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Father absence -- not about "chicken or egg" theory

As many of you know, David Blankenhorn has initiated a public discussion pretending the Dr. Stephen Baskerville's points about father-absence being a systemic creation are not true.  Lets move from discussion to fact.

Blankenhorn himself provides evidence in Baskerville's favor, and against himself at:

http://www.americanvalues.org/html/baskerville.shtml

In his short argument against Baskerville, he claims there's nothing at all to the idea that mothers reject father involvement, yet, in the section entitled; "A Lost Idea of Fatherhood," he tells the following story:

"I was in Indiana some time ago, speaking to some high-school kids. They were middle-class, all white, two cars in the garage, rural, growing corn, Norman Rockwell America. Twenty percent of the graduating class girls were either pregnant or had become mothers in the past year. The grown-ups were alarmed. Wouldn't you be if it was true in your high school? So, I'm there, in my business suit, to talk to these kids. I gave them my little talk, and then they just took my head right off.

I've thought about one girl in particular many times since then. She stood up and pointed her finger at me, not angrily, but in a very poised way. She pointed her finger at me and told me that what I was saying was wrong. What I had said was, "Mothers need husbands, grown-up men, not these boys. What are you doing?" They didn't like that. So she told me that I was all wrong. She said, "You know, I'm a mother, and I get a lot of support from my classmates and my teachers." And then she said, "My baby gets everything he needs from me." And all the students cheered for her because she was popular and smart, and that's what she believed: that her baby got everything he needed from her.

That's a common view among younger people, and it tells us something about what we've done by way of passing on a marriage culture to the next generation. So we're losing our idea of fatherhood. We're changing our minds about whether we even know what fatherhood is and why it matters."

The vast majority of divorces are initiated by women, and most often for trivial reasons. About half of all unwed mothers live with the father of their children. The best technique welfare officers have found for discovering who a father is, is not to ask the mother, but to show up at the hospital for the birth. In most cases, the father is there, participating, providing support, and even paying some bills if he can.

How one specifically sees the statement "very few fathers voluntarily abandon their children" may depend upon whether the question is answered in percent or with raw numbers, with the final interpretation based on what the reader thinks "very few" means. But David Blankenhorn must know that he goes too far assigning Stephen Baskerville's comments to a "fantasy world."

Most fathers are good. And, as I suspect even David Blankenhorn knows, many divorced and never-married fathers are "forcibly driven away from their children by mothers and the courts." Federal child support reforms have made things worse.

Back in 1975, Senator Russell Long initiated child support reform, as we know it, by defining a simple prejudicial stereotype -- which became known as the "deadbeat dad." Back in those days, there was a serious research gap. Family studies had focused primarily on mothers and children, leaving the image of fatherhood to opportunists like Long, the media, and the National Organization for Women.

But 25 years later, a great deal more research on fathers has been done. And if David Blankenhorn wants to be taken seriously in debate, he must know about it, and he must acknowledge that he knows about it. Program evaluations have also been done, and the effect of child support reform has been measured. David Blankenhorn needs also to acknowledge that amidst all the negative effects it has had, the only positive reported is that a small number of politically connected child support entrepreneurs got rich.

Instead, he asserts:

"As long as the United States has a 33 percent rate of unwed childbearing and the highest divorce rate in the world, we will have a profound crisis of fatherhood, no matter what ex-wives, ex-girlfriends and the courts do and or do not do."

Any reasonable person, whether familiar with the research or not, should be able to recognize Blankenhorn's fallacy.

Simply blaming "all men everywhere" for whatever ails society is a crude psychological game, and may be a pathology in itself. It's time for anyone who wants to be taken seriously in family policy debate to admit that those old anti-male stereotypes are wrong, and that the policies built upon them are destructive.

From ACFC

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