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We Now Have Proof: Father Absence Really is the Problem

Posted by Melissa Byers

Most Recent Fatherhood Posts

Mar 19, 2014

Christopher Brown recently wrote "The Proof Is In: Father Absence Harms Child Well-Being" for The Huffington Post where he cites one of the most important studies done on father absence to date.

When NFI was founded 20 years ago, it was because a group of people realized that a child growing up in a home without a dad had an increased the risk of

  • living in poverty,
  • performing poorly in school,
  • emotional and behavioral problems,
  • becoming violent,
  • getting pregnant (or getting someone pregnant) as a teen,
  • winding up in prison or jail, and
  • committing suicide.

we now have proof father absence really is the problemChris says, "despite reams of data that NFI has compiled in six editions of Father Facts, the recognition among people across the political spectrum of the need to combat father absence, and the commitment of many private and public funders to addressing this problem, there are still some scholars and members of the public who are not convinced that dads are important to children."

Chris continues by pointing out that even with all the research on father absence, "Many believe that family structure doesn't really matter, as long as children are cared for and loved by someone, anyone. One valid reason for the skepticism among scholars, at least, is the lack of rigorous analytical methods employed in much of the research."

With this new study, researchers Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach, and Daniel Schneider have reviewed nearly 50 studies to examine the causal effects of father absence.

Their work has been published in the Annual Review of Sociology, The Causal Effects of Father Absence focuses on the relationship between father absence and four outcomes of children:

    1. educational attainment,
    2. mental health,
    3. relationship formation and stability, and
    4. labor force success.

Chris says of this new study that the research, "prove(s) beyond reproach that father absence causes poor outcomes for children in each of these areas."

Chris adds three things he realized in reading this study that are worth considering:

1) Father absence is to blame. This new study makes clear, as Chris writes, that "the old adage 'correlation does not imply causation,' does not apply to the effects of father absence on children."Chris makes all the research clear by stating, "In other words, for many of our most intractable social ills affecting children, father absence is to blame."

2) Father absence is a global issue. Chris delves into the cross-cultural analysis of the research and finds it supports recent research on the importance of family structure to child well being (see a recent post entitled "It Takes a Married Village"). Chris sums this point up by saying: Father absence isn't just a U.S. problem -- it's a human problem.

3) The earlier we can fix father absence the better. Chris explains that with his career of working in fatherhood and on behalf of children, there is "one particular conclusion of these scholars" he finds "very sobering given that the U.S. has reached an all-time high in the number of children born to single parents: the earlier in their lives that children experience father absence the more pronounced are its effects."

Read the full article here.

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Topics: NFI-Specific Programs & Resources, General Fatherhood Research & Studies

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