Fatherhood is rapidly becoming the number one social policy issue in America. In 1995, President Bill Clinton stated the single biggest social problem in our society may be the growing absence of fathers from their childrens homes, because it contributes to so many other social problems. By 2000, nearly a third of American children under the age of 18 lived with only one parent, usually their mother. Half of first marriages and 60 percent of second marriages in the United States now end in divorce.
While Clinton and other politicians attributed the growing absence of fathers from their children's homes to abandonment, there is no evidence that desertion is increasing. The absence of fathers from the home is principally due to the increase in divorce, says Professor Stephen Baskerville (Howard University):
About 1.2 million divorces occur each year, involving approximately 1 million children.
More than half of the children who live with one parent do so because of the break-up of a marriage.
Fatherless families is a growing problem, but the principal cause is not bad behaviour or the fault of fathers; it is government policies with respect to divorce and child support, says Baskerville. Beginning with California in 1969, every state has adopted "no-fault" divorce, which may be more properly called unilateral divorce one partner can end a marriage without penalty and without the consent of the other party.
If couples were able to make their own marriage or divorce contracts, they could increase the welfare of both parents (and the children), compared to court decrees or the straight-jacket of one-size-fits-all legislation, says Baskerville.
Source: Stephen Baskerville, The Fatherhood Crisis: Time for a New Look? Policy Report No. 267, National Center for Policy Analysis, June 21, 2004.
For text http://www.ncpa.org/pub/st/st267/st267.pdf
For more on Marriage and Divorce http://www.ncpa.org/iss/soc/
FMF Policy Bulletin/22 June 2004
Publish date: 30 June 2004
The views expressed in the article are the author’s and are not necessarily shared by the members of the Foundation.