The fatherhood crisis

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 children’s 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.

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):

  • Half of first marriages and 60 percent of second marriages in the United States now end in divorce.

  • 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
    For more on Marriage and Divorce

    FMF Policy Bulletin/22 June 2004
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