'Life without father: What happens to the children?' is explored in Contexts, ASA's magazine

March 27, 2002

Why do children raised without their fathers run serious risks? Sara McLanahan, Princeton University explores this issue in an article, "Life without Father: What Happens to the Children," in Contexts, the newest journal of the American Sociological Association. Answering this question can help shape productive policies and perhaps quiet the culture war raging around single parenthood.

Since the 1980s, a new consensus holds that, although most children of divorced parents do all right, growing up without a father increases the risk of numerous undesirable outcomes. For example, girls from father absent families are more likely to become sexually active at a younger age and to have a child outside of marriage. Boys who grow up without their fathers are more likely to have trouble finding (and keeping) a job in young adulthood. Research studies also indicate that the penalties associated with single parenthood appear to be more or less similar for children from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Whether or not these outcomes are caused by the divorce itself, as opposed to something else about the family, remains controversial. In sum, the evidence is mixed with respect to whether divorce causes children to have problems, or whether the problems associated with divorce are due to poor parenting or even poor genes.

McLanahan concludes that three general factors account for the disadvantages associated with father absence: economic deprivation, poor parenting, and lack of social support. She also discusses social policy approaches that could help to reduce potential harm for father-absent children, such as making sure that policies do not discourage marriage, and insisting that fathers support their children even when they live elsewhere. Policies that strengthen fragile families (defined as unmarried parents who are raising a child together) also could have potential benefits for children in these unions.

Complementing the McLanahan analysis of these issues is a photo essay by Dona Schwartz, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, University of Minnesota.
-end-
Further information on Contexts can be found on its webpage at www.contextsmagazine.org. Media interested in a copy should contact Johanna Ebner, ASA Public Information Office, at (202) 383-9005 x320 or e-mail pubinfo@asanet.org.

American Sociological Association

Related Marriage Articles from Brightsurf:

Survey reveals popular misconceptions about child marriage
Misconceptions about child marriage (marriage under 18) appear widespread among the American public, potentially hampering efforts to address the practice globally.

Do unmarried women face shortages of partners in the US marriage market?
One explanation for declines in marriage is a shortage of economically-attractive men for unmarried women to marry.

Could marriage stave off dementia?
Dementia and marital status could be linked, according to a new Michigan State University study that found married people are less likely to experience dementia as they age.

Happy in marriage? Genetics may play a role
People fall in love for many reasons -- similar interests, physical attraction, and shared values among them.

Your genes could impact the quality of your marriage
The quality of your marriage could be affected by your genes, according to new research conducted at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Ideal marriage partners drive Waorani warriors to war
In a new study, a team of researchers examined the social composition of raiding parties and their relationship to marriage alliances in an Amazonian tribal society, the Waorani of Ecuador.

Is student debt keeping Americans away from marriage?
Having a student loan could influence whether America's young adults first union after college is marriage or cohabitation.

Recent trends of marriage in Iran
Data about marriages in Iran points to the declining number of formal (arranged) marriages in recent decades despite strong cultural and religious traditions favoring such marriages.

Marriage name game: What kind of guy would take his wife's last name?
The study looked at whether a man's level of education -- both his own and relative to his wife's -- influences the likelihood that he chooses a nontraditional surname in marriage.

Get a grip: What your hand strength says about your marriage prospects and mortality
Researchers found men with a stronger grip were more likely to be married than men with weaker grips.

Read More: Marriage News and Marriage Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.