Are Fathers Needed? Mothers Are, For Sure!

Uploaded 1/28/2022, approx. 39 minute read

In order to raise healthy, functional, pro-social, communal adults with empathy and the ability to collaborate with peers to accomplish goals, self-efficacious, agentic, basically happy, do we need fathers? We know that we need mothers, mothers that are indisputable, that the mother is very critical in the upbringing, shaping and formation of her children. But do we also need fathers?

And today I'm going to provide a bit of a controversial answer, which I had alluded to in one of my previous interviews, and which had provoked a hailstorm of threats and denigrations. And the controversial answer that I'm about to propose is that fathers are largely not needed.

One of the main proofs of that is the fact that about one-third of households in the world today are single-parent households. And that single-parent, in the vast majority of cases, is a woman.

Children who grow up in single-parent households are largely okay. They are largely functional. They are largely happy. They go on to form relationships and families of their own, etc. Of course, they are outliers. They are exceptions.

But the literature, until about 15 years ago, was kind of politically correct. It had placed an emphasis on two-parent families. But that is a Western emphasis. That reflects the mores and the values of Western civilization, because in the vast majority of history and in the vast majority of the world today, the raising of children is almost the exclusive task of women, mothers. Fathers don't get involved except to punish the children as punitive agents.

Socialization is carried out almost entirely by the mother.

Now, this is not a new insight. Until the 1920s or 1930s, in psychoanalytic schools of psychology, psychodynamic schools of psychology, and object relations schools, especially in the United Kingdom, they realized, these people, the early psychologists, they realized that the father has very little to do with the upbringing of children.

Until the 1920s and 1930s, there was this misconception that the father is the main socialization agent.

Therefore, the voice of the father, in the form of an introject, constitutes the main component of the superego and of the conscience.

But today, psychoanalysis and psychodynamic theories and object relations theories and so on and so forth, they don't say that. They say that the formation of the superego is pre-edible. It's before it precedes the Oedipus complex. It precedes the involvement of a father as the meaningful figure in the child's life.

So it's actually a maternal construct, not a paternal construct.

Now, mind you, psychoanalysis, etc., is no longer taught in universities. It's considered a form of literature denigrated as a non-science.

But actually, in the last 15 years, we're having an increasing body of knowledge, studies and research that tends to support this view, that actually fathers have an extremely limited role in the formation of young people and in molding them and shaping them.

I'm going to present an even-handed literature review. I'm going to review the literature that says that fathers are critical.

And most of these literature precedes, usually in 2006. And I'm going to review the new literature, the emerging literature, which strongly disputes this assertion, a camp to which I belong.

Now, to make clear, the issue is not settled, is not settled. But already psychologists are taking sides. The side I had chosen, by the way, not now, but 25 years ago, is that the father is much less important, if at all, in the child's psyche, in the child's emerging psychology.

Let's delve right in.

But before I do that, I'm going to torture you with my famous refrain.

My name is Sam Vaknin. I'm the author of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited. I see your eyes glazing.

Okay, I'm also a professor of psychology in Southern Federal University with Stovendon, Russian Federation. And I'm a professor of psychology and I'm a professor of finance in the Outreach Program of the SIAS-CIAPS Center for International Advanced and Professional Studies.

Now, you must admit, that's quite a mouthful.

Okay, Shoshanim, let's see what we have here.

I start with a study published by the University of Sheffield, and the study is titled Family Portrait, Single Parent Families and Transitions Over Time. It was authored by Sumi Rabindra Kumar, Alvaro Martinez Perez, Winona Shaw, and other unpronounceable names.

And here is what the study says.

I'm quoting, there is no evidence of a negative impact of living in a single parent household on children's wellbeing with regard to self-reported life satisfaction, quality of peer relationships, or positivity about family life.

Children who are living or have lived in single parent families score as highly or higher in many cases against each measure of wellbeing than those who have always lived in two parent families.

Revolutionary, isn't it?

They continue, the impact of single parenthood on children's wellbeing.

Capturing data over a number of years helps us to understand the impact of living and transitioning between various family types on multiple measures of children's wellbeing.

In this case, wellbeing is measured by looking at life satisfaction, feelings about their family, and the quality of relationships with peers.

On average, those who have been in a single parent family at some point report higher levels of life satisfaction than those children who have never lived in a single parent family.

Similarly, those with experience of living in a single parent family on average report more positive feelings about the family than those who have not lived in a single parent family.

Lastly, those children who have experienced or always lived in single parent families tend to report less problematic relationships with their peers than those who have never lived in single parent families.

This shockingly changes everything we thought we knew.

The study continues.

In all cases, the differences between those who have never lived in single parent families and those who have either experienced or always lived in single parent families is statistically significant, meaning the difference we observe is unlikely to have occurred by chance.

Given the diversity of families within these groups, further analysis is needed, etc.

These are the usual disclaimers and so on.

They say that what is clear is that this robust data set provides no evidence of a negative impact of living in single parent households on these indicators of children's well-being.

Now I'm going to quote one of my favorite psychologists, a voice I always love to listen to.

The role of the mother, the primary object, has often been discussed. The father's part is mostly neglected even in professional literature.

However, recent research demonstrates his importance to the orderly and healthy development of the child.

Even in modern nuclear families, the father participates in the day-to-day care and he is an intellectual catalyst who encourages the child to develop his interests and to satisfy his curiosity through the manipulation of various instruments and gains.

The Pater Familius is a source of authority and discipline, a boundary setter enforcing and encouraging positive behaviors while also eliminating negative ones.

The father also provides emotional support and economic security, thus stabilizing the family unit.

Finally, the father is the prime source of masculine orientation and identification to the male child and gives warmth and love as a male to his daughter without transgressing the socially permissible limits.

This was Sam Vaknin and he wrote this passage 20 years ago, 23 years ago in 1999. He published it in the first edition of Malignant Self-Love: Narcissism Revisited.

And I want to say to this guy, you did wrong because the research that had accumulated since tends to refute and dispute most of the claims you had made in this passage, Vaknin.

Go and study.

So that's what Vaknin did. He went and studied.

And here's what I discovered.

First I want to summarize the traditional view of the father's role, the view that had been supported by a mountain range of research well into 2005 or 2006.

And the reason I had written this paragraph or passage and published it in the first edition of my book.

So I'm going to quote from an article titled Growing Up in a Single Parent Family: A Determining Factor of Adolescence Well-Being. It is authored by Ajita Gupta and Sima Kashyap. It was published in the Advanced Journal of Social Science, Volume 7, Issue 1 in 2020. It represents the old view of the father's role.

I'm quoting, in the contemporary times, parenting becomes very difficult task for both parents, whereas breakdown or family disruption of any family system is tough.

Nowadays, single parenting, say the authors, is becoming common whether by choice or because of divorce, separation or death of a spouse. Whatever the reason is, single parents face countless challenges. It does not only affect the parents but also affects the children.

There are many short-term and long-term effects of family disruption on the adolescents.

In short-term effects, adolescents are likely to suffer a variety of physical and emotional problems like intense anger, fear about the future, loyalty conflicts, health problems, academic problems, withdrawal, depression, drug abuse, lack of social competence and early indulgence in sex.

While the long-term effects, adolescents tend to attain less education, marry at an early age and have a less stable marriage due to a lack of trust and happiness.

Existing literature also has been found positive as well and now the authors transition to current literature.

So this was a summary of the old view. Current literature in the last 15 years strongly disputes everything I've just read to you and the authors proceed to summarize the current literature.

They say existing literature also has been found positive as well as negative impacts on self-concept, physical development, personal relations, behavior, educational success, social integration and romantic relationship outcomes, recreational activities and career development on the adolescent on the adolescents of single parents.

So there were positive outcomes on all these issues. Single parents therefore require a lot of courage, say the authors, determination and emotional strength to overcome.

They also need to carefully select the parenting practices and take the responsibilities with confidence to nurture the children. Warmth and affection given by parents has also played an important role in increasing self-esteem, coping abilities and decrease anxiety among children.

Family- based intervention programs should be designed by the government, etc.

Okay this is a run of the mill article in an open access journal but it's a good summary of previous literature and current literature.

Now let's go further and try to get views from other parts of the world not only the West.

And so we move on from India because this was an Indian article we move on from India to China. China is a minor country where with 1.4 billion people something like four times the United States.

So I think what happens in China has some bearing on mankind not to mention the fact that China is the future superpower and the culture of China will have a major impact within less than 50 years.

So let's see what happened what's happening in China.

The article is titled Our Children from Divorced, Single Parent Families Are Disadvantaged. New Evidence from the China Family Panel Studies. The author is Johnny Zhang. Johnny Zhang works at the department of sociology in Peking University.

This was published in the Chinese sociological review volume 52 issue 1 2020.

And here's what Dr. Zhang has to say.

Since the beginning of the 21st century divorced single parenthood has become more prevalent in China.

Nevertheless divorced single parenthood and its impact on children outcomes have not been studied as much in China as in the West.

Most studies in Western societies have reported that divorce and single parenthood are associated with disadvantaged child outcomes. This has been attributed in part to the prevalence of divorce among parents with low socioeconomic status and decreased child monetary resources when one parent is absent.

In China however says the author there are several buffering mechanisms that may reduce the negative impact of divorce on children.

Using data from four waves of the China family panel studies this study examines the effects of divorce and single parenthood on children's academic performance and subjective well-being.

The results show the children living with divorced single mothers performed as well. Repeat that as well as children from intact two parent families.

Whereas children living with divorced single fathers and step parents were disadvantaged in academic performance and subjective well-being.

Frequent quarrels between the parents in two parent families also had a negative impact on child outcomes.

It seems that the problem is not father absence, the problem is the process of divorce which is acrimonious, unsettling, anxiety inducing and depressing.

Divorce is a problem not father absence and even this conclusion or this condition is highly dubious and dependent on a lot of context.

The Journal of Divorce and Remarriage. Tuğrul Çelebi, Elif Eşref, and others published the article Perspectives on Mental Health, Parent-Child Relationships and Educational Experiences.

Here is a conclusion of the art.

Children experiencing divorce often struggle with emotional, behavioral, educational and social issues.

However few studies use multiple perspectives to explore the mechanisms underlying divorce and the varying outcomes for children from diverse backgrounds.

For instance, the over complex family union, the ever complex family unions, same sex unions, step families, cohabitation expose children to multifaceted experiences.

As expected outcomes of divorce for children growing up in diverse family structures might be different from past research findings.

Therefore in this article our goal was to conceptualize the impact of parental divorce on the well-being of children from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds through various disciplines including sociology, education and family studies.

In this article we argue that divorce might lead to different outcomes for children based on culture, ethnicity, family structure and special needs.

It's not a universal outcome. For instance children with special needs might experience a significant impact on their later life outcomes due to divorce.

However these outcomes can be moderated by positive parenting, supportive teaching practices and counseling.

This theme is going to emerge in future articles, in articles that I'm going to review soon.

If the mother is empathic, present, unselfish, loving, caring, holding, containing, supportive, the absence of the father is largely rendered irrelevant.

In conclusion, continue the authors, we conceptualize that parental divorce is one of the most significant childhood adversities.

It is also listed by the way in ACE, the Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Divorce says the authors has long-term impact on individuals' mental health, family relationships and education.

However this impact is moderated or exacerbated by specific characteristics of culturally diverse families and communities and culturally responsive interventions.

A multi-disciplinary perspective offers possibilities for understanding the strengths and needs of children going through a divorce in a complex cultural context including race, socioeconomic status, family structure, school and parent-child relationships.

Exploring issues and possibilities in this context might also encourage policies and practices to become more inclusive to support the well-being of culturally diverse children and families.

So here's the first caveat. Culture matters, context matters, socioeconomic status matters. You can't generalize.

But we are already beginning to see that in the non-Western part of the world, which is vast majority of humanity, anything from Russia to China, we are already beginning to see that the absence of the father is not as important as it is made out to be in the West. That the mother is critical, that context is important and that the traumatic event is not the absence of the father but the process that had led to the absence of the father, known as divorce.

Okay. Here is an article titled, Consequences of Divorce-Based Father Absence During Childhood for Young Adult Well-being and Romantic Relationships.

It was authored by Hanita Weil, Danna LaReyre and others. It was published in November 2020.

And here's what it says.

Our findings also might suggest that when a father is completely absent or when a father is fully present in children's lives, the children can benefit from having a warm relationship with their mother because they are not conflicted about their loyalties to each parent.

This interpretation is in accordance with additional findings suggesting that a strong mother-adolescent relationship could serve as a protective factor from the risk of peer problem behavior among adolescents in homes from which the father is absent.

And she's referring to a very early study by Mason in 1994 and to studies by Sobolovsky and Amato 2007.

So this warmth, maternal warmth, is a protective measure and it protects adolescents in homes from which the father is absent, children in divorced families and so on.

On the one hand, say the authors, trying to be in a close relationship with both parents may prove beneficial, but that the risk of feeling divided and disloyal.

On the other hand, having a close relationship with one parent only may result in avoiding the stress of trying to be loyal to both parents, but at the risk of losing the benefits associated with the other parent.

The advantages and risks associated with these options might counterbalance one another, leaving these children without any clear benefit in regard to their subjective well-being.

Let's proceed.

Father Absence and Adolescent Development, a review of the literature by Leah East, Deborah Jackson, Louise O'Brien. It was published in December 2006.

It is one of the last studies to support the traditional orthodox view of the father's involvement in the child's world.

I'm reading the abstract.

Rapid social change has seen increasing numbers of woman-headed single-parent families, meaning that more and more children are growing up without a father resident at home.

Father Absence is a term that is not well-defined and much of a literature does not discriminate between father absence due to death, parental relationship discord or other causes.

This article presents a critical review of the extant literature on father absence, particularly as it relates to adolescent well-being and development.

Findings from the literature, say the authors, in 2006 point to the importance of father presence in children's lives and suggest that father absence has ramifications for children and adolescents.

That was one of the last articles to make this claim.

Similar claims were made in books, for example, the book Parenting and Child Development in Non-traditional Families. There's a chapter called The Consequences of Father Absence. Parenting and Child Development in Non-traditional Families was published in 1998 by Psychology Press.

Another book which espoused the traditional view was authored by Michael E. Lamb, an authority on fatherhood, and was titled The Role of the Father in Child Development. There's a fifth edition, I think, and then there's a book titled The Handbook of Father as in Child Development.

In this book there is a chapter, Family Systems Perspective on Father Absence, Presence and Engagement, and here's what this chapter says basically.

I'm quoting, this chapter addresses father presence, father absence, and related impacts on child developmental outcomes.

The research literature has historically narrowed define fathers' presence in their children's lives based on marital residential status.

However, family structure among diverse communities varies.

Empirical literature indicates that fathers contribute in consistent and meaningful ways to their children's development across residential patterns.

The discussion will be contextualized within a family systems framework and derive conceptual meaning based on boundary, clarity, and ambiguity in families.

Special consideration will be given to psychological sociological issues impacting family separation, including mental health problems, substance abuse, trauma, and incarceration.

This was one of the first examples of beginning to realize that the context of father absence matters a lot.

How did the father become absent? What preceded the absence? And how can we disentangle the events that had preceded the absence which are mostly traumatic and damaging from the absence itself?

Is the father's absence the crucial factor? Or is, for example, the acrimonious divorce or a death or incarceration?

So they were the first to raise these questions.

In an article published in February 2019 in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B in the United Kingdom, this was an article published titled Cross-Cultural Evidence Does Not Support Universal Acceleration of Puberty in Father Absent Households.

This article undermines decades of literature, literally.

Most previous literature had claimed that the absence of the father had driven boys and girls to precautious sexuality, had driven them to evolve sexually much faster and reproduce, procreate much faster.

So many studies had linked father absence to promiscuity and to precautious sexuality.

This article, authored by Rebecca Cyr and Paula Shepard and David Cole, this article disputed some of this.

It says, father absence in early life has been shown to be associated with accelerated reproductive development in girls.

Evolutionary social scientists have proposed several adaptive hypotheses for this finding.

Though there is variation in the detail of these hypotheses, they all assume that family environment in early life influences the development of life history strategy and broadly that early reproductive development is an adaptive response to father absence.

Empirical evidence to support these hypotheses, however, has been derived from WEIRD.

WEIRD means Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic Populations. Data from a much broader range of human societies are necessary in order to properly test adaptive hypotheses.

You can't focus on a single type of society and generalize to humanity.

Here, say the authors, we review the empirical literature on father absence and on puberty in both sexes, focusing on recent studies that have tested this association beyond the WEIRD world, beyond the West.

We find that relationships between father absence and age of puberty are much more varied in contexts beyond WEIRD societies.

And when relationships beyond the father-daughter dyad are considered, they are even more varied.

These are implications for our understanding of how early life environment is linked to life history strategies and for our understanding of pathways to adult health outcomesgiven that early reproductive development may be linked to negative health outcomes in later life.

So the first cracks are appearing in this monolithic construction of no-father-present bad things happen. And these are serious cracks.

They are culturally dependent. In other words, when you review other cultures, you begin to see that you cannot generalize. They are context dependent. There are dissimilar effects on children depending on socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, history, and so on.

But what about sex-specific outcomes?

So here's an article published in September 2018 titled Sex-specific developmental effects of father absence on casual sexual behavior and life history strategy. It's authored by Jessica Ehrman and Katherine Salman. It's published in Evolutionary Psychological Science Volume 5, 2019.

Here's the abstract.

A substantial body of research has investigated the effects of early family environments on the sexual maturity and behavior of adolescents and young adults.

Most of this research has focused primarily on, one, early childhood environments, two, these effects in females rather than males. Much less attention was devoted to males' sexual maturity and behavior.

And additionally, there was emphasis on sexual behavior of adolescents and young adults.

To address these limitations, say the authors, they conducted a study.

And in this study, over 20 years, they discovered and they asked the participants about how many casual sex partners did they have, etc.

And here are the conclusions.

Consistent with theoretical predictions, males had more casual sex partners and a faster life history strategy than females.

In other words, males went for short-term mating.

For both males and females, continue the authors, longer time spent growing up with their biological father was associated with fewer casual sex partners and a slower life history strategy.

The current study also provides clear evidence of sex-specific developmental effects on reproductive strategies as a function of when, during development, father absence occurs.

When father absence occurred during middle childhood, females exhibited faster life history strategies.

Whereas when father absence occurred during adolescence, males exhibited faster life history strategies.

Together, these findings suggest the effects of father absence are not specific to females nor early childhood environments.

In addition, effects of father absence appear to persist beyond adolescence and early young adulthood with opposite effects on males and females reproductive strategies, depending on when during development, it occurs.

Family relations, interdisciplinary journal of applied family science.

As an article, trends in the economic well-being of unmarried parent families with children.

New estimates using improved measure of an improved measure of poverty was authored by Christopher Weimer, Liana Fox, Erwin Garfinkel and others. It was published in Population Research and Policy Review, volume 14 in 2021.

So it's a very recent study.

Another surprise finding.

I'm again quoting the abstract.

Children born to unmarried parents make up an increasing share of American children.

But official poverty statistics provide little insight into their economic well-being because these statistics use an outdated definition of the family unit and an incomplete measure of family resources.

Using current population survey data and an improved measure of poverty, the Census Bureau's supplemental poverty measure, we reassess long-term trends in poverty for children in unmarried parent families.

Those led by single mothers, those led by single fathers and those led by cohabiting couples.

And so we contrast this with their counterparts in married couple families.

So I repeat what they're doing.

Using current population survey data and an improved measure of poverty, the Census Bureau's supplemental poverty measure, what they did, they compared children in unmarried parent families, families with single mothers, families with single fathers, families where couples cohabited intermittently, they compared these children to children who lived in married couple families, typical traditional 1950s families.

What they found was a bit surprising.

We find, say the authors, that single mother families have the highest poverty rates among families.

No surprise there, both historically and today.

But the improved measure shows much larger declines in single mother's family poverty rate over time.

Single father and cohabiting families also have high poverty rates, but those rates have also fallen by approximately one third since the 1960s.

So father absence is associated with poverty rates, mother absence is associated with poverty, and single mother households do a lot better than single father households in terms of poverty reduction and amelioration.

Journal of marriage and family, family diversity and child health.

Where do same sex couple families fit in?

Laura Freeman and others, published in December 2017.

They say increasing family diversity during the past half century has focused national attention on how children are faring in non-traditional family structures. Much of the limited evidence of children in same sex couple families suffers from severe shortcomings, including a lack of representative data.

We used a National Health Interview Survey, 2004-2012, and the National Survey of Children's Health, 2011-2012, to identify children in different sex married and cohabiting families. Never in previously married single parent families and same sex couple families.

Considering important characteristics such as the child's race and ethnicity, adoption status, household socioeconomic standing, family stability, parent health, we examine the relationship between family type and parent rated overall childhood.

The results suggest that poorer health among children in same sex couple as well as different sex cohabiting couples in single parent families appears to be largely the product of demographic and socioeconomic differences rather than exposure to non-traditional family forms.

Let me translate this to you. Health effects.

Until 2007, everyone said father absence adversely impacts the health of children. They become less healthy.

But this study and other studies show that the problem is not father absence. The problem is not same sex families. The problem is not single mother households. The problem is poverty. The problem is demographic, which neighborhood you live in. We saw it in COVID, you know, different health outcomes, depending on your skin color and your neighborhood.

So this has nothing to do with father absence. I'm using studies to demolish one by one all the myths associated with father absence. Are you listening there?

The men who wrote to me, infuriated and enraged by what I said.

Bon Bonin. Children and Youth Services Review, volume 125, June 2001. Article. Comparison of intergenerational transmission of gender roles between single parent families and two parent families. The influence of parental, child rearing, gender role attitudes.

One of the main arguments is that if there's no father in the family, the boys in the family will never grow to be proper men.

Because gender differentiation and gender role acquisition, they are heavily influenced by the presence of a male.

You need to have a male to become a male. To become a man, you need to have a man in the family. You need to have a father figure.

So this is a study. The lead author is Menping Yang.

And these are the highlights from the study.

Gender roles of two generations, mother, father and children, parents and children, gender roles of two generations are similar in both single and two parent families. It's very clear.

This sentence alone demolishes all the nonsensical arguments of the manosphere and similar thinking people, including people like Jordan Peterson and others.

The father's presence is not critical in gender formation, gender differentiation and gender role acquisition, not critical. End of story.

The authors continue.

There are significant differences in the proportion of undifferentiated and androgynous in different family structures. Family socioeconomic status, family structure and parental child rearing gender role attitudes significantly positively affect the intergenerational transmission of gender roles.

The gender and age of children significantly negatively affect the intergenerational transmission of gender roles. Parental child rearing gender role attitudes play a partial mediating role between family structure and intergenerational transmission of gender roles.

This is a summary. I'm going to read a part of the study that goes deeply, more deeply.

This is a crucial question. This is actually also the main argument of father advocates.

They say it's very bad that so many children are growing up in single mother families because they are exposed only to females. They don't see the day-to-day presence of a male, so they can't learn gender roles.

Unfortunately, it's not true.

Okay, on the very contrary, by the way, the presence of fathers induces actually problems with sexual and gender differentiation, shockingly as it may sound.

Here's a section from the study.

The characteristics of parents gender roles directly impact the children's gender roles, thus forming intergenerational transmission of gender roles.

Based on the bio-ecological theory, this study conducted paired survey of adolescents generation two and their parents generation one and explored the intergenerational trans transmission of gender roles in different family structures, examining the mechanism of various factors in the family microsystem.

The results were this.

Both in single parent families, most of which are headed by women, both in single parent families and in two parent families, the distribution of gender role types of generation two is similar to that of generation one and the distribution of undifferentiated.

This is the shocking part. The distribution of undifferentiated androgeny in the two generations is bipolar.

In single parent families, the proportion of undifferentiated is the highest, but it's the highest in both generations.

In other words, it doesn't have anything to do with the absence of the father.

Well, there's something with the mothers that crosses intergenerationally and affects gender differentiation and gender role acquisition.

And they say undifferentiated gender roles is significantly higher than in two parent families.

In two parent families, the proportion of androgeny, transgender and similar phenomena, the proportion of androgeny in two parent families is the highest in both generation one and generation two, which is significantly higher than that of single parent families.

Family socioeconomic status, family structure and parental child rearing gender role attitudes as three family environment factors, as well as the gender and age of children as two individual factors, significantly influence intergenerational transmission of gender roles.

The mediating analysis shows parental child rearing gender role attitude plays a mediating role in the influence of family structure on this transmission.

Advances in life course research, December 2021. Article titled Fair Comparisons: Life course selection bias and the effect of father absence in US children.

Alejandra Rodriguez Sanchez is the author and the highlights are life course selection bias, the trajectory of confounders may have a future further bias, casual effect, estimates in demography.

Exposure of children to divorce is a marker of life course socioeconomic disadvantages, not a cause of negative effects.

That finally is common sense.

Divorce is going to disadvantage children economically, mainly, socially, because of poverty, but it's not going to have other negative effects on their well-being, psychology, gender role or anything else for that matter.

Father absence is irrelevant and has very little impact.

The author continues, when divorce and separation occur close to or during adolescence, negative effects are found in the problem behavior domain, but it's because of the divorce.

Okay, so this is, I'm going to try to find a segment, like a quote from, she says, studies have shown that father absence in opposite gender couples, she is referring to old literature, has detrimental effects on children's well-being, net of selection bias.

However, she says, life course informed research suggests that the problem of selection bias may be more complex than currently thought.

In other words, she disparages prior studies, she says they are biased.

That's a nice way of putting it. So she explains that she was data from the fragile families and child well-being study to estimate the total effect of the departure of a biological father on children's well-being, as well as delayed or fade out effects on this transition.

And she explains the statistical methods and so on and so forth.

And she says, after all this, after we've worked out the statistics, estimates of father absences effects on children's well-being are reduced substantially.

I'm going to read this again. Estimates of father absences effects on children's well-being are reduced substantially, finding which may be referred to as a life course selection bias.

Results suggest early and middle childhood are not negatively affected by the departure of the biological father.

That's a shocking statement, flies in the face of old literature prior to 2007.

Results suggest early and middle childhood are not negatively affected by the departure of a biological father.

Life course selection bias mostly affects estimates of this effect on adolescence, which is explained by children directly experiencing changes in parents' socioeconomic trajectories that lead to divorce or separation.

This would not be the case when father absences is experienced in early childhood.

Results suggest that father absences is mostly a marker of life course, cumulative socioeconomic advantage, not a cause of negative psychological or other effects.

Fast forward to August 2021, article, absent father timing and its impact on adolescent and adult criminal behavior, Michael Tenike, Kristin Knox, Sarell Said, American Journal of Criminal Justice 2021.

The authors say, although prior research has examined the link between having an absent biological father and self-reported delinquency, few studies have assessed the influence of the timing of parental absence, the child's age when the father leaves.

How does that affect delinquency and adult criminal behavior?

Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the present study examines this relationship to determine whether the timing of biological father absence impacts delinquency, adult criminal behavior and arrest across the life course.

Results reveal that biological father absence before birth was related to criminal behavior in later adulthood. Before birth, having an absent father in early childhood, birth to age five, was related to criminal behavior in early adulthood as well as arrest.

An absent biological father, later to lessons, age 14 to 18, was related to arrest.

These findings suggest that, one, the timing of the father's absence does not have a clear pattern of impact on delinquency and arrest, two, the negative impact of having an absent biological father at any time may not appear at all until adulthood.

Social Science and Medicine, volume 222, February 2019, article titled, Father Departure in Children's Mental Health: How Does Timing Matter?

Authors are Emily Fitzsimmons, Aaseh Rilatsen, and so on.

Highlights. The timing of father's departure matters for children's mental health. Departure in mid-childhood is more detrimental to mental health than earlier on. It increases internalizing in boys and girls and externalizing in boys.

High maternal education, not a buffer for child mental health after father departure. Departure in early childhood associated with better maternal mental health later on.

Now, it all sounds very old-fashioned and very supportive of the view that when fathers depart, there are adverse consequences on delinquency and on mental health.

But when you delve deeper into these studies, you discover nuances that render the whole thing very dubious.

I want to read to you a segment from this research.

Father's permanent departure from the household in childhood has the potential to affect child mental health.

The event is non-random, and a major limitation in most previous studies is lack of adequate control for unobserved confounders.

Using five waves of data spanning ages 3 to 14 from the Micellani cohort study, which is a UK-wide, nationally representative longitudinal study, so using this data, this paper uses fixed effect models to examine the effect of paternal absence on children's mental health, externalizing and internalizing problems.

Sample was very big, 6,245 children.

The authors concluded, "...heterogeneity of effects are examined by gender and maternal education.

A novel aspect is to examine how the timing of departure matters and to assess whether there are developmental periods that are especially sensitive to paternal departure and whether effects are temporary or enduring.

We find that paternal departure is a negative effect on child mental health, particularly on internalizing symptoms like depression, anxiety.

Striking gender differences emerge in examining effects by timing and duration. There are no short-term effects of departure in early childhood, and only weak evidence of females showing an increase in internalizing symptoms in the medium term.

So now we are coming to the nuances.

Actually, if the father departs in early childhood, there are no effects, or at least no short-term effects. If the father departs in early childhood, there are essentially no effects on females until they become adults.

Paternal departure in later childhood, on the other hand, is associated with an increase in internalizing problems in both males and females, and increased externalizing symptoms for males only. We do not find maternal education to be a protective factor.

To summarize, father absence has extremely limited impacts, depending crucially on context, timing, sex of the child, and the behavior of the mother.

By far, the most critical factor is the mother.

Again, it's again the mother.

Even the father's departure, the effects of the father departure, father's departure are mediated from the mother.

If the mother is loving, caring, holding, empathic, sympathetic, affectionate, compassionate, almost nothing will happen. The father's absence will go unnoticed or unaffected, will not affect, will not have effects.

If the mother, of course, is absent, selfish, parentifying, instrumentalizing, in other words, not good enough mother, then, of course, the father's absence will have effects because there will be no one to balance her.

And in any case, the major factors have nothing to do with the father or with his absence. They have to do with socioeconomic status, namely poverty, with demography, race, ethnicity, place of residence, and other similar factors.

We know today after COVID, the COVID pandemic, that health outcomes depend crucially on these things, not on internal family structure or system.

Thank you for surviving this. I'm not sure I have.

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