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A Response to the Claims Made
in "Be Thankful for Dads"
by Amy Ridenour

This page responds to a typical example of propaganda that uses the false father-absence claims, in this case an article published on the rather ridiculous "" website. This piece states that it is "CNS Commentary from the 'National Center for Public Policy Analysis' " (doesn't that sound official?) dated "16 June, 1999." The complete text, which is only partially reproduced here in brown, originally could be found at

...Children with fathers are twice as likely to stay in school.

This is a specious distortion of the statistic that says, in effect, that if there's 1 dropout for every 100 children in two-parent homes, we can expect there to be 2 dropouts for every 100 children in single mother homes. Hardly alarming. And it's not true anyway.

Fatherless Children History Series The greatest predictors of child academic success are (1) the educational level of a child's mother and (2) the socioeconomic level of the home. Kids whose fathers stay married to their mothers also inherited both of their parents' different genes and dispositions. When we take out from the equation these confounding factors, and attempt to isolate the "father influence," we find that "adolescents from single father households are judged by teachers to be less well behaved and to show less effort in class. They also score slightly less than their single-mother counterparts on standardized tests, both verbal and math, and are perceived to be less academically qualified for college. Children raised by single fathers attain on average six months less education." See Downey, D. B., Ainsworth-Darnell, J. W., & Dufur, M. J. (1998). Sex of parent and children?s well-being in single-parent households. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(4), 878-893

So fathers transmogrify into a positive influence if they are married? No. It isn't a generic "father" thing at all. While particular kinds of fathers with particular individual characteristics may indeed benefit their children, it's overall family resources -- especially family income and mother's education -- that show the strongest associations with competency levels.

And, the most powerful predictors of child progress are the mother's education and household economic well-being. (Married or not.)

Mother's education is a primary predictor of child well-being. Russell Sage Foundation, c/o CUP Services, P.O. Box 6525, Ithaca, NY 14851

Is it about two-parent families being more likely to have higher resources? No. It's about mother's educational and socio-economic levels, which are somewhat correlated themselves, and which were at least partly established long before that mother ever had children.

What matters most is a mother's education and ability level and, to a lesser extent, the family income and quality of the home environment.

For more, see Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

Boys with dad and mom at home are half as likely to be incarcerated, regardless of their parents' income or educational level. According to a Men Against Domestic Violence survey, 85 percent of youths in prison come from fatherless homes.

Another distorted statistic. This means, again, that if there is 1 incarcerated kid per 100 living in two-parent families, there's twice as many, or 2 incarcerated kids, per 100 living in (however defined) "father-absent" households. (I knew you'd be shocked.) The statistic is going to depend on what families one manipulates into and counts in that "father-absent" category. (It implies "single mothers," but that may or may not be the case. Are incarcerated married fathers "present" or "absent"?) The "half as likely" proportion holds only because boys "with a dad and mom at home" are infinitely more likely to not have a "dad" or "mom" in prison! (Obviously. The parents are at home.) But such boys also are thousands of times more likely to not have a father who spent any time at all in prison.

Here's another statistic: 63% of young men who are serving time for homicide killed their mother's abuser.

The most significant predictor of criminality is having a parent or other close relative who exhibits anti-social behavior or has been incarcerated. The set of families in which a father is incarcerated are a subset of the families included in the "single mother" or "father-absent" demographic group (depending on your perspective), skewing the statistic for the rest of them. (Makes me wonder how the isolated subset of boys whose fathers were anonymous sperm donors compares incarceration-wise with boys whose fathers had a relationship of any sort with their mothers... venture a guess?)

Once again: the greatest predictor of a child's criminality is having a parent who has been incarcerated. (This is not proof of causation either, but it does kind of bode against all those fatherhood programs that want to inject criminals into the life of yet more kids, doesn't it?) See DiLalla, L. F., & Gottesman, I. I. (1989). Heterogeneity of causes for delinquency and criminality: Lifespan perspectives. Development & Psychopathology, 1 (4), 339-349.

For more, see Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

Girls 15-19 raised in homes with fathers are significantly less likely to engage in premarital sex, and 76 percent of teenage girls surveyed said their fathers are very or somewhat influential over their decisions regarding sex.

Girls raised in single mother homes are more likely to give birth while single and are more likely to divorce and remarry. Studies have shown that girls whose fathers depart before their fifth birthday are especially likely to have permissive sexual attitudes and to seek approval from others.

And the problem here is... what? That fatherless homes are bad because the girls who grow up in fatherless homes are more likely to create their own fatherless homes? Isn't that circular reasoning? It's not circular reasoning, though (it's a fact) that girls who are raised with any adult male in their home, including their fathers, also are far more likely to be raped in their home, to get married while still teenagers, and to not get a college education.

See Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

Paternal praise is associated with better behavior and achievement in school while father absence increases vulnerability and aggressiveness in young children, particularly boys.

Better achievement in school is likely to engender more interest from fathers when they are around. A correlation is not causation. And "father-absence" has not been shown to "increase vulnerability and aggressiveness in young children." That's flat out prevarication. Isolating out other influences in order to test the "father-absence" factor, we find:

"Andrew Cherlin and his colleagues studied random samples of over 11,000 children in Great Britain and over 2,200 children in the U.S., using information gathered on parents' and teachers' reports of behavioral problems and the children's reading and math scores. They statistically controlled for the children's social class, race, the children's early behavioral and test scores, and factors such as physical, mental, and emotional handicaps as assessed by physicians. After controlling for those factors, boys of divorced parents scored as high as boys from intact couples on the behavioral and academic tests...This work implies that most of the problems we see in children of divorced parents are due to long-standing psychological problems of the parents, the stresses of poverty and racism, disabilities the children themselves suffer, and so on." Mahony, Rhona, Divorce, Nontraditional Families, and Its Consequences for Children,, citing to Cherlin, et al., Science, 1991, June 7, 252 (5011), pp.1386-89

There's plenty more. See Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

Young children living without dads married to their moms are five times as likely to be poor and ten times as likely to be extremely poor.

More statistical nonsense. First, note that this means that for every 1 child out of 100 children in two-parent homes who is poor, there are 4 additional children in every 100 children counted in single mother homes who are poor. (Theoretically, this could be the same number of actual families if one poor single mother home had five children.) Second, it's a gratuitous slam against all mother-headed families to arbitrarily lump together with families formed by never-married undereducated women (a distinct group) as one amorphous "single mother" category, all unmarried cohabitating couples, blended families, comfortable divorced mothers, and so forth. Each individual family is what it is -- it is not more or less likely to be otherwise!

Young children whose fathers are poor, dysfunctional, alcoholic, drug addicted, uneducated, unemployed, abusive, incarcerated, or otherwise undesirable and therefore not married to their mothers are the children whose mothers create this statistic. It's the mothers (not the children) who are poor, and not being married to a dysfunctional isn't the reason for their poverty. Where these biological "fathers" (and I use the quotation marks advisedly) themselves actually live is itself a symptom of the particular fathers' characteristics -- these children would be no better off, and likely even worse off with these men present in their homes.

For the research, see Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

Fatherless children are "at a dramatically greater risk" of drug and alcohol abuse, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Children living in households with fathers are less likely to suffer from emotional disorders and depression.

When dads don't live with their kids, the children are 4.3 times more likely to smoke cigarettes when teenagers.

"Dramatically greater" than what? The White House Drug Policy website itself gives us this "drama": the highest risks of youth substance use, dependence, and need for illegal drug abuse treatment are found in families with a father and stepmother. And children who live with only their biological father are more likely to use substances, to be dependent on substances, and to need illegal drug abuse treatment than youths who live with only their biological mother. Johnson, Hoffman, and Gerstein (1986), on the effects of family structure on adolescent substance abuse, data from 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

For more, see Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

A white teenage girl with an advantaged background is five times more likely to be a teen mom if she grows up in a household headed by a single mom instead of with her biological dad and mom.

(This is a repeat factoid, notice.)

Children with involved dads are less susceptible to peer pressure, are more competent, more self-protective, more self-reliant and more ambitious...

(Ditto. The list runs dry pretty quickly, doesn't it...)

It doesn't take a lot of modern sociological data for people to realize that involved dads make an irreplaceable contribution to the lives of their kids.

And it's a good thing for the propagandists that it doesn't, because, actually, there IS no sociological data indicating that "fathers" (in the abstract -- not talking here about a specific person, but an imaginary idealized penised person who does not exist some kids' homes, any more than an idealized millionare mother or the tooth fairy does) make an irreplaceable contribution to the lives of their kids.

"While it would be a seemingly obvious proposition to most of us, that fathers' consistent and substantial involvement in child care would benefit the child, this appears to have not been well established. The relationship between paternal involvement and children's well-being seems to be mediated by a number of other conditions that involve the father, the mother, and the child. In other words, increased paternal involvement does not automatically result in improved child outcomes. Nor is it clear whether the father's involvement provides unique nurturance that can not be as readily provided by substitute caregivers." THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

For more, see Myths and Facts About Fatherhood, and Myths and Facts About Motherhood.

Back in 1909, Mrs. Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington invented Father's Day. Her own father, Henry Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran, raised six children after his wife died in childbirth. His daughter wanted a special day to honor the sacrifices he made raising six children alone and the sacrifices of all devoted dads. She selected June 19, her father's birthday, as the first Father's Day.

How nice. So in the 1800s, long before women had the right to birth control, or to control their own property and earnings, or the right to vote, a mother had pregnancy after pregnancy after pregnancy until it killed her, in fact giving her very life to provide one man with sex and his family of six children... and WHO is the one who is claimed to have "sacrificed?" WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?

Amy Ridenour is President of The National Center for Public Policy Research.

A better title would be National Center for Public Policy Propaganda.

Now let's group and assess families demographically by something other than a biodad presence. Let's compare child rearing outcomes based on some other kinds of offensive arbitrary measures. Let's compare children by religion. On average, Christians don't do as well as Jews and Asian-Americans academically. They are less likely to go to college. They are more likely to end up being divorced. So, would you say that this proves that being Christian is a social problem we must do something about?... But wait. Maybe that's not causation, but merely correlation. Let's research these families by state of residence. Well... Southerners don't compare as well to Northerners or Westerners either economically or eduationally. But then they also have more churched Christians. Oh dear, a "confounded statistic." Hmmm... We could speculate that perhaps the real problem is the heat... People reared in warmer climates do seem to tend to be less motivated, at least that's the stereotype... How about which group of families are more likely to rear alcoholics? Irish Catholics? Ukranians... uh oh... maybe it's cold climates that are the problem... so let's see... which families are tens of thousands of times more likely to rear boys who turn into serial murderers... well, that's an inarguable statistic. We must work to eliminate white boys who grow up with religious fathers and guns in their homes, the demographic profile that most often yields this dangerous outcome...



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