Publishing
Company; Dix et.al.(1994). Mothers' Judgment in Movements of Anger. Psychology, 49-65.; Harris, K. (1991). Fathers,
Sons, and Daughters: Differential Parental Involvement in Parenting. Journal of Marriage and Family,51,
(1) 531-544.; Vinovkis, M.A. (1991). Historical Perspectives on the Development of Parent-Child Interactions.
New York: Macmillan Publishing Company
Myth -- Pregnancy does not negatively impact a woman's health, body, or her employment effectiveness or
functioning in other spheres of life.
Fact: It depends on the pregnancy and on the woman, and the same woman may experience different pregnancies
differently as well. While being pregnant in and of itself does not justify a presumption that any particular
woman is lesser-abled or disabled from her customary functioning, neither does it justify a presumption that pregnancy
always will have no effect. Forty percent of all pregnancies have some complications; fifteen percent have severe complications; and
even the best pregnancies will result in temporary and permanent side effects. Pregnancy is not "no big deal" --
it is a major event in a woman's life, and a major investment of time, and physical, emotional, social and opportunity-cost resources.
It not only entails a measure of sacrifice, but also can be a major health risk.
Myth -- Early feminists sought to throw off the shackles of having to care for their children and supported joint
Fact: They fervently sought the right to have legal custody and care of their own children, both in marriage
and in the event of divorce, and to be permitted the means to support themselves and their families. They did not seek to
TRADE their abilities to bear and rear children or to form families in return for self-fulfillment in other areas,
but the right to control the destiny of their own bodies and minds, and not be limited to the development of only part
of their human potential. Foremost feminist philosopher Elizabeth Cady Stanton, argued in favor of maternal preference
for young children.
The Feminist Origins of Family Law: Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Contributions to the Field, TRACY A. THOMAS
University of Akron School of Law February 2004, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=497289
Report Of The Woman's Rights Convention Adopted at Seneca
Falls, N.Y. July 19-20, 1848, The Declaration of Sentiments; Woman's Rights Party Platform: 1922.
Myth -- Breastfeeding offers no significant advantages to infants over bottlefeeding; "I wasn't breastfed, and I
turned out just fine!"
Fact: In recent years, our understanding of the benefits of breast milk has steadily risen above being mere nourishment
to something akin to medicine or even a vaccine. Indeed, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration puts breast milk
in the same category as "liquid medications."
"Longer duration of breastfeeding is linked with increased intelligence in adulthood,
longer schooling, and higher adult earnings," according to this study following a group of almost 3500 newborns for 30 years.
Lancet Global Health Study, 2015
"The benefits extend to women. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk for developing osteoporosis, breast
and ovarian cancers and type 2 diabetes, among other health benefits... Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently
advising mothers to protect infants against the swine flu outbreak by breastfeeding and states that one of the
'best things' mothers can do for babies who become ill is to continue to breastfeed. It is generally recommended to keep
breastfeeding even if the mother gets swine flu..." http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/4096
Fact: Breast-feeding leads to increased rates of brain development
"Breastfed children exhibited increased white matter development in later maturing frontal and association
brain regions. Positive relationships between white matter microstructure and breastfeeding duration are also
exhibited in several brain regions, that are anatomically consistent with observed improvements
in cognitive and behavioral performance measures." Sean C.L. Deoni, et al., "Breastfeeding and early white matter
development: A cross-sectional study",
NeuroImage, Volume 82, 15 November 2013, Pages 77-86. http://http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053811913005922
Fact: Two decades of research indeed have established that breastmilk is far preferable to formula --
for both the baby and the mother! Among other benefits, breastfeeding: stimulates the release of the hormone
oxytocin in the mother's body promoting bonding between mother and baby; satisfies baby's emotional needs;
provides superior nutrition; helps prevent maternal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis;
helps prevent future breast cancer in infant girls; promotes higher infant IQ; helps pass baby's meconium;
provides immunization against disease; is more digestible than formula; aids in mother's post-partum physical
recovery; helps protect the infant from Crohn's disease, juvenile diabetes, allergies, asthma, SIDS,
hemophilus b. virus, cardopulmonary distress, ulcerative colitis, necrotizing enterocolitis, and other medical problems;
enhances vaccine effectiveness, and is a natural contraceptive.
Also see: Lanting, D.I., Fidler, V. Huisman, M., Touwen, B.C.,
Boersma, E.R. (1994). "Neurological differences between 9-year old children fed breast-milk or formula-milk as babies,"
(1994). Lancet. Nov 12 344(8933):1319-22; Neuringer, M.(1993). "Cerebral cortex docosahexaenoic acid is lower
in formula-fed than in breast-fed infants," Nutrition Reviews. August 51(8):238-41; Newman, J. (1995). "How Breast Milk
Protects Newborns," Scientific American. December; Uauy, R. and De Andraca, I. (1995). Human milk and breast feeding for
optimal mental development. J. of Nutrition. August 125(8 Suppl): 2278S-2280S;
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS 2005 POLICY
STATEMENT ON BREASTFEEDING
Fact: Children who are breastfed are significantly less anxious as ten years later than children
who werenot breastfed. The study included a comparison of breastfed and non-breastfed
children who later experienced their parents' divorce. "Breastfed babies are more resilient
as they cope better with stress in later life than bottle fed babies..."
"Breast feeding and resilience against psychosocial stress" S.
Mongomery et al. Archives of Disease in Childhood, online edition, 3 augusti 2006, Doi: 101136/adc.2006.096826
Comment: Breastfeeding and related nurturing also may mitigate against aggression in grown males.
See http://newsbureau.upmc.com/TX/AggressiveMen.htm WHY MEN ARE MORE AGGRESSIVE: WHAT A MOTHER SHOULD KNOW,
research on aggressive and sexual behaviors presented at International Congress of Neuroendocrinology
June 19-22, 2006 presented as Hot and Bothered: The Basis for Aggressive and Sexual Behaviors, ÿÿ
Tuesday, June 20 at 12 p.m., moderated by Eric B. Keverne, Sc.D., FRS, FMedSci,
professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, U.K.
Comment: Eighty-seven percent of an infant's total
nutritional intake fuels the function, growth and development of its brain. Do you really
want to mess with that?
Myth -- Co-sleeping with babies
is potentially dangerous, psychologically bad for them, and a cause of SIDS. They should sleep in their own beds.
Fact: It may well be dangerous for infants to sleep in beds that contain many soft pillows,
spaces between mattresses and headboards, or "parents" (men)
-- but it's normal, natural, safer, and significantly healthier
for babies to sleep with their nursing mothers.
Barak E. Morgan, Alan R. Horn, and Nils J. Bergman,
Should Neonates Sleep Alone, BIOL
PSYCHIATRY 2011;70:817-825 Also seehttp://www.askdrsears.com/topics/sleep-problems/sids-latest-research-how-sleeping-your-baby-safe and
http://cosleeping.nd.edu/ Also see: McKenna, J., Ball H., Gettler L.,
Mother-infant Cosleeping, Breastfeeding and SIDS: What Biological Anthropologists Have Learned About Normal
Infant Sleep and Pediatric Sleep, Medicine.
Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 50:133-161 (2007); McKenna, J., McDade, T.,
Why Babies Should Never Sleep Alone: A Review of the Co-Sleeping Controversy in Relation to SIDS,
Bedsharing and Breastfeeding. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews 6:134-152 (2005)
Myth -- Breastfeeding by the mother offers no important advantages over bottlefeeding expressed breastmilk.
Fact: Breastfeeding directly from the breast offers significant benefits over bottlefeeding expressed breastmilk
for both mother and infant, including, among others: infant jaw development, infant control of milk flow, psychological
attachment of infant to mother, health benefits for mother that pumping the breast does not achieve, infant's ability to
feed on demand, the stimulation and maintenance of mother' smilk supply that pumping alone cannot achieve
(and some women cannot successfully pump), avoidance of problems such as that some babies will not move back and
forth easily between bottle and breast, nutritional variation of milk during the breastfeeding, that it's
cheaper and avoids the need for a variety of feeding equipment, and that breastmilk from the breast is always fresh
and free of contaminents.
Fact: "The nutritional benefits of breast milk appear to be the factor in the average intelligence gain
of breast-fed infants. Researchers estimate that 60% of the increase comes from the food value of the milk
with the other 40% from the maternal-childbond."
Anderson, J.W., et al.Breast-feeding and cognitive development:
a meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999 Oct; 70(4):525-535.
Fact: "The benefits extend to women. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk for
developing osteoporosis, breast and ovarian cancers and type 2 diabetes, among other health benefits...
See cites at
Fact: Controversy exists over thesafety of polycarbonate plastics widely used in baby bottles and other
food containers, especially when heated. The industry (which has a financial interest) marshals
studies and arguments claiming the clear plastic is safe, while environmental safety groups claim
otherwise, and point to research that has found widespread harms in animal studies.
See e.g. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/561228,http://www.bisphenol-a.org/sixty-minutes2a.html,
Myth -- Babies will be better "socialized" if they get used to a variety of caregivers,
rather than depending on just one.
Fact: "The most important relationship in a child's life is the attachment to his or her primary caregiver,
optimally, the mother. This is due to the fact that this first relationship determines the biological and emotional
'template' for all future relationships. Healthy attachment to the mother built by repetitive bonding experiences
during infancy provides the solid foundation for future healthy relationships. In contrast, problems with bonding and
attachment can lead to a fragile biological and emotional foundation for future relationships."
Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D,
Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children, ChildTraumaAcademy, Parent and Caregiver Education
Series; Volume 1, Number 4, October, 1999
Alsosee: Odent, Michele "The Scientification of Love," Free Association Books/ London/ New York, 1999;
Janov, Arthur, "The Biology of Love;"Prometheus Books, New York, 2000; Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, &
Lannon, Richard, "A General Theory of Love," Random House, New York, 2000; Pearce, Joseph Chilton,
"The Biology of Transcendence," Inner Traditions - Bear & Co., 2002; Heath, R. G. (1975):
"Maternal-social deprivation and abnormal brain development: Disorders of emotional and
social behavior," In Brain Function and Malnutrition: Neuropsychological Methods of Assessment
(Prescott, J.W., Read, M.S., & Coursin, D.B.,Eds). John Wiley, New York;
Fact:"Results for very young infants who spend more than thirty hours a week in the more
institutionalized settings, where a few caregivers struggle to meet the needs of many infants, or for children who
bounce from one facility to another, are less [than] encouraging... Not only can effects be seen in the way
infants respond to their mothers, but also in the way mothers respond to their babies, who are already
harder to soothe. Mothers who used daycare more than thirty hours a week tended to be less sensitive
with their six-month-olds, more negative with fifteen-month-olds, than mothers who used daycare ten hours a week...
Experts differ over just how flexible, how adaptable, human infants might be, yet no one is saying that human
adaptability provides a carte blanche for indiscriminate care."
Hrdy, Sara Blaffer.
MotherNature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection,
1999. pp 506-7.
Fact: A study released in 2003 by Carol George and and Judith Solomon of Mills College found that two-thirds
of 12- to-18 month-olds who regularly spent overnight visits away from their mothers exhibited disorganized
attachment to both their mothers and fathers, compared with babies who were not subjected to this arrangement
(e.g. who saw their fathers only during daytime visits.)
George, Carol and Judith Solomom. OVERNIGHT VISITS AFFECT BABIES' ATTACHMENT
TO SEPARATED OR DIVORCING PARENTS http://www.newswise.com/articles/2003/4/DIVORCE.MLS.html
Comment: The study news release [4-3-03] optimistically proclaims that "overnights per se" were
not the sole factor that caused the problems. However, confounding factors were those virtually
certain to be present in contested custody disputes, e.g. disagreement and emotional tension between the parents,
inconsistency in parenting, inability of the parents to communicate harmoniously.
Fact: "Secure attachment is understood to be an important feature of adjustment
in infants and children, much of which is organized in the child's earliest experiences.
The mother is presumed to be the only attachment figure before Lamb,
among other researchers, conducted a series of studies to determine the conditions under
which infants and toddlers preferred mothers over fathers (e.g., Lamb, 1976a, 1977a,1977b).
Attachment relations were not restricted to mothers. Children chose the available parent under distress,
and when both parents were available, the mother was preferred."
Center on Fathers and Families, Father Presence Matters: A Review of the Literature, Toward an
Ecological Framework of Fathering and Child Outcomes, by Deborah J. Johnson
Lamb, M. E. (1976a). Interactions between two-year-olds and their mothers and
fathers. Psychological Reports,38, 447-450; Lamb, M. E. (Ed.). (1976b). The role of the father in child development.
New York: Wiley; Lamb, M. E. (1977a). The development of mother-infant and father-infant attachments in the
second year of life. Developmental Psychology, 13, 637-648; Lamb, M. E. (1977b). The development of parental
preferences in the first two years of life. Sex Roles, 3.
Myth -- Having a child "cements" a marriage and brings a couple closer together.
Fact: More often, the birth of a first child disrupts marital harmony and requires adjustment.
Among other things, "the increased time spent with the newborn often reduces the time husband and wife spend
together. The decreased time spent alone as a couple for first-time parents often contributes to a decline
in marital satisfaction."
Belsky, J. ( 1986). Transition
to parenthood. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 20, 56-59.; Feldman,S.S., & Nash, S.C. (1984).
The transition from expectancy to parenthood: Impact of the firstborn child on men and women.
Sex Roles, 11, 61-78; Levy-Shiff,R. (1994).
Individual and contextual correlates of marital change across the transition to parenthood.
Developmental Psychology, 30, 591-601; Wright, P.J., Henggeler, S.W., & Craig, L. (1986).
Problems in paradise? A longitudinal examination of the transition to parenthood.
Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 7, 277-291.
Also see: Sonja Perren, et al. Intergenerational Transmission of Marital Quality Across the Transition to
Parenthood, Family Process Vol. 44 Issue 4 (Dec 2005) 379-504 (Amount of marital decline with arrival
of first child is influenced by parents'families of origin).
Fact: "This meta-analysis finds that parents report lower marital satisfaction compared with nonparents.
There is also a significant negative correlation between marital satisfaction and number of children.
The difference in marital satisfaction is most pronounced among mothers of infants (38% of mothers
of infants have high marital satisfaction, compared with 62% of childless women).
For men, the effect remains similar across ages of children. The effect of parenthood on marital
satisfaction is more negative among high socioeconomic groups, younger birth cohorts, and in more recent years.
The data suggest that marital satisfaction decreases after the birth of a child due to role conflicts
and restriction of freedom."
Jean M. Twenge, W. Keith Campbell,Craig A Foster (2003) Parenthood and Marital Satisfaction: A Meta-Analytic
Review Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (3), 574-583.
Fact: "Married mothers' lives are marked by more housework and more marital conflict but
less depression than their childless counterparts. Parental status has little influenceon the lives of married men."
Kei M. Nomaguchi, Melissa A.
Milkie (2003) Costs and Rewards of Children: The Effects of Becoming a Parent on Adults' Lives
Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2), 356-374.
Myth -- Women and men are now equal economically; mothers are no longer dependent spouses.
Fact: "Several recent studies have shown a negative association between motherhood and wages.
However, an analysis of change over time in the motherhood penalty has not been conducted.
Using two cohorts of young women drawn from the 1975-1985 National Longitudinal Survey of Young
Women and the 1986-1998 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we explicitly test the relationship
between motherhood and wages across two cohorts and examine whether that relationship has changed.
Even after controlling for unobserved heterogeneity and human capital variables, each additional child
is associated with a negative effect on women's wages. Moreover, our findings suggest that the penalty
has not diminished over time."
Avellar, Pamela J. Smock (2003) Has the Price of Motherhood Declined OverTime? A Cross-Cohort Comparison
of the Motherhood Wage Penalty Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (3), 597-607.
Myth -- Wives do more housework and childcare than husbands because husbands earn more of the income;
it's about role division.
Fact: "Women's own earnings matter more to their housework performance than do their earnings
compared to their husbands', that is, their relative earnings." Women who earn more (relative to other women)
do less housework and childcare, and vice versa. It is possible that as women earn more, they purchase
lower-cost third-party help. But that women do more in the home bears little relationship to whether their
husbands earn more or less relative to their wives.
Sanjiv Gupta (2007) Autonomy, Dependence, or Display? The Relationship Between Married Women's Earnings and
Housework Journal of Marriage and Family 69(2), 399-417.
Fact: "Married mothers in dual-income households generally experience more positive affect
at work and more negative at home. In contrast, their husbands experience the reverse: experiencing more negative
emotion at work and more positive at home. What seems to account for these differences is that these men
do less housework and cooking, engage less with their children, and enjoy more relaxation and leisure when
at home than do their wives."
Terry Arendell (2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade's Scholarship Journal of Marriage
and Family 62 (4), 1192-1207.
Fact: "Although men's relative contributions have increased, women still do at least twice as much
routine housework as men."
Scott Coltrane (2000) Research on Household Labor: Modeling and Measuring the Social Embeddedness
of Routine Family Work, Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1208-1233.
Fact: "[E]mployed women tend to label unbalanced divisions of labor as fair and from research
showing that men who do little persist in seeing the allocation of household tasks as fair
(Ward, 1993). Suitor (1991) replicated the oft-cited U-shaped curve of marital satisfaction by finding that wives'
satisfaction with the division of household labor is highest in the preparental and postparental stages
and lowest when children are present (i.e., when women do the most domestic work).
In contrast, husbands' fairness ratings and satisfaction with housework show little variation across the life
Fact: "Studies find that young teenage girls do about twice the amount of household labor as
young teenage boys do (Juster & Stafford, 1991), with girls concentrating their efforts on routine inside
chores of cooking and cleaning and boys concentrating their efforts on occasional outside chores such as yard
care (Antill et al., 1996; Blair, 1992b; Goldscheider & Waite, 1991; McHaleet al., 1990)."
Fact: After a child is born, mothers "shouldered the majority of child care and did not decrease their paid work hours.
Furthermore, the gender gap was not present prebirth but emerged postbirth with women doing more than 2 hours of additional
work per day..."
Yavorsky, J. E., Kamp Dush, C. M. and Schoppe-Sullivan, S. J. (2015), The Production of Inequality: The Gender Division of
Labor Across the Transition to Parenthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77: 662-679.
Myth -- There would be fewer divorces if husbands helped out equally in the home.
A 2012 Norwegian study shows that an increased divorced rate is correlated with sharing housework.
Popular news article
Study (in Norwegian) can be downloaded here.
Myth-- A close relationship with a spouse's parents helps prevent divorce.
A close relationship by men with their wives' parents nay help prevent divorce, but a study published
in 2013 that correlated a
20% decease in divorce among couples in which the husband was close with the wife's parents also correlated
a 20% increase in divorce among couples in which the wife was close with the husband's parents.
a good son-in-law helps. But being a good daughter-in-law (perhaps because of increased caregiving and social chores
typically placed disproportionately on women) creates a burden. Caveat: the study is touted
as big, i.e., a 20-year-longitudinal study, but nevertheless followed a relatively small number of couples
who were not racially representative of the population -- black American (n=199) and white American (n=174).
Orbuch, T. L., Bauermeister, J. A., Brown, E. and McKinley, B.-D. (2013), Early Family Ties and Marital
Stability Over 16 Years: The Context of Race and Gender. Family Relations, 62: 255-268.
Myth -- The divorce rate is increasing, and more couples than ever are getting divorced.
Fact: Our population has grown in numbers, however "[t]he rate
of divorces per year per 1000 people in the U.S. has been declining since
Paul Amato Department of Sociology University of Nebraska-Lincoln,
Fact: "The divorce rate per 1,000 population was 4.7 in 1989 and 1990 and is 11 percent
lower than the peak rate of 5.3 in 1979 and 1981."
The National Center for Health Statistics has released a new report,
Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1989 and 1990,
Fact: Touting a "fifty percent divorce rate" is misleading.
Touting a "quadrupling in the numbers of divorced persons," given the increasing population is misleading.
In 1970, 3% of all persons over 18 years of age were divorced.
After nearly 25 years of a lessening on legal restrictions hampering the right of persons to get out of
untenable marriages, in 1994, post the "divorce revolution," the percentage of all persons over 18 who were divorced was 9%.
See Saluter, Arlene, Marital
Status and Living Arrangements: March 1994, U.S.. Bureau of the Census, March 1996;
Also see John Crouch's page on the "fifty percent" statistic
Myth -- Premarital counseling can help prevent divorces.
Fact: While couples who experienced premarital counseling claim to be more satisfied in their marriages
than couples who did not, in the end there is no difference in marital outcomes between those couples who have had
extensive premarital counseling and those who have not.
Sullivan, K.T., & Bradbury, T.N. (1997).
Are premarital prevention programs reaching couples at risk for marital dysfunction?
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65 (1), 24-30.
Myth -- Religious faith and Christian family values can help prevent divorces.
Fact: The states with the highest divorce rates in the United States are those in the South which
also have the most Christian churches, the highest percentages of persons who identify as being "churched,"
the lowest percentages of women who identify as "feminist," and the most pervasive and traditional
perspectives on family roles. "[F]our of the five states with the highest resident divorce rates in the country
are in the Deep South, where families pray together but, apparently, can't stay together.
Metropolitan states like Massachusetts and New York, supposed havens of marital dysfunction,
actually have comparatively low divorce rates."
http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2000/01/24/divorce/index.html"Southern governors declare war on divorce."
See the figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.(Some of the 1994
statistics are reproduced at http://www.divorcereform.org/94staterates.html)
Myth -- Religious faith and Christian family values can help prevent teen pregnancies.
Fact: The teen birth rate rises with the religiosity of the teenager's home.
"At the level of states in the U.S., conservative religious beliefs predict teen birth rates highly and significantly;
the correlation remains high and significant after controlling for income and estimated rates of abortion."
Hoseph M. Strayhorn and Jillian C. Strayhorn,
Religiosity and teen birth rate in the United States Reproductive Health (2009), 6:14
Myth -- Married people are happier and healthier.
The actual misrepresented findings of study after study show that on average, currently married persons
are only marginally happier
than people who have never married, and that these people were happier as a group
before they married.
Marriage did not make them
happier. Moreover, these comparisons -- between continuously married and never-married persons -- omit
point that the least happy groups (but again, only marginally so) are those people who were formerly
married -- and that the formerly married end up less happy than they were before they ever married.
So while it cannot be said that marriage increases happiness,
for the divorced and widowed (everyone, eventually), it fairly could be said that
their marriages correlate with eventual reduced happiness.
Writeups of the studies on marriage and health contain similar misrepresentations and distortions.
"Married people who had gotten divorced
by the second time the survey researchers contacted them were... healthier..." Williams and
Umberson found that men showed temporary increases in their health when first married
and temporary declines in their health when first divorced or widowed,
but "[r]egardless of whether they got married, got unmarried,
stayed married, or stayed single, women (on average) noticed no real changes in their health."
Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.,
"Singled Out" (St. Martin's Press 2006), Ch. 2, pp. 28-61. (The author debunks most of popular marriage
promotion research as misrepresentation, exaggeration, or distortion. "It is worth returning
to Waite and Gallagher's signature claim that married
people are happier... When authors make pronouncements like that, I like to look up all the studies upon which the conclusions
are based to see what the original authors really did report..." p. 41.
Even scholar Mavis Hetherington is not spared DePaulo's conscientious scrutiny and critical thinking:
"The first few times I saw such 'happily' statements, I thought they were just sloppy writing errors...
Hetherington and her coauthor John Kelly,
for example, noted that 'happily married couples are healthier, happier, wealthier,
and sexier...' Did they really mean to say that married people are happier than
single people, as long as you include among the married people only those who are happy?
Well, actually, they did... When you compare unhappiness levels across groups, no one matches the unhappily married
in misery..." p. 49.)
Myth -- Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.
Fact: No research has found this. Some of the research has found a correlation (notcausation) between
premarital cohabiting and later divorces. It's likely that a significant percentage of these couples cohabited,
delaying their marriage, because they were unsure of each other to begin with, and that others ended up marrying
because of social pressures connected with the cohabiting. "DeMaris and MacDonald (1993) found that the only
situation in which cohabitation is associated with a higher divorce rate is among 'serial cohabitors' -- people
who have cohabited with more than one partner.That's a small portion of all cohabitors. The study actually concluded
that for first-time cohabitors who then marry their partners, there's no increased risk of divorce."
Problems (Plus One Bonus Problem) With The National Marriage Project's Cohabitation Report,
http://www.unmarried.org/10problems.html. Also see: Ross, Catherine (1995). "Reconceptualizing Marital Status as a Continuum
of Social Attachment." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 57:1, 129-40; Susan L. Brown and Alan Booth. 1996.
"Cohabitation Versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality." Journal of Marriage and the Family.
Myth -- Women [who file for two-thirds of divorces] often file for divorce for vague or frivolous reasons,
such as "boredom," or to "find themselves."
Fact: "[Th}e first major study of divorce reasons ... found that wives cited twice as many complaints
as husbands, and were far more likely to complain of physical abuse, financial problems, drinking, and verbal
abuse; husbands were more likely to cite in-law trouble and sexual incompatibility. Results varied by socioeconomic
status: lower-status couples seemed more concerned with problem behaviors, while middle-class couples concentrated
on emotional issues."
Levinger, G. (1966). Sources
of marital dissatisfation among applicants for divorce. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 36,, pp 803 - 807
Fact: "The majority of men and women in this study mentioned affective dimensions of their marriage relationship -
encompassing communication problems, incompatibility, changed lifestyle desires and instances of infidelity -
as the main reason for their divorce... Differences between men and women emerged where abusive behaviour was cited
as a main reason," with far more women citing abuse.
Wolcott, Ilene and Jody Hughes(1999),
Working paper No. 20 June 1999 Towards understanding the reasons for divorce.
Fact: "Presland and Gluckstern(1993) found that one-third of women aged 45 and over who had been married
for at least 15 years and who had initiated the final separation also had not wanted the marriage to end,
or were uncertain about it. A husband's affair was a main contributing reason for initiating separation..."
Wolcott, citing Presland, P. &
Gluckstern, H. (1993), 'Divorce for mature age women: why now?', NSW Family Court of Australia,
Fact: "[T]he more a man buys into masculine stereotypes, the worse it will be for his wife, because
this kind of relationship puts a huge amount of strain on women. As she's the one feeling the stress, it's not surprising
that she's the one to say 'enough'. However, saying 'enough' comes only after women have tried to find ways to make the
marriage work, by accessing counselling services and support from friends and family."
Macken, Julie. Financial Review
August 28, 1999 Australia, The mystery of why women marry http://lists.his.com/smartmarriages/msg00812.html
Fact: "In Britain in 1995, 26% of divorces were granted on grounds of adultery; 44% for unreasonable behaviour;
23% after a two year separation by mutual consent; 6% after a five year separation and fewer than 1% on the grounds of
desertion. Identifying the point of 'irretrievable breakdown' is difficult, and many factors contribute to divorce..."
For more, see: Why
Do People Divorce? (Why women file for the majority of divorces.)
Myth -- Mothers in two-parent homes are better parents than single mothers.
Fact: "Single mothers spend similar amounts of time engaged in primary child care as married mothers."
Sarah M. Kendig
and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Single, Cohabitating, and Married Mothers' Time With Children, Journal of Marriage and
Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages1228 - 1240 (2008)
Fact: "[T]here does not appear to be a significant difference in quality of parenting between divorced
mothers and mothers in intact homes, when controlling for income.
Rosenthal, D., Leigh, G.K., &
Elardo, R. (1985). Home environment of three to six year old children from father-absent and two-parent families.
Journal of Divorce,9 (2), 41-48.
Colletta, N. D. (1979). The impact of divorce: Father absence or poverty? Journal of Divorce, 3(1),27-35.
Fact: "[D]espite their greater dating experiences, [adolescents] from single-mother families were
lesslikely to choose their romantic partners over mothers as primary confidants than those from
two-biological-parent families... [and] unlike the popular notion that it is normative for adolescents to turn away
from their parents, the adolescents who nominated peers -- romantic partners or friends -- were more likely than those
who nominated mothers to have increased involvement in delinquency or substance use."
Kei M. Nomaguchi, Gender, Family Structure, and
Adolescents' Primary Confidants, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5,
Pages 1213 - 1227 (2008)
Fact: "[S]ingle mothers have higher poverty rates than other families and ...a substantial portion of
their poverty is a consequence of marital disruption."
McLanahan, S., & Booth,K. (1989). Mother-only
families: Problems, prospects, and politics. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51
Fact: "A new multiethnic study at Cornell University has found that being a single parent does not appear
to have a negative effect on the behavior or educational performance ofa mother's 12- and 13-year-old children.
What mattered most in this study, Cornell researcher Henry Ricciuti says, is a mother's education and ability level and,
to a lesser extent, family income and quality of the home environment. He found consistent links
between these maternal attributes and a child's school performance and behavior...
The study is a follow-up of children who were assessed when they were 6 and 7 years old. The first study, publishedin 1999,
found that single parenthood did not affect young children's school readiness or social or behavioral problems..."
Adverse affects of "single parenthood" did not emerge over a period of 6 to 7 years in which children's mothers
did not have a spouse or partner living in the home.
Cornell News, May 6, 2004. Ricciuti, Henry.
Journal of Educational Research (Vol. 97, No.4) http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May04/single.parents.ssl.html.
Fact: Stress negatively impacts parenting, as well as other kinds of functioning. Stress factors that are
more likely to be present and to affect single mothers than happily married mothers include: financial problems,
living in a bad neighborhood, juggling increased outside employment and childcare demands, post-break-up domestic
violence and harassment, divorce and custody litigation, and interference with family and household routines by nonresident
parents and other third parties (i.e. responsibility without decision-making authority).
See, e.g., Tama Leventhal, Ph.D. (Center for
Children and Families, Columbia University)
Does Neighborhood Disadvantage Affect Family Well-being? Evidence From a Randomized Mobility Experiment;
Jennifer Jenkins, Ph.D. (Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto), Thomas O'Connor, Ph.D.
(Institute of Psychiatry), and John Rasbash (University of London) Understanding the Sources of Differential
Parenting: The Role of Family and Child Level Effects; Xiaojia Ge, Ph.D. (University of California-Davis), Gene
Brody, Ph.D. (University of Georgia) and Ronald Simons (Iowa State University) Contextual Amplification of Pubertal
Transition Effects on Deviant Peer Affiliation and Externalizing Behavior, all cited at
Fact: "The most stressed of all mothers are those who are married, employed, have young children, and
encounter difficulty in locating and affording child care and handle childrearing mostly alone
(Benin & Keith, 1995; Hughes & Galinsky, 1994;Marshall, Barnett, et al., 1998;
Neal, Chapman, Ingersol-Dayton, &Emlen, 1993; Sears & Galambos, 1993)...
When economic conditions are constant, single and married women experience similar levels of maternal distress
(Ross & Van Willigen, 1996)."
Terry Arendell (2000) Conceiving and
Investigating Motherhood: The Decade's Scholarship Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4),
Myth -- Children raised in single mother homes are more likely than children raised in two-parent homes
to have problems with their adult relationships.
Fact: It'snot true. A study of family interactions spanning three generations and comparing the adult
relationships of children from single mother households with those from two parent households found that children
who had warm, supportive relationships with their single mothers formed
satisfying, committed relationships with equal success to those who had similar parent-child relationships
in two-parent homes. It depends upon the parents.
University College of Agriculture 8-Feb-01, http://www.newswise.com/articles/2001/2/ROMANTIC.IAG.html
Myth -- Single mothers have less time and energy to give their children than married mothers.
Fact: "[After accounting for maternal and child personal characteristics], single mothers spend significantly
more time in primary and routine child care activities than married mothers and spend similar amounts of
time in interactive childcare activities and total time with children as married mothers.
Single mothers have higher rates of employment and tend to be less educated, both of which are associated
with reduced child care time. Controlling for these two factors, in addition to controls for maternal age, age of youngest
child, number of children, and race/ethnicity, eliminates or reverses differences in child care time between
married and single mothers. Cohabiting mothers do not differ significantly from married mothers..."
Sarah M. Kendig
and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Single, Cohabitating, and Married Mothers' Time With Children, Journal of Marriage and
Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages1228 - 1240 (2008)
Comment: "The current policy focus on marriage and disadvantages of children in single-parent
families seems to miss the important fact that all mothers try to privilege investments in their children over other things,
to the extent they are able. It is conceivable that spending time with their children may become especially precious
to single mothers and the focus of their energies. Single mothers do not have the support for parenting
from a partner that married mothers have. At the same time, they also do not have to negotiate with a partner about
expenditures of either their time or money and may often make children the central focus of both."
Fact: "Utilizing the 2003 and 2004 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), this study examines the relationship between
family structure and maternal time with children among 4,309 married mothers and 1,821 single mothers with children less
than 13 years of age. Single mothers spend less time with their children than married mothers, though the differences are not
large. Marital status and living arrangement differences in time with children largely disappear or single mothers engage
in more child care than married mothers after controls for socioeconomic status and other characteristics are introduced.
Thus, less maternal time with children appears to be mainly attributable to the disadvantaged social structural location
of single mothers rather than different proclivities toward mothering between married and single mothers."
Sarah M. Kendig and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Single, Cohabitating, and Married Mothers' Time With Children,
Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1228 - 1240 (2008)
Fact: Notnecessarily. And it's not directly correlated with employment of the mother, either. Being married
and maintaining a household with a man itself consumes a significant amount of mother's time and attention, both directly to
the relationship as well as in heavier homemaking burdens (even men who "help out" in the home seldom contribute equivalent to the
chores they create.) In addition, "Engle and Breaux (1998) have shown that some fathers' consumption of family resources
in terms of gambling, purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, or other nonessential commodities, actually increased women' sworkload
and stress level."
Louise B. Silverstein
and Carl F. Auerbach, "Deconstructing the Essential Father," AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 54, No. 6 397-407
Fact: The studies look at this issue more honestly when it's a man other than the children's father, e.g.:
"[T]he two-adult structure of a coresidential or cohabiting arrangement might benefit children, providing more adults
to supervise, monitor, and be emotionally involved with children. At the same time, cohabiting males or stepfathers may
compete with children for mothers' time and resources, thereby diminishing children's well-being."
Living arrangements of single-mother families: Variations, transitions, and child development outcomes.
Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies
Fact: "Our major finding is that union formation and/or the disruption of new unions have very few effects
on mothering. Mothers' and children's reports sometimes produce different results, but the patterns do not suggest
that children's reports are any more or less accurate than those of mothers. The most consistent effects of union change
indicate that the presence of a partner reduces mothers' time with children... Remarriage or repartnering is not good
if we value time for and supervision of children. Children in intact unions at the second survey report spending less time
with their mothers than children whose mothers were single."
Jane Mosley, Thomas L. Hanson, Sara S. McLanahan, REMARRIAGE,COHABITATION, AND CHANGES IN MOTHERING Center for Research on
Child Wellbeing Working Paper #98-14
Fact: "[H]usbands seem to create more labor in the household by their mere presence -as much as
eight hours more labor per week - despite the work that they do perform in the home.
In other words, even when a man's labor in the household has been taken into account, he causes eight
hours of labor for his spouse (South and Spitze 1994)."
Why Don't Low-Income Single Mothers Get Married (or Remarried)? Kathryn Edin University of Pennsylvania Department
of Sociology 3718 Locust Walk Philadelphia,PA 19119
Fact: "Controlling for work hours, single parents are not more likely than married parents to feel that
they spend insufficient time with children."
Melissa A. Milkie,
Marybeth J. Mattingly, Kei M. Nomaguchi, Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson (2004) The Time Squeeze:
Parental Statuses and Feelings About Time With Children Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (3),
Fact: "Marriage increases the amount of time that women spend in household labor (Bianchiet al.,
2000) and decreases the amount of time that men spend in household labor (Gupta, 1999). Not surprisingly,
marriage curtails women's free time and has few effects on men's free time (Mattingly & Bianchi, 2003). Upon the
birth of a child, the household division of labor becomes even more traditional (Gjerdingen & Center, 2005; Sanchez
& Thomson,1997; Thompson & Walker, 1989) and the gender gap in free time becomes even more pronounced
(Mattingly & Bianchi). These household demands affect women's work. Married women are more likely than married men to
report that family demands have caused them to turn down overtime hours and beneficial work assignments
(Keene & Reynolds, 2005).
(2007) Marriage and the Motherhood Wage Penalty Among African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites, Journal
of Marriage and Family 69 (4), 951-961.
Fact: "Employed and full-time mothers generally engage in the same array of child care activities,
with the exception that full-time mothers watch more television with their children
(Bryant & Zick, 1996; DeMeis & Perkins, 1996). Mothers holding employment do not spend less time with their children
than full-time homemaker mothers (see Bianchi & Robinson, 1997). Further, many employed mothers "compensate for their
absence from the home during work hours by increasing the amount of time they spend in intense interaction with children
during nonwork hours [Mischel and Fuhr, 1988]"(Amato & Booth, 1997, p. 60)."
(2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade's Scholarship Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4),
1192-1207. ("Single and married mothers spend roughly the same amount of time in total family and childcare responsibilities
(Bianchi & Robinson, 1997; Duxbury, Higgins,& Lee, 1994").
Fact: Women first shave time from their own personal activities when there is a deficit because of employment or
other factors, not from the children. Even in circumstances in which lone mothers have less time for their children than
they would have had if married, the studies all are quite clear that lone fathers spend even less parenting time
with children. So flipflopping children in joint custody won't alleviate this situation -- it merely will
rotate the children from one parent who is devoting less time than she formerly did to another who is devoting
even less time. For more on joint custody, see liznotes.
(2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade's Scholarship Journal of Marriage
and Family 62 (4), 1192-1207. ("Single and married mothers spend roughly the same amount of
time in total family and childcare responsibilities
(Bianchi & Robinson, 1997; Duxbury, Higgins,& Lee, 1994").
Also see: Huston, A.C. & Aronson, S. R.
(2005). Mothers' time with infant and time in employment as predictors of mother-child relationships
and children's early development. Child Development, 76, 467-482. "...working mothers tended to compensate
by sacrificing other activities, like housework or socialising, and by spending more time with
their children at weekends than non-working mothers."
Myth -- Divorce, especially in and around the time of litigation, causes mothers to become overwhelmed and
results in a diminishment in mothers' parenting.
Fact: Parenting practices are unrelated to divorce. "...to determine whether divorced parents exhibit
a diminished capacity to parent in the period following divorce. Using 2 waves of data from a national
survey of Canadian children, the current study prospectively follows 5,004 children living in 2-biological parent
households at initial interview and compares changes in parenting practices between households that subsequently
divorce and those that remain intact. Results show that divorce is unrelated to changes in parenting behavior,
suggesting that there are more similarities than differences in parenting among recently divorced and continuously
Lisa Strohschein (2007) Challenging the Presumption of Diminished Capacity to Parent:
Does Divorce Really Change Parenting Practices? Family Relations 56 (4), 358-368.
"My findings that parenting practices are unrelated to
divorce appear to fly in the face of accepted wisdom," states Strohschein. "Undoubtedly, some parents will be
overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of parenting in the post-divorce period, but the expectation
that all parents will be negatively affected by divorce is unfounded."
"This study is important because governments in both Canada and the US have allocated considerable resources
over the past decade to provide parenting seminars on a mandatory or voluntary basis to parents who legally
divorce," says Strohschein. "Although these programs do assist parents and children in adjusting to divorce, it is
equally clear that not all parents will be well served by such programs. For those who work directly with families
during the divorce process, this means making greater effort to build on the existing strengths of parents."
"Researchers need to shed much more lighton the predictors of parenting behavior in the post-divorce period so that this
knowledge can be used to design programs that effectively target the real needs of divorced parents,"
Also see: http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/536088/
Fact: "...Freeman and
Newland (2002) detected no differences in parental control or responsiveness among newly divorced and stable
two-parent households, either prior to or following marital change. Similarly, Hanson, McLanahan, and Thomson(1998) failed
to find postdivorce differences in maternal supervision between divorced and continuously married parents.
These findings further support the limited applicability of a diminished capacity to parent in the aftermath of divorce...
The finding that parenting practices are unrelated to divorce appears to fly in the face of accepted wisdom.
In actuality, such beliefs are intuitive only to those inclined to view divorce as unavoidably destructive or who
infer that people with failed marriages must also lack the qualities required of a good parent... the expectation
that all parents will be adversely affected not only is unfounded but may also represent an inefficient use of resources
and services for those who do not need them."
Id. Also see: Freeman, H. S., &
Newland, L. A. (2002). Family transitions during the adolescent transition: Implications for parenting.
Adolescence, 37, 457-475. Hanson, T. L., McLanahan, S., & Thomson, E. (1998). Windows on divorce: Before and after.
Social Science Research, 27, 329-349.
Myth -- Divorce increases the risk that children
will suffer relationship issues and divorces themselves when they become adults.
Fact: It's not the divorce or separation per se that
affects the children,
but the correlated parental factors
that are more likely to be present in families that undergo divorce. "[T]he general associations between childhood parental
separation/divorce and partner relationships in adulthood reflect the consequences of
various contextual factors that are associated with childhood parental separation" such as
parental illicit drug use, childhood sexual abuse,
interparental conflict and violence, childhood physical maltreatment, family
economic issues, and parental criminality.
Fergusson, D. M., McLeod, G. F. H. and
John Horwood, L. (2013), Parental separation/divorce
in childhood and partnership outcomes at age 30. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Myth -- Divorce harms children.
Fact: "Based on two waves of a large, nationally representative panel, this study demonstrates
that even before the disruption, both male and female adolescents from families that subsequently dissolve exhibit
more academic, psychological, and behavioral problems than peers whose parents remain married.
Families on the verge of breakup are also characterized by less intimate parent-parent and parent-child relationships,
less parental commitment to children's education, and fewer economic and human resources. These differences
in family environment account for most well-being deficits among adolescents in predisrupted families. Furthermore,
the deterioration in different domains of the family environment appears to be associated with maladjustment
in different aspects of children'slives. The postdisruption effects on adolescents can either be totally
or largely predicted by predisruption factors and by changes in family circumstances during the period
coinciding with the disruption."
Yongmin Sun (2001) Family Environment and Adolescents'
Well-Being Before and After Parents' Marital Disruption: A Longitudinal Analysis Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (3),697-713.
large national data sets: (a) the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Cohort
(kindergarten through the 5th grade) and (b) the National Educational Longitudinal Study
(8th grade to the senior year of high school). In both data sets, divorce and death were
associated with multiple negative outcomes among children. Although evidence for a causal effect of
divorce on children was reasonably strong, effect sizes were small in magnitude. A second analysis
revealed a substantial degree of variability in children's outcomes following parental divorce, with some
children declining, others improving, and most not changing at all."
Amato, P. R. and Anthony, C. J. (2014),
Estimating the Effects of Parental Divorce and Death With Fixed Effects Models.
Journal of Marriage and Family, 76: 370-386.
Fact: "The quality of the single-parent family environment is at least as important for children's
well-being as the fact of the divorce itself."
Heath, P. A., & MacKinnon,C. (1988). Factors
related to the social competence of children in single-parent families. Journal of Divorce, 11, 49-65.
Fact: "Meta-analysis supports the notion that the impact
of father absence appears to be mediated by family conflict; father absence in itself may not affect children's well-being.
The family conflict perspective was strongly confirmed by the data. This perspective holds that children
in intact families with high levels of conflict should have the same well-being problems as children of divorce, and
the data supported this hypothesis."
Amato, P. R., & Keith,B. (1991). Parental divorce
and the well-being of children: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 26-46.
Also see: Myths and Facts about Fathers,
Fact: "[T]he most psychologically salient
long-term influence on children is their relationship with the residential parent, not the physical separation
of the parents, although it may be the most obvious and acutely distressing aspect of divorce."
Emery, R. (1988). Marriage, divorce, and children's adjustment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Fact: "Various researchers conclude that it is intraparental
conflict which most adversely affects children in divorce (e.g., Johnston et al., 1989; Furstenberg and Cherlin, 1991;
Emery, 1988; Ferreiro, 1990). Many children enter the divorce phase already disadvantaged by exposure to
parental strife and conflict (Chase-Lansdale and Hetherington, 1990; Block et al., 1988; Block et al., 1986;
Hetherington et al., 1982; Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980). Without question, as a large body of literature demonstrates
(e.g., Furstenberg and Cherlin, 1991; Seltzeret al., 1989; Seltzer, 1991a), many children are adversely affected economically
when fathers fail to contribute financial support subsequent to divorce: only about half of divorced fathers
comply fully and regularly with child support orders. Moreover, child support payments amounted to only about 17% of
the total income of custodial mothers and their children in 1989, with the average monthly child support payments
made by fathers, not including those who contributed nothing, being 277 dollars (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992).
Mothers in several studies argued that the economic hardship which accompanied divorce was the source of most
of their and their children's difficulties (Arendell, 1986; Kurz, 1995)."
Arendell, Terry. Co-Parenting: A Review of the
Literature, National Center on Fathers and Families, 1999.
Fact: "Research seeking explanations for the links between
divorce and the adverse outcomes experienced by some children has found that: financial hardship and other family
circumstances that pre-date, as well as follow, separation play an important part inlimiting children's educational achievement;
family conflict before, during and after separation is stressful for children who may respond by becoming anxious,
aggressive or withdrawn; the ability of parents to recover from the distress associated with separation is important
for children's own ability to adjust." Another important factor is multiple changes in family structure.
Rodgers, Bryan and Jan Pryor,(1998)
Divorce and separation: the outcomes for children, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York Publishing Services, 64
Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZQ,
Fact: "Controlling for predivorce parental socioeconomic and psychosocial resources fully accounts
for poorer child mental health at initial interview among children whose parents later divorce... a
significant interaction between parental divorce and predivorce levels of family dysfunction suggests that child antisocial
behavior decreases when marriages in highly dysfunctional families are dissolved."
Lisa Strohschein (2005) Parental Divorce and Child Mental Health
Trajectories Journal of Marriage and Family67 (5), 1286-1300.
Fact: "[W]e discovered that many of the seeming effects of childhood divorce disappear when we control for pre-divorce
circumstances including background characteristics of the family and measures of how the child was doing at age 7 before
Kierrnan, Kathleen, The Legacy of Parental Divorce:
Social, economic and demographic experiences adulthood, CASEpaper Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion,
London School of Economics, October 1997<
Comment: "Undoubtedly, children benefit from being
raised in an emotionally and economically secure two-parent family but if this is not possible the evidence from this
study suggests that in the context of the long-term welfare of children we should be as concerned about the conditions
that precede divorce and sometimes lead to divorce, such as poverty and economic uncertainty, as well as with the consequences
of marital breakup."
Myth -- Children do better post-divorce with the continuing involvement of nonresidential fathers.
Fact:"Studies have consistently demonstrated that conflict between ex-spouses over custody, child support,
visiting arrangements, and other issues is associated with poor adjustment among children of divorce (Johnston et al. 1989).
It is probable that conflict and contact are positively associated, given that contact provides opportunities for conflict to
occur. So although continued contact with non-resident fathers may be beneficial for childrenin certain ways,
it may also exacerbate conflict between parents, which is bad for children. The end result would be one in which continuing
hostility between parents cancels out the benefits that might otherwise follow from a high level of contact
with the non-custodial father. Two American studies provide support for this reasoning. Hetherington, Cox,
and Cox (1982) reported that father visitation was associated with positive child adjustment when interparental conflict
was low but was associated with decrements in children's adjustment when interparental conflict was high.
Similarly, Healy, Malley, and Stewart (1990) found that father visitation was associated with high child self-esteem
when legal conflict was low, but not when legal conflict was high."
Contact With Non-custodial Fathers and Children's Wellbeing, Australian Institute of Family Studies, "Family Matters",
No. 36, Dec 1993,pp. 32-34, http://www4.tpgi.com.au/users/resolve/ncpreport/amato(1993).html
Also see MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FATHERHOOD,
Fact: "A recent survey of 9,816 secondary school students in the Netherlands indicates that the level of well
being of children living in single mother families is higher than that of students living in two parent families with much
parental conflict, the well being of children living in single mother families with no parental conflict and with a great
deal of contact with the departed father is lower than that of children living in two parent families without parental
conflict and finally, the degree of parental conflict after divorce is more important for the well being
of the children than the degree of contact with the departed father (Dronkers, 1996)."
WORKING DOCUMENT, THE
EFFECTS OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN, A Selected Literature Review. Research and Statistics Division.
October 1997, WD1998-2e, UNEDITED. Department of Justice Ministè re de la Justice Canada, canada.
Fact: "Using data from the United States National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth, Jekielek (1996) found that
both parental conflict and marital disruption were associated with decreases in the children's well being but children
who remain in the high conflict environments do worse than children who experienced high conflict but whose parents had
divorced at least two years previously. The results suggest that parental divorce following high conflict may actually
improve the well being of children relative to a high conflict status. Using a 12 year longitudinal study, Amato, Loomis
& Booth (1995) also found that the consequences of parental divorce depend on the degree of parental conflict prior
Myth -- Mothers "gatekeep" and thereby interfere with the development of paternal involvement in childcare.
Fact: " Fathers who reported strong authoritarian views were involved relatively less in weekday caregiving,
playing, teaching, and nighttime soothing and in weekend teaching during early infancy... Attitudes consistent
with authoritarian parenting, in which demands for obedience and behavioral control of children are prominent, appear to have
lasting, negative effects on fathering even early in life, long before parent-child conflicts and matters of discipline
" Consistent with prior work linking maternal attitudes
and father involvement, fathers engaged in relativelyless caregiving, playing, and teaching on weekends during early infancy
when their partners held highly protective attitudes... Although an initial lack of experience or support might be expected
to diminish father involvement over time, relations between maternal protective attitudes and fathers' relative involvement
did not hold longitudinally... the lack of longitudinal relations may suggest that father involvement is primarily
self-determined and that mothers' attitudes are in part a consequence of how involved fathers actually are in childrearing."
Bridget M. Gaertner, Tracy L. Spinrad, Nancy
Eisenberg, Karissa A. Greving, Parental Childrearing Attitudes as Correlates of Father Involvement During Infancy,
Journal of Marriage and Family, Volume 69, (p 962-976) (2007).
Fact: "Nonresident fathers showed slightly lower levels of involvement when their adolescents did not live with
their biological mothers, supporting previous work that suggests a pattern of mothers pulling nonresident fathers
into parenting (Harris& Ryan, 2004), rather than gatekeeping to limit contact with the adolescent."
Daniel N. Hawkins, Paul R. Amato, Valarie
King (2006) Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence Journal of
Marriage and Family 68 (1), 125-136.
Fact: "The results of this study support a gender system view of parenting, as parent gender, compared to parent
residence, was found to be the stronger dimension underlying parent-adolescent involvement. In terms of involvement frequency,
mothers tend to be more involved than fathers, and even nonresident mothers engage in as wide a range of activities
with children as do most resident fathers. Moreover, in the multidimensional scaling analysis, parent gender accounted for
approximately 95% of the variance between parent categories in patterns of involvement. Macrostructural, normative, internalized,
and even biological aspects of the gender system may allow, encourage, or sanction mothers to participate in a wide range
of activities and forms of communication with their adolescent children, irrespective of living arrangements."
Fact: It is fathers' beliefs about roles, and NOT mothers' that influences fathers' participation in childrearing.
"Mothers' traditionalism was not a significant predictor of paternal involvement. Fathers married to egalitarian mothers
are neither more nor less likely to become involved with their children. Instead, the influence of gender ideology is direct.
Controlling for mothers' ideology, fathers with less traditional attitudes about gender are more involved in both breadth of
involvement and proportion of hours spent with children. These findings have important implications for how we understand
the divisionof parenting labor. Although prior research reminds us that parenting is a dynamic process resulting from
parents' negotiations with each other (Glass, 1998; Greenstein, 1996), the ideas mothers have about gender are inconsequential
to some measures of paternal involvement. Instead, fathers' ideas about gender influence their levels of involvement."
Ronald E. Bulanda (2004) Paternal Involvement
with Children: The Influence of Gender Ideologies Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 40-45.
Fact: "Although an initial lack of experience or support [from mothers] might be expected to diminish father involvement
over time, relations between maternal protective attitudes and fathers' relative involvement did not hold longitudinally...
the lack of longitudinal relations may suggest that father involvement is primarily self-determined and that mothers' attitudes
are in part a consequence of how involved fathers actually are in childrearing. Fathers who resist active participation may
indeed be less skilled, less comfortable, or less interested in the parenting role, and mothers' protective attitudes --
particularly with respect to fathers' direct interaction with their children -- may emerge as a result.
Bridget M. Gaertner, Tracy L.
Spinrad, Nancy Eisenberg, Karissa A. Greving (2007) Parental Childrearing Attitudes as Correlates of Father
Involvement During Infancy Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (4), 962-976.
Fact: In a study of unwed adolescent mothers, "while over 80% of mothers reported that their children'sf athers had at
least some contact with the children, approximately 80% of mothers indicate that the fathers themselves had some sort
of emotional or behavioral problem... While their father's level of involvement did not have an effect on the children at
first, between the end of the second and third years, children's problem behaviors were directly related to fathers' involvement."
Ross Leadbeater, B. J., Way,N., &
Raden, A. (1996). Why not marry your baby's father? Answers from African American and Hispanic adolescent mothers.
In B. J. Ross Leadbeater& N. Way (Eds.), Urban girls: Resisting stereotypes, creating identities (pp.193-207).
New York: New York University Press.
Fact: "[N]umerous factors influence the amount of time
fathers spend caring for their children. These factors include individual, family, larger system, and cultural influences...
fathers'involvement with their children is a complex reality with multiple levels of influence."
Parke, R. D. (1996). What determines fathers' involvement?
In Fatherhood (pp. 73-118). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Fact: Perhaps the most significant predictor of father involvement inside and outside of marriage is the
father's relationship with the mother. It is not that mothers actively work to prevent paternal participation in childrearing
per se; rather, father's roles in the family are mediated by mothers and integrally tied to the father's relationship
with the mother. Father's relationships with their children are social constructs, not direct. Where the marital
relationship is poor, or where the mother otherwise receives lower emotional and financial support from the father,
the mother is less inclined to actively work to facilitate the father's relationship with the children.
(There also may be a correlation between the father's personality and both his child-nurturant qualities and
beliefs with the success ofthe marital relationship.)
See generally Arendell, Terry. Co-Parenting:
A Review of the Literature, National Center on Fathers and Families, 1999.
Also see: Cox, M. J., Owen,M. G., Lewis, J. L. & Henderson, V. K. (1989). Marriage, adult adjustment, and
early parenting. Child Development, 60, 1015-1024; Doherty, W. J.,Kouneski, E. F. & Erickson, M. F. (1998).
Responsible fathering: An overview and conceptual framework. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 277-292;
Belsky, J. (1984). Determinants of parenting: A process model. Child Development, 55, 83-96; Parke, R. D. (1996).
Fatherhood. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press); Belsky, J., Youngblade, L., Rovine, M. & Volling, B. (1991).
Patterns of marital change and parent-child interaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 487-498; Feldman, S. S.,
Nash,S. C. & Aschenbrenner, B. G. (1983). Antecedents of fathering. Child Development, 54, 1628-1636; Cox,
M., Payne, C. C. & Margand, N. A.(1995, March). Becoming a father: The family context of early father-child relationships.
(In M. S. Forgatch & L. Fainsilber Katz (Chairs), Fathering from birth to adolescence: Contextual factors and effects
on child. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Indianapolis, IN.);
Cox, M., Paley, B., Payne, C. C. & Burchinal, P.(1999). The transition to parenthood: Marital conflict and withdrawal and
parent-infant interaction. (In M. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences
(pp. 87-104). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum); Cummings, E. M. & O'Reilly, A. W. (1997). Fathers in family context: Effects
of marital quality on child adjustment. (In M. E.Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 49-65).
New York: Wiley.)
Fact: "[Five] factors influence the level of fathers' involvement: child characteristics and paternal sociodemographic
characteristics; motivation; skills and self-confidence; social supports; and institutional factors or practices....
no single factor emerges as the most important, but all show valid degrees of influence on fathers' involvement."
The authors warn that much of the research on "father involvement" is flawed because it fails to account for the quality
of that involvement. By the measures used in many studies, a frequent childbeater would have a high score of "father involvement."
Pleck, J. H. (1997). Paternal
involvement: Levels, sources, and consequences. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development
(3rd ed., pp. 66-104). New York: Wiley.
Fact: "Mother Nature sets the threshhold for direct and exclusive care of young higher in fathers than in mothers.
If primate mothers respond to infant needs right after birth, they are unlikely to ever misdirect their care. Males cannot be
so sure... the majority of hunter-gatherer societies are characterized by close infant-mother proximity for at least
the first several years. Care of infants by fathers is unusual, and care by male alloparents rarer still. But the recipe is
not carved in stone... Female primates have always entrusted infants to willing allomothers whenever a mother could be
confident of safely retrieving them." [Apply that to divorce custody theory. --liz]
Hrdy, Sara Blaffer. MotherNature:
A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, 1999.p. 498
Fact: "If the circumstancesare conducive, almost any
primate male can be induced to behave in a nurturing way. How is it, then, that it is almost always females who end up
holding babies? In only a tiny minority of species do males care for infants even remotely as much as mothers do...
The simplest answer is that... [people follow] the path of least resistance... the mother is more sensitive to infant needs than
the father... And that's just the point. The act of caring has its own consequences -- habits of mind and emotion...
insignificant difference in threshholds for responding to infant cues gradually, insidiously, step by step, without invoking
a single other cause, produces a marked division of labor by sex... Since the women's movement revolutionized the way
that we talk about male caretakers and paternal roles, there has been a marked change. It would not be honest, however,
to pretend that this represents a revolution... fathers in the United States spend much more time today directly caring
for children than they did at the beginning of the twentieth century, but the change is still measured in minutesper week,
not hours... From a newborn infant's point of view... little has changed. Mothers are rarely as close or consistently available
as the infant desires. Babies have no way of knowing that the mother who went out of town on business is not dead,
that sabertooth tigers are extinct, jaguars scarce, abandonment illegal, or how few modern mothers would, in fact, contemplate
Id., p. 209-212; 499-501;509-510
Comment: "[C]onsiderable debate exists as to the role of maternal attitudes and behaviors in determining father involvement
(Walker & McGraw, 2000). Some research has found no relation, whereas other work has indicated that men's involvement in
fact predicts mothers' opinions about their fathering (Aldous et al., 1998;Bonney et al., 1999; Marsiglio, 1991). Further,
although mothers are in a position to inhibit father involvement, they are poised to facilitate and support it as well.
(Walker & McGraw). Men's own attitudes toward fathering and perceptions of their skills are related to their level of
parenting involvement (Beitel & Parke, 1998; Bonney et al.), and they themselves may exert substantial control
over how and when they choose (or choose not) to be engaged with their children. Moreover, specific combinations
of parenting attitudes (e.g., a very authoritarian father with a highly protective partner) may be particularly detrimental
for fathers' involvement."
Bridget M. Gaertner, Tracy L.
Spinrad, Nancy Eisenberg, Karissa A. Greving (2007) Parental Childrearing Attitudes as Correlates of Father
Involvement During Infancy Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (4), 962-976.
Comment: "The idea that women who've been the primary caretakers should simply adjust (read, 'lower')
their standards of child care when men decide they are ready to try out being more involved fathers is unfair
and unrealistic. Rather, we suggest that men who've not been much involved in day-to-day child care should ask lots of
respectful questions of their partners to learn how and why they developed their routines with the kids,
what cues to notice in the children about what they need, and what seems to work best."
Fraenkel, Peter, Ph.D. All About Fathers NYU
Child Study Center Letter, November/December 1999
Myth -- When children's relationships with their fathers falter post-divorce, a likely cause is custodial mothers'
interference with the relationship.
Fact: This phenomenon occurs even when the "children of divorce" are adults, indicating that something else is going
on. "The implications of later life parental divorce and widowhood for relations between parents and young adult
children are explored in a sample of 3,281 young adults who grew up in intact families. Family disruption that
occurred after children were grown had sizable effects on parent-adult child relations. Later life parental divorce
lowered relationship quality and contact between adult children and parents. The effects were stronger for father-child
than for mother-child relations, and stronger for father-daughter than for father-son relations. Widowhood
had negative effects on father-child but not on mother-child relations."
William S. AQUILINO, Department of Child and
Family Studies, 1430 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706 (U.S.A.)
Later life parental divorce and widowhood: Impacton young adults' assessment of parent-child relations (p. 908-922)
Fact: "Adult children of divorced mothers are just as likely as children of widowed mothers to help their older mothers...
Nevertheless, not only are adult children of divorced fathers less likely than children of widowed fathers to help their
older fathers, but they also are less likely than children of divorced mothers to provide personal care."
I-FENLIN, Consequences of Parental
Divorce for Adult Children?s Support of Their Frail Parents, Journal of Marriage and Family
Volume 70 Issue 1, Pages113 - 128 (2008) (And "father-child bonds are unlikely to be a determinant of support after
taking fathers' and children's characteristics into consideration.")
Fact: "[D]ivorce is linked to altered parent-child relationships, even when it is postponed until the children are
adults... most of the variability in relationships immediately following the divorce was associated with situations arising
after the divorce or with aspects of the divorce process itself, rather than with predivorce family dynamics.
However, one predivorce factor that had negative effects on postdivorce intimacy was parental drinking, especially on the
part of fathers."
Cooney, T. M., Hutchinson, M. K.,
& Leather, D. M. (1995). Parenting: Surviving the breakup? Predictors of parent-adult child relations
after parental divorce. Family Relations, 44, 153-1
Fact: "Research has indicated that nonresident mothers do a better job in maintaining close contact with their
children than nonresident fathers (Stewart, 1999) and are engaged in as wide a range of activities with their children
as are most resident fathers (Hawkins, Amato, & King, 2006)."
Kei M. Nomaguchi, Gender ,Family Structure, and Adolescents' Primary Confidants,
Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1213 - 1227 (2008)
Fact: "Prior to divorce, 57% of adolescents reported a very close
relationship with their father compared to 71% who reported being very close to their mother... In terms of predivorce
experiences, the results indicate that compared to offspring whose relationship declined following divorce, those
who maintained a close relationship with their father had a stronger mother-offspring bond and a greater sense of well-being...
It appears that a high-quality mother-offspring bond, along with a strong sense of well-being, may encourage
nonresident fathers to continue their relationships with their children... We found that a predivorce familial
experience (mother-offspring relationship quality) and an individual attribute (offspring's feelings of wellbeing)
played major roles in preventing close father-offspring relationships from deteriorating...
"Other studies suggest that parent conflict is not as serious an impediment to father-offspring closeness as common wisdom
suggests. Sobolewski and King (2005), using another nationally representative data set, found that parental conflict was
unrelated to nonresident father-adolescent offspring relationship quality."
Mindy E. Scott, Alan Booth,
Valarie King, David R. Johnson (2007) Postdivorce Father-Adolescent Closeness, Journal of Marriage and
Family 69 (5), 1194-1209.
Fact: "Researchers have looked mainly
at post-divorce withdrawal, but there is some evidence that paternal disengagement begins well before separation.
In a 10-year study of personality and cognitive development of children in 110 families (41 of whom experienced
divorce during the study), it was found that the fathers who eventually divorced withdrew from their children
long before the crisis period and end of the marriage. Paternal disengagement and unreliable behaviour --
particularly with regard to sons -- coincided with the mother's wish that the father would become more involved in parenting.
If indeed disengagement develops before separation, explanations relating to post-separation variables may be regarded as
partial. Efforts to address the disengagement of fathers, however, have focused on post-separation variables,
such as custody and access language. The fact that paternal disengagement begins before separation and may continue
regardless of what happens afterward has been given little attention."
Baily, Martha J.,
Relocation of Custodial Parents: Final Report, Status of Women Canada,
http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/, citing J.H. Blocke et al., "The Personality of Children Prior to Divorce" (1986), 57 Child Development
Fact: "[M]others are more likely than fathers to state that a nonresident father should have visitation
(38.9% vs. 31.2%) and decisionmaking rights (23.3% vs.20.9%) if he can afford to pay [child support] but does not."
I-FenLin, Sara S. McLanahan
(2007) Parental Beliefs About Nonresident Fathers' Obligations and Rights, Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2),
Fact: "Becoming the noncustodial parent resulted in severe deterioration of the father-child relationship.
Noncustodial mothers, in contrast, enjoyed relations with adult children that were nearly as good as those of
custodial mothers... In custodial father families, the father's remarriage sharply reduced the quality of adult children's
relations with nonresidential biological mothers. In custodial mother families, in contrast, mother's remarriage had only
a slight negative influence on adult children's relations with nonresidential biological fathers."
William S. Aquilino,
Department of Child and Family Studies, 1430 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706 (U.S.A.)
Impact of childhood family disruption on young adults' relationships with parents (p. 295-313)
Myth -- When charged with the responsibility of parenting, fathers and mothers can and do parent similarly.
Fact: "[W]hen families are observed in unstructured situations in which they are permitted to go about their everyday
household routines, there is very little similarity between mothers and fathers in sheer quantity of involvement.
These data thus highlight the need to distinguish between parental competence and performance, that is,
between what fathers can do and what they in fact do on a routine day-to-day basis."
Terry Arendell, citing to
Berman, P., & Pedersen, F. (1987a). Men's transitions to parenthood: Longitudinal studies of early family experience.
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates., Berman, P., & Pedersen, F. (1987b). Research on men's transitions
to parenthood: An integrative discussion. In P. Berman & F. Pedersen (Eds.), Men's transitions to parenthood: Longitudinal
studies of early family experience (pp. 217-242). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Fact: "[F]indings were consistent with previous findings that teens in single-father families tend to have less
close emotional ties either with their nonresident mothers or with resident fathers, compared with teens growing
up with mothers living in the household (Downey, 1994). In U.S. society, attending to the well-being of children is
considered to be women's work, and women learn the skills of paying attention to children's needs
and establishing emotional connections with children primarily by observing other women and sharing experiences with them
(DeVault, 1991). Men are not expected to obtain such skills and capacity, although a nurturing, involved father has
become a popular image of the ideal father... Contrary to the prediction, the odds of preferring romantic partners over
mothers as primary confidants were 21% lower for middle adolescents from single-mother families than for those from
two-biological-parent families. Compared with those from two-biological-parent families, adolescents from single-father
families were 1.7 times more likely to nominate romantic partners and 2.2 times more likely to nominate someone else as primary
confidants over parents, and there was no gender difference."
Kei M. Nomaguchi, Gender, Family Structure, and Adolescents' Primary Confidants,
Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1213 - 1227 (2008)
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 involvementin 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 disciplin ethan 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: "...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."
Effects of Mother and Father Absence on Adolescent School Success." Population Association of America,
Minneapolis, MN. (Maym1-3, 2003)
Myth -- Fathers play with their children more than mothers do.
Fact: "Mothers' interactions with their children are dominated by caretaking, whereas fathers
are behaviorally defined as playmates. Mothers actually play with their children much more than fathers do,
but as a proportion of the total amount of child-parent interaction, play is a much more prominent component of
father-child interaction, whereas caretaking is much more salient with mothers."
Lamb, M., & Oppenheim, D. (1989).
Fatherhood and father-child relationships. In S. Cath, A. Gurwitt, & L. Gunsberg (Eds.), Fathers and
their families (pp. 11-26). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press
Fact: "[A]number of studies that have pointed to the fact that fathers engage in more playful kind of 'companion'
types of interaction with their children, whereas mothers' interaction is less playful and
little bit more focused... those differences are seen in many of the Anglo Saxon countries... you don't see it
in many other cultures. ...Middle East ...Sweden ...other parts of Europe don't show those major differences...
I would say it's probably not that important in itself for the child's development..."
Michael Lamb, May 2004
interview discussing his book "The Role of Fathers in Child Development"
Myth -- Children will experience more stability post-divorce in joint custody arrangements than in sole custody
Fact: "[M]aternal custody arrangements appear to be more stable than other arrangements: children
who live with their mother after divorce are more likely to remain in this arrangement during the first three
to four years after separation, while over half of the children who start out by spending time in each parent's household
or who start out living with their father make at least one change (Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992)..."
THE EFFECTS OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN, A Selected Literature Review. Research and Statistics Division. October 1997, WD1998-2e,
UNEDITED. Departmentof Justice Ministère de la Justice Canada,
For more information on joint custody, see liznotes on JOINT CUSTODYand
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FATHERHOOD
Myth -- Children do better in single mother households when the mother is employed.
Fact: The income level of the household is determinative; not maternal employment per se.
Cohen, P., Johnson, J., Lewis, S. A., &
Brook, J. S. (1990). Single parenthood and employment: Double jeopardy? In J. Eckenrode & S. Gore (Eds.), Stress
between work and family (pp.117-132 ). New York: Plenum Press.
Fact: "[C]hildren who grow up in poor or low-income families tend to have lower educational and vocational attainments,
are more likely to become teenage parents, and are more likely to become welfare recipients than more affluent children.
Mothers' employment during a child's early years appears to have a modest adverse effect on educational attainment."
Haveman, R., & Wolfe,B. (1995).
The determinants of children's attainments: A review of methods and findings. Journal of Economic Literature,
Fact: "The existing research has not demonstrated clear effects, either negative or positive, of mothers'
employment on children's development or educational outcomes."
Spitze, G. (1988). Women's employment and
family relations: A review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 595-618.
Fact: "[C]hildren with employed mothers view the family as more together and organized. Similarly, the family is
more structured and tasks are routine and pre-defined for mother and children. Children of employed
single-mothers also have a higher self-esteem, a solid sense of their mother's beliefs, and their beliefs were more similar
to the mother's."
Alessandri, S. M. (1992). Effects of maternal
work status on single-parent families on children's perception of self and family and school achievement.
Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 54, 417-433.
B>Fact: Where women work full time outside the home whether married or not, "raising children alone is
often easier for women than taking care of a husband not participating in daily family responsibilities as well."
Myth -- Girls from permissive homes which give them too much freedom are more likely to engage in premarital sex.
Fact: "70% of the sexually active teenage girls studied had initiated sexual relations with male peers as
a result of parental restrictions on activities and as a way to assert autonomy."
Jacobs, J. L. (1994). Gender, race, class,
and the trend toward early motherhood: A feminist analysis of teen mothers in contemporary society.
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 22, 442-462.
Myth -- More teenage girls are having babies than ever before.
Fact: Teen birth rates in the United States have reached their lowest level since record keeping began 60 years ago.
The National Center for Health Statistics,
Myth -- Children of young, teenage mothers are at higher risk merely because of their mothers' youth.
Fact: "Using multiple techniques to control for background factors, we analyze 2,908 young children and 1,736
adolescents and young adults in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and the NLSY79 Children and Young
Adults (CNLSY79) data sets to examine whether early childbearing causes children's outcomes. We find evidence
that teen childbearing plays no causal role in children's test scores and in some behavioral outcomes of adolescents.
For other behavioral outcomes, we find that different methodologies produce differing results. We thus suggest
caution in drawing conclusions about early parenthood's overarching effect."
Judith A. Levine,
Clifton R. Emery, Harold Pollack (2007) The Well-Being of Children Born to Teen Mothers, Journal of Marriage
and Family 69 (1), 105-122.
Myth -- Girls are most at risk of sexual abuse in single mother households.
Fact: "[S]ociologist shave found that the factor most decisive to a girl's increased sexual vulnerability
was living in a household with adult males after her parents' separation. This increased risk held true whether
that male was the natural father or someone brought into the family by the child's mother... Research
findings also confirm that stepfathers represent a greater proportion of abusers than their incidence in the
general population would predict. [However, d]aughters living in their father's custody are equally at risk.
A national survey of sexual abuse risk factors found "markedly higher risk" for girls following their parents' divorce,
"particularly when living alone with [their] father.
"[C]ompared to children living with only females after separation, children living with males
in their household after separation "were more than 7 times more likely to be abused. Girls living with males in the household
after separation are not only at a markedly higher risk for sexual abuse, but that risk is substantial: Bolen found
that 53% were sexually abused."
Wilson, Robin Fretwell
"CHILDREN AT RISK: THE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF FEMALE CHILDREN AFTER DIVORCE," Cornell Law Review, 86 Cornell L. Rev.
Myth -- Men and Women are equal perpetrators of child abuse; children are as (or more) likely to be physically
abused and/or killed by their mothers as by their fathers.
Comment:Terms require definition. "LIkelihood" means something different if it refers to sheer numbers
occurring in a total victim population thanit does if it refers to "risk" based on a comparison of incidents occurring
as a percentage of defined perpetrator subgroups. The National Clearinghouse statistics reflect
"household" rather than "perpetrator", and thus give a misleading impression as far as physical abuse perpetrated
by mothers versus fathers (versus stepparents and third parties.) If the incident counts of physical child
abuse reported by child welfare agencies appropriately are adjusted into percentage
format by taking into account actual numbers of children cared for by mothers and fathers, actual time
spent directly caring for children by mothers and fathers, numbers of incidences per actual numbers of direct
caregiver mothers and fathers -- not to mention making adjustment to differentiate "neglect" reports from affirmative
"physical abuse"-- you will find that children are at many times more risk of physical abuse in the care
of men than women, and at astronomically more riskfor serious physical abuse and sexual abuse.
See herefor the
Hospital of The King's Daughters. "Dads Break Bones Of Children More Often Than Moms." Science Daily 6 December 2007;
Idealised Fathers and Murderous Moms. Parenthood in Murder-Suicide News: When a man kills his children
and himself he is often portrayed as a caring parent. A woman is a "killer mom", her act is
"a murder", and her personality is described in the light of the deed.
Also see, regarding bias in news
reports of domestic violence murders, Rae Taylor, Slain and Slandered: A Content Analysis of the
Portrayal of Femicide in Crime News, Homicide Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, 21-49 (2009),
Myth: There are two broad types of "domestic violence" -- "situational couple violence" and "intimate terrorism".
Johnston, custody evaluators, et al.
Fact: "The argument for distinguishing between two qualitatively different types ofdomestic violence --
intimate terrorism and situational couple violence -- has been widely accepted by domestic violence researchers.
The present study suggests that this acceptance may have been premature... Results from this study indicate that
the use of the IT/SCV typology does not consistently work better than a simple measure of the breadth of violent acts
used by respondents' husbands to predict negative outcomes of partner violence victimization... [and]
both of these measurement strategies fail to examine the general effect of husbands' control...
The preliminary empirical evidence reported here suggests that these victims of coercive control are an unrecognized category
of victims... IPV researchers should focus on the dynamics of coercive control in intimate abuse whether
or not this control occurs in the context of physical violence. This would entail a substantial shift in our approach to IPV,
which has historically emphasized the experience of physical violence... more accurately reflect the experiences
of victims, who have been telling researchers for many years that emotional control is the deeper and more central form
Myth -- The increase in single mother households over the past 25 - 30 years has contributed to increased violent
crime among children and adolescents.
Fact: "Violent crimes committed by young people have dropped sharply. In 1998, the serious violent
crime offending rate for youth was 27 crimes per 1,000 adolescents ages 12 to17, totaling 616,000 such crimes involving juveniles
-- a drop by more than half from the 1993 high, and the lowest level since data were first collected in 1973."
Child Stats, America's Children 2000,
Myth -- Either single mother households, or loosening morals, or feminism has contributed to the rise in violence
by young women proportionate to that committed by young men.
Fact: There has been no such rise in violence by young women. "From 1980 to 2003,
the UCR data show that the percentage of girls arrested for assault (combined figures for aggravated assault and
simple assault) rose from 20 percent to more than 30 percent; the NCVS victimization data show up-and-down swings
over the same period but with the female-to-male percentage of assaults averaging about 22 percent in both the
1980s and 1990s. The female percentage was 20 percent in 1980 and 19 percent in 2003."
http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/016.htmfor the research.
Myth -- "Parents or caretakers may be charged with a form of criminal or civil penalty called 'failure to protect'
when they do not prevent another person from abusing the children in their care."
Fact: "Although couched in gender-neutral terms, defendants charged with failure to protect are almost exclusively
Also see New York Times,
Judging a Mother for a Crime by Someone Else, November 27, 2002 by Adam Liptak, excerpt here.
Myth -- Unwed mothers would improve their chances for their family's economic and long-term viability if they would just
Fact: Not according to the mothers. A study of mostly single women on workfare indicated that women believed
that "they themselves had to take primary responsibility for making ends meet and for child rearing... Marriage
as a mode of support was not a preferred option. Virtually no woman believed she should marry for the sake of her children.
In fact, they saw marriage as undermining their ability to care for their children. Men were simply another demand on their time...
Many women had suffered stormy relationships. Domestic abuse, cheating, substance abuse, and inability of the men to
hold a jobwere common complaints. They also felt that men contributed little to the household and, instead, competed
with their children for their attention. Other concerns included the safety of their children.
Many women believed that men who were not the fathers of their children posed a risk of abuse, both physical and sexual.
Welfare Reform and the
Work-Family Tradeoff, research by Ellen K. Scott, KathrynEdin, Andrew S. London, and Joan Maya Mazelis, working paper
"My Children Come First." http://www.jcpr.org/wp/WPprofile.cfm?ID=11
Fact: "The negative consequences of a parent change, especially a mother change and especially for young children,
are greater than the deficits incurred by living without both parents in adolescence,
if in a stable family. Recent policy initiatives that encourage single parents to marry overlook the negative
effect of family instability. Simply marrying to provide children with a two parent family, particularly
if the spouse is not the child's biological parent, will not eliminate the disadvantages
children face (Lichter,2001). In contrast, policymakers should focus on preserving the long-term stability of families,
regardless of their structure. Doing so is particularly important for new families with young children;
given recent patterns of nonmarital childbearing and cohabitation, young children are most likely to be exposed to
family instability (Osborne, Manning, & Smock, 2004). Finally, the importance of parent gender
is dependent on the timing of parent presence and transitions. Parenting is still a gendered activity..."
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.
Myth -- We can improve marriage rates by helping young fathers become employed,
rather than funding more education and job programs for single mothers.
Fact: Nope. The most recent comprehensive and methodologically sound study found
"clear evidence of a [very small] positive effect of improved employment opportunities for women on
their likelihood of marriage but no significant effect of improved employment opportunities for men on their
likelihood of marriage."
[Caveat: the researchers appear to call for more research to see if a specific demographic group, e.g.
older men, can be found for which this is true, perhaps to continue justifying
the call for more and more useless fatherhood programs. The latest evaluations of these programs have been posted on the ACF/HHS
website at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/strengthen/build_fam/index.html ]
Arif A. Mamun, Effects of Employment
on Marriage: Evidence from a Randomized Study of the Job Corps Program,
Final Report, December 17, 2008; DHHS
Myth -- Welfare reform, i.e. workfare, sending mothers to work, has had a positive influence on child
wellbeing, because it teaches them lessons in responsibility.
Fact: "Our analysis suggests that welfare reform has not reduced teenage fertility and school dropout.
We find modest evidence that welfare reform is associated with higher risk of teenage births
for girls in welfare families and higher risk of school dropout for girls in poor families."
Lingxin Hao, Andrew J. Cherlin
(2004) Welfare Reform and Teenage Pregnancy, Childbirth, and School Dropout, Journal of Marriage and Family
66 (1), 179-194.
Myth -- If single mothers would just get married, their children would be better off because children do better in
Fact: Research published in 2009 by Claire Dush of Ohio State looked at 4,910 mothersand 11,428 children.
She found -- consistent with all other research that has examined this issue -- that
family stability is more important than whether the home had one or two parents, and that marriage or
remarriage, family transitions, can be detrimental.
Fact: "The findings from this study indicate that regardless of whether a parent remarries or forms a
cohabiting stepfamily, child outcomes are similar. The addition of a cohabiting partner is not associated
with higher levels of well-being relative to living in a single-mother family."
Susan L. Brown (2004) Family Structure and
Child Well-Being: The Significance of Parental Cohabitation, Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (2), 351-367.
Fact: "Although there is some evidence that children living with their married parents, even parents in unstable
marriages, have better outcomes than children living in certain nonmarital arrangements, the
findings vary across domains and specifications, and the effect sizes are generally small.
Thus, any benefits of policies aimed improving child well-being by encouraging
and enhancing parental marriage are likely to be modest at best."
Gregory Acs (2007) Can We
Promote Child Well-Being by Promoting Marriage? Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1326-1344.
Fact: "The salutary effects of being raised by two married, biological parents depend on the quality
of care parents can provide. Using data from an epidemiological sample of 1,116 5-year-old
twin pairs and their parents, this study found that the less time fathers lived with their children,
the more conduct problems their children had, but only if the fathers engaged in low levels of antisocial behavior.
In contrast, when fathers engaged in high levels of antisocial behavior, the more time they lived with their children,
the more conduct problems their children had. Behavioral genetic analyses showed that children who resided with
antisocial fathers received a "double whammy" of genetic and environmental risk for conduct problems."
Sara R. Jaffee, Terrie E. Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi,
Alan Taylor (2003) Life With (or Without) Father: The Benefits of Living With Two Biological
Parents Depend on the Father's Antisocial Behavior, Child Development 74 (1), 109-126.
Fact: "In much of the policy debates about fatherhood and marriage, it has been assumed that two-parent
families are better for children than one-parent families. But a number of studies now suggest that the
well-being of children in mother-stepfather families is no greater, on average, than in single-parent families...
Moreover, evidence is accumulating that the greater the number of family transitions children experience,
the lower is their well-being. Family transitions occur when cohabiting or married biological parents separate...
it is not clear that the children born to single mothers who later cohabited or remarried are better off, on average,
than they would have been had their mothers remained single..." Among other problems, marriage in this context
frequently means only that one or some of the single mother's children will be living with their biological father.
The other children will be living with a man who is not their biological father, and all of the children
will be at greater risk of suffering another family transition from the breakup of this relationship.
Cherlin, Andrew J. and Paula Fomby, WELFARE,
CHILDREN, AND FAMILIES: A THREE-CITY STUDY WORKING PAPER 02-01;
Fact: "Using data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, analyses show that adding transitions into
and out of cohabitation to those into and out of marriage increases our measure of family instability
by about 30% for White children (N =1575) and over 100% for Black children (N = 774). We conclude that future
research on the impact of children's family composition while growing up should take into account transitions
into and out of cohabitation."
R Kelly Raley, Elizabeth Wildsmith (2004)
Cohabitation and Children's Family Instability, Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 210-219.
Fact: "[A] large study in New Zealand found that both children whose married mothers had stayed married and
children whose single mothers had stayed single had fewer behavioral problems than children whose
mothers had changed partners."
Id., re J. M. Najman, B. C. Behrens, M.
Andersen, W. Bor, M. O'Callaghan, and G. M. Williams. 1997. Impact of family type and family quality
on child behavior problems: Alongitudinal study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry 36: 1357-1365.
Myth -- Unwed mothers would improve their chances for their family's economic and long-term viability if they would
just get off welfare and get a job.
Fact: "Mandated work requirements contained in recent welfare legislation suggest the need to
evaluate the extent to which parental work - or the lack of it - contributes to the high poverty
rates of American children. Data on 41,996 children under age 18 from the 1990 Current Population
Survey support three general conclusions. First, parental employment and children's poverty are inextricably linked
in married-couple and female-headed families. Second, simulations reveal that child poverty
rates are nevertheless relatively insensitive to increases in parental employment.
Only very large and unrealistic increases in maternal employment would significantly reduce child
poverty rates. Third, the large black-white differences in child poverty are not simply a result of racial differences
in paternal and maternal employment. The problem is not one of finding a job, but rather a job that pays well enough
to lift the family (and its children) out of poverty."
Daniel T. LICHTER and David J. EGGEBEEN,
Population Research Institute, 601 Oswald Tower, The Pennsylvania State University,
University Park, PA 16802 (U.S.A.) The effect of parental employment on child poverty
Comment: New studies indicate that "workfare" programs that force unwed mothers to get jobs significantly
decrease the likelihood that such women will marry the father of their children.
Iowa, 2002; University of California, Connecticut, 2002.
Myth -- Children do better when parents are married, rather than when they are merely cohabiting.
Fact: "Although children living with married rather than cohabiting parents fare better in terms of
material well-being, this advantage is accounted for by race and ethnic group and parents' education...
the initial marriage advantage for children living with two biological parents (cohabiting two biologicals vs. married
two biological) and stepparents (cohabiting stepparents vs. married stepparents) are explained by the
covariates included in the models. Our results suggest that both child and parent characteristics are
integral to the association between family structure and children's economic well-being. Given that decisions about
whether to marry or cohabit vary by race and ethnic group as well as by education (e.g., Clarkberg, 1999; Manning & Smock,
1995, 2002), the benefits of marriage may be a result of parents' education and race and ethnic group
rather than marriage per se."
Wendy D. Manning,
Susan Brown (2006) Children's Economic Well-Being in Married and Cohabiting Parent Families,
Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (2), 345-362.
Myth -- Children do better in cohabiting biological parent families than in cohabiting stepparent families.
Fact: "Using data collected from 10,511 kindergarten children and their parents from the Early Childhood
Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, this study examines child well-being across
cohabiting 2-biological-parent families; cohabiting stepfamilies; married stepfamilies; and married 2-biological-parent families.
Findings indicate no differences in child well-being for children living in cohabiting stepfamilies and cohabiting 2-biological-parent
Julie E. Artis (2007)
Maternal Cohabitation and Child Well-Being Among Kindergarten Children, Journal of Marriage and Family
69 (1), 222-236.
Myth -- Children in single-mother households are the likeliest demographic group to be without medical insurance.
Fact: Children living with custodial fathers are.
Comment: This fact supposedly "baffles researchers." Father's groups claim it's because fathers
don't have access to services that are available to single mothers, but CHIP programs, medicaid, and
so forth are unrelated to parents' genders. The spin on the last decade's research touting fathers as
"encouraging risk-taking" and "independence" is a clue. So is the fact that men as a group are less
likely than women to go for regular medical checkups or to make wills.
So are the studies that show that children are more likely to suffer medical neglect, take
drugs, and not get help for college in households where they reside with their fathers (with or without stepmothers)
instead of their mothers.
See (the actual findings, not the writeup spindoctoring) in Braver's study"
Relocation of Children After Divorce."
Also see, e.g., re "baffled researchers" http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Uninsured-Kids.html
Fact: "This study uses Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study data (N= 1,073 couples)to
analyze how mothers versus fathers controlling money affects U.S. children's food insecurity. Results
show children are far less likely to experience food insecurity when parents' pooled
income is controlled by their mother than when it is controlled by their father or
even when it is jointly controlled."
Catherine T. Kenney,
Father Doesn't Know Best? Parents' Control of Money and Children's Food Insecurity, Journal
of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 3, Pages654 - 669 (2008)
Myth -- Providing waivers to permit married couples to receive welfare will reduce out-of-wedlock births
and encourage marriages.
Fact: These waivers have been shown to have little to no effect on nonmarital childbearing.
Welfare Waivers and
Nonmarital Childbearing, research by Ann Horvath-Rose and H.Elizabeth Peters,
Myth -- Growing up in a single mother household puts children at academic risk.
Fact: "...ordinary least square regression analyses show negligible disadvantages of students
with a single parent in Hong Kong and Korea, once students' demographic characteristics and socioeconomic background
are held constant. Students in single-parent families in Indonesia and Thailand outperform their peers
in intact families."
Hyunjoon Park (2007)
Single Parenthood and Children's Reading Performance in Asia, Journal of Marriage and Family
69 (3), 863-877.
Fact: Maternal education is a far more important predictor of child academic success than family type.
LitScan Vol 4 No. 3
MATERNAL EDUCATION MORE POWERFUL PREDICTOR OF KINDERGARTNER'S READING SCORES THAN FAMILY TYPE,(3/13/2000)
Also see generally,
Myth -- Research by Sanford Braver shows that moveaways by divorced custodial mothers harm children.
Fact: The most well-adjusted children of those studied were those who remained with their mothers
whose fathers moved away; children who moved away with their mothers were not significantly affected.
Children who either moved with their fathers away from their mothers, or remained behind with their fathers
when their mothers moved away were the most detrimentally impacted groups.
Children in the custody of their fathers when the mother moved or who moved with the father were the
only young people who showed troubled behavior.
See comments and
analysis of JudithWallerstein, Ph.D.,
on the findings in the study Relocation of Children After Divorce and Children's Best Interests,
by Sanford L. Braver, WilliamV. Fabricius, Ira M. Ellman.
Myth -- Children can never have too many parents (e.g. stepfather and biofather involvement), or too many
extended family kin; the more the better.
Fact: "Based on our findings, the larger kin networks associated with multi-partnered fertility
do not lead to increased availability of instrumental social support.
To the contrary, we found an inverse relationship between multi=partnered fertility and
perceived instrumental support from social networks in our pooled analysis. During the 3 years
following a recent birth, mothers were less likely to perceive that instrumental support was available
from their social networks when they or their partner had engaged in multi-partnered fertility...
The relationship between multi-partnered fertility and perceived instrumental support was similar
whether the children with a previous partner were the mother's or the father's. The results clearly suggest that,
although childbearing with multiple partners may expand the size of kin networks, these larger kin networks
do not translate into greater availability of social network support in financial,
housing, and child-care areas."
Kristen Harknett, Jean Knab
(2007) More Kin, Less Support: Multipartnered Fertility and Perceived Support Among Mothers,
Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (1),237-253.
Myth -- The factor that creates risk to the wellbeing of a child reared in a "fatherlesshome" is the child's lack of a
relationship with the father.
Fact: "[M]ost children who grow up with a single parent do quite well... Why would the
loss of a biological father reduce a child's chances of success? We argue that when fathers live apart from
their child, they are less likely to share their incomes with the child, and, consequently, mothers and children
usually experience a substantial decline in their standard of living when the father moves out.
We estimate that as much as half of the disadvantage associated with father absence is due to the economic insecurity
and instability. Another quarter is due to the loss of parental time and supervision, and the rest is probably
due to a loss of social capital attributable in large measure to the higher incidence of residential
mobility among single mothers and remarried mothers. Stated differently, if parents who decide to
live apart were able to cushion their child from the economic instabilit yand disruptions in neighborhood ties
that often accompany the breakup of a family, and if single mothers were able to establish and maintain regular
routines and effective systems of supervision, their children would likely do just as well as children raised
in two-parent families."
Sara McLanahan, "Father Absence and the Welfare of Children", on-line
paper, available at Network on the Family and the Economy,
Myth -- Child support enforcement programs were enacted to benefit women and children.
Fact: Child support enforcement programs were enacted to benefit state welfare coffers and recoup
the burden of public welfare payments.
discussion at CLASP -- What If All the Money Came Home
Myth -- "Child support belongs to the child."
Fact: This is what is known as a "legal fiction." It was created as an artificial premise in the
law for the purpose of enabling the state to obtain subrogation rights to keep the child
support money it collects from some men as restitution for welfare dollars spent
on women and children. The legal fiction disables mothers and fathers from contracting privately,
either to pay private child support or to waive it altogether.
discussion at CLASP -- What If All the Money Came Home
http://www.clasp.org/pubs/childenforce/pilr2300.htm For definition of "legal fiction"
Comment: The legal fiction (aided and abetted by widespread public misconceptions about what constitutes
a "parent" under the law) also is responsible for the avalanching trend -- contrary to
historical jurisprudence and contrary to the relationship-based notion of "family" that underlies the "liberty interest"
respected by the U.S. Constitution -- to consider unwed nonresident biological sires
to be "legal fathers." It is considered to be in the public interest to establish
someone as a second parent (like an insurance policy) to hold responsible for supporting a household
with children in case one parent cannot do it alone -- even if that someone is a man who was never married
to the mother, even if continuing with the pregnancy was the unilateral decision of the woman,
and even if such contributions are neither needed nor wanted by the mother.
This idea as a premise of the law frequently benefits neither men nor women in its immediate application.
In its long-term jurisprudential effects, it not only counterproductively undermines the incentive for people to marry but also
is particularly noxious with regard to notions of women's equal
abilities, responsibilities and rights, freedom of contract, and partnership theories of marriage, family,
alimony and childbearing. The application of this fiction underlies father's rights claims for joint custody
in the hopes of eliminating the financial imposition by becoming an equivalent half-time single parent household
providing child support "in kind," and in a number of other ways it also bolsters the strategy of rather vicious agenda
-- elevating patriarchal notions of fatherhood while turning the clock back on women's independence and
liznotes, and articles Male Bashing? and on the
National Fatherhood Initiative.Contact
liz if you have a need for further information and resources.
Myth -- Single mothers and single fathers face the same issues and circumstances in caring for their families.
Fact: "[Fathers are] much less likely than mothers to be left caring for their families single-handedly
following the loss of their spouses and [are] more likely to receive help than single mothers."
Ferri, E. (1973). Characteristics
of motherless families. British Journal of Social Work, 3, 91-100.
Myth -- Children living with single mothers are more likely than children living with single fathers to
be also living with that parent's unwed paramour.
Fact: In 1999, 16 percent of children living with single fathers and 9 percent of children living with single
mothers also lived with their parents' partners. Children were nearly twice as likely to be living in a cohabitation situation
if they resided with their fathers.
Child Stats, America's Children 2000,
Myth -- All first-time parents, men or women, have to learn the ropes through trial and error [i.e. neither knows
more about child care than the other.] Cathy Young
Comment: Female older siblings are far more likely than male older siblings to be given child care responsibilities
while young; teenage girls are far more likely than teenage boys to hold childcare and babysitting jobs;
new mothers are far more likely to have prepared for parenthood by reading pregnancy-to-parenting articles and
books as well as talking with (and spending social time with) primary caregiving women friends and relatives
and their children; the ever-present months-long pregnancy itself initiates mothers into a mindset of habitual
constant awareness of child-whereabouts; and various biological and hormonal factors make mothers more responsive
to routine infant cues (other than severe distress cries.) See cites above.
Fact: "[P]lay parenting occurs much more frequently with girls (Lever, 1978; Pitcher & Schultz,
1983; Sandberg & Meyer-Bahlburg, 1994; Sutton-Smith et al., 1963). The sex difference in play parenting is related,
in part, to the fact that girls are assigned child-care roles, especially for infants, much more frequently than are boys
throughout the world (Whiting & Edwards, 1988). In addition, girls seek out and engage in child-care, play parenting
and other domestic activities (e.g., playing house) -- with younger children or child substitutes, such as dolls --
much more frequently than do same-age boys (Pitcher &Schultz, 1983), as is the case with many other species of primate
Myth -- Post-divorce, children do just as well emotionally in father-custody as in mother-custody; and
Myth -- Children tend to do best in the custody of a same-sex parent. RichardWarshak
Fact: "[A]dolescents living in a father-custody household feel more hopeless than adolescents living in a mother-custody
family. There is no difference in the effect of sex of the custodial parent between girls and boys.
The same-sex hypothesis stating that children are better off living with the parent of the same sex is not supported
by these data... [A]dolescents in a father-family perceive less appreciation than adolescents in a mother-family
[but thisfactor] does not seem to have any consequences for the relation between the sex of the custodial parent and well-being...
The ...question still needing an answer is why, then, adolescents in father-families suffer more from hopelessness than
adolescents in mother-families."
MiekeVan Houtte PhD and An Jacobs,
2004, JOURNAL OF DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE, Volume: 41 Issue: 3, "Consequences of the Sex of the Custodial
Parenton Three Indicators of Adolescent's Well-Being: Evidence from Belgian" 143 - 163
INTERESTS: NEW EVIDENCE AND LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS",
Myth -- Children do better in two-parent, biological parent homes.
Fact: There is only limited support for this proposition, and recent research sheds considerable doubt on previous
toutings of clear findings. "Our goal was to investigate the importance of family structure in predicting psychological
wellbeing and relational quality of family members in five different family configurations. Four theoretical
perspectives led to hypotheses about whether these families would differ from one another and, if so, how they would differ.
One perspective is that stigmatization is the key factor leading to poor developmental outcomes
(see Brodzinsky, 1987). As the most stigmatized group due to their lack of biological ties, adoptive families would be
expected to show lower well-being and poorer relationship quality than would the other family structure groups,
and two parent biological families would be expected to look the most well adjusted. We found limited support
for this hypothesis... children from two-parent biological families did not always look best... We found that single mothers
had somewhat lower well-being than did married mothers. They did not differ in consistent ways from other families,
and children in single-mother households did not report any differences in well-being or relationships compared with
children in other types of families... Mothers in two-parent biological families reported that their children had fewer behavior
problems (but did not differ from stepmothers' reports) and spent more time with their children (but did not differ from
adoptive mothers' reports) than did mothers in other types of families. In addition, fathers in two-parent biological
families reported spending more time with their children and having higher family cohesion than did fathers in all
other types of families. These were the only indices that differed... Consistency among different reporters from the same family
strengthens the evidence that these constructs, particularly children's school grades, sibling relationships, and friendships,
do not differ substantially by family structure. Furthermore, family structure differences in mothers' well-being and mothers'
reports of their child's well-being were no longer significant after controlling for family process variables.... after
controlling for disagreements between spouses and between mothers and children, family structure differences in well-being
were no longer significant."
Jennifer E Lansford,
Rosario Ceballo, Antonia Abbey, Abigail J Stewart (2001) Does Family Structure Matter? A Comparison
of Adoptive, Two-Parent Biological, Single-Mother, Stepfather, and Stepmother Households, Journal of Marriage
and Family 63 (3), 840-851.
Myth -- "Equality under the law" means that men and women are the same in all ways.
Fact: "Equality" under the law means that WHEN men and women are the same in all ways, the law will treat them
that way, and that when they are not, the law will not default to what is characteristic of "man" as the standard.
Thus, "equality under the law" means more than merely consideration of each person as an individual. It also means that
that "consideration" will not be cast in terms of standards and rights that can attain only to non-gestating human beings.
The law will not determine what is "reasonable" with reference solely to what would be "reasonable for a man;" the law
will not determine what is "just" by reference solely to what could be "achievable by someone who cannot gestate;"
and the law will not ignore reproductive differences between mothers and fathers where they do indeed exist and have effect.
Also see liznotes:
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FATHERHOOD
THE NATIONAL FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE
(there IS no "fatherlessness problem")
REASKINGTHE WOMAN QUESTION AT DIVORCE
by Penelope E. Bryan (contact lizif you have trouble accessing this article)
ATTACHMENT101 FOR ATTORNEYS:
Implications for Infant Placement Decisions
Review of Martha A. Fineman's
THE NEUTERED MOTHER
TheDeliberate Construction of Families Without Fathers:
Is it an Option for Lesbian and Heterosexual Mothers?
by Nancy D. Polikoff
TheAlternatives to Marriage Project
Ann Crittenden's genius:
THE PRICE OF MOTHERHOOD:
LINCOLN, Ill., Nov. 20 -Tabitha Pollock was sleeping when her boyfriend killed her 3-year-old daughter.For failing to anticipate that crime, Ms. Pollock was convicted of firstdegree murder...
Legal experts said mothers had been held accountable for abuse by others, under various theories and often
with more evidence, in hundreds of similar cases around the nation. They knew of no such cases involving fathers...
Ms. Pollock will go free only because a student plucked her letter from among
the 17,000 that the law school clinic at Northwestern University receives every year, and the clinic persuaded
the Supreme Court to hear an appeal filed after the deadline had passed. The court reversed the conviction outright rather than order
a new trial...
She talked about her three other children. Ms. Pollock's parental
rights were terminated as a resultof her conviction...
"Defendant's concernfor her children was too little, too late," the government wrote in
its appellate papers.
When the police told her that Mr. English had confessed, she was incredulous.
At trial, the prosecution produced no witness who had suspected Mr. English of earlier abuse.
"How could I have known he would murder my precious baby girl?" Ms. Pollock
wrote. "I did not know, yet I received 36 years in prison for not being a mind reader."...
Jane Raley, a law professor at Northwestern and Ms. Pollock's current lawyer,
said her client's conviction was one of several similar cases brought by a series of prosecutors in Henry County, in northwest
Illinois. Ms. Pollock's case may force the courts to reconsider some of those
"It was very mean-spirited, "Ms. Raley said. "The prosecutors were
trying to send a message to these women that they should make better choices in their boyfriends."...
and many other states accept the notion that parents may be held legally accountable for the deaths of their children when
they have witnessed or otherwise know of grave threats to their safety. Ms. Pollock's case differed in that she
responsible on what lawyers call a negligence theory == that sheshould have known of the potential danger, even if she did not.
A negligence standard is seldom used in the criminal law....
state has taken everything from me," she said. "I don't have a house. I don't have a car. I don't have my children."
RETURN TO TEXT