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The Incredible Vanishing Father

Do kids need fathers?

By Will Offensicht  |  May 29, 2008

Nobody wants to admit it, but any change to established custom is an experiment whose outcome cannot be known with any degree of certainty.  When kids start wearing their baseball caps with the bill pointing backward or when they start letting trousers hang down as far as possible, it's a social experiment.  Nobody can tell in advance how any such change will turn out.

Most such experiments disappear and have no effect; hippie communes which vanished after a few years come to mind.  Some experiments, however, spread to the point of making major impacts on society.

For the first time in recorded history, we're attempting to design a society where fatherhood is unnecessary.  This is a truly breath-taking experiment!

Fatherless on Welfare

Back in the 1960's, liberals in America championed setting up a welfare system called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC).  The stated goal was to keep children from growing up in poverty.

Like all government programs, AFDC had unintended side effects.  By subsidizing bastardy, AFDC ensured that the number of fatherless children would increase.  By making it possible for a woman to have a home and children without a husband, AFDC increased the number of single-parent households.  Instead of reducing child poverty, welfare had the effect of locking children into poverty, but that's another article.

One requirement of AFDC eligibility was that a woman not be affiliated with a man in any way; if she had a man, he should support her and her children.  In order to qualify for government money, women had to raise their children without men.  Social workers became famous for "midnight raids" to make sure there were no men sleeping over.

The social workers weren't worried about their clients getting pregnant and needing more money.  Welfare workers have long known that the more children their clients have, the more children grow up to be future clients and help them justify bigger budgets.  The stated reason for the raids was to protect the taxpayers by verifying that AFDC women wasn't getting any support from men; having men around would render them ineligible for state money.

A number of social conservatives said at the time that the social workers enjoyed throwing their weight around.  That was to be expected - conservatives generally believe that government employees always abuse whatever power they have and keep trying to get more.

Conservatives also believed that forcing men out of women's lives was a nefarious feminist plot.  At the time, women's libbers were talking about how demeaning it was for a woman to depend on a man for anything.

The most fundamental dependence, they believed, was to depend on a man to provide food and shelter.  They thought that switching that dependency to government would make women more liberated and less dependent overall.

Anybody with more than superficial personal knowledge of a few welfare recipients knows how well that notion worked out - depending on social workers turns out to be far more demeaning than depending on a man.  Feminist ideologues also discounted the positive influence of a father's authority and strength in a child's life.

From a man's point of view, AFDC raids offered a significant reduction in the cost of maintaining a girlfriend.  By staying away most of the time, a man could get a full 100% discount on the expected cost of female companionship and have a woman for free.

Polygamists in Utah and Texas use the same technique.  They are careful not to marry more than one woman because marrying more than one woman at a time is a jailing offense.  They sign their concubines up for welfare as single mothers which, technically speaking, they are.  AFDC has become a fantastic subsidy to mitigate the costs of having multiple women!

Polygamy aside, the effect of AFDC is that entire neighborhoods of children grow up without even knowing a married woman, much less a functioning father.

Fatherless by Abortion

When the authors of Roe v. Wade cited a spurious "right to privacy" to justify open-ended abortion "rights," some details remained to be settled.  The decision did not address notification of the father or notification of parents of minor children as is required for all other medical treatment, for example.

Parental notification is still an issue, but it was decided almost immediately that there was no need for a woman to notify the father before getting an abortion.  If a woman has an abortion early enough, the father might never even know about it.

This had the effect of further cutting fathers off from children.  If a man has no say in whether his child lives or dies, why should he care about it if it should happen to be born?  The child has nothing to do with him, after all, it is her decision to have it and she had it last.

Fatherless in Fertility

Women today may or may not want to hang around with men and they may or may not want children.  These desires appear to be unrelated.  If a woman just wants to get pregnant, there are plenty of men who are willing to help.  A women who wants children but rejects the hassle of involving a man can pay to have herself impregnated at a fertility clinic.  This is not news.

What is news is that fertility clinics need not consider fatherhood at all.  TimesOnline of London, England, posted "Women win right to children without fathers" which reported:

Single women and lesbian couples won landmark parental rights last night as MPs voted to remove the requirement that fertility clinics consider a child's need for a father. [emphasis added]

The legislation will grant the most significant extension to homosexual family rights since gay adoption was sanctioned.

No one doubts that having a father benefits a child.

[Ian Duncan-Smith, a former British Tory Party leader] said there was overwhelming evidence that children without fathers were more likely to have problems at school and with drink and drugs.

The importance of fatherhood has been recognized for a long time:

In all human societies, the father is regarded by tradition as indispensable ... no child should be brought into the world without a man--and one man at that--assuming the role of sociological father, that is, guardian and protector, the male link between the child and the rest of the community.

- Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski

Dr. Malinoswki asserts that the father links a child to the rest of the community.  Mothers do the best they can, but children who are weakly linked to the community are more likely to turn to crime, drugs, or terrorism.  Fatherless children are thus more likely to become feral as we're reported before.  The article "No Father Figure = Violent Crime" says:

  • High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families abandoned by fathers.
  • State-by-state analysis by Heritage scholars indicates that a 10 percent increase in the percentage of children living in single-parent homes leads typically to a 17 percent increase in juvenile crime.
  • The rate of violent teenage crime corresponds with the number of families abandoned by fathers.
  • The mother's strong affectionate attachment to her child is the child's best buffer against a life of crime.
  • The father's authority and involvement in raising his children are also a great buffer against a life of crime.
  • The scholarly evidence, in short, suggests that at the heart of the explosion of crime in America is the loss of the capacity of fathers and mothers to be responsible in caring for the children they bring into the world. [emphasis added]

Nevertheless, the British government backed a law saying that there is no need to even consider whether a child will have a father involved in his or her life when selling insemination services.  This will benefit sperm banks; it will cut their paperwork and increase their sales.

A Truly Earth-Shaking Experiment

Starting with Social Security, the Western system of managing welfare has been a long-term, complex experiment in ordering society by shifting fundamental responsibilities from families to government.  The breakdown of marriage and having couples live together without marriage is a related experiment which sprung from devaluing marriage.  The shift from mothers taking care of their children to subcontract child-rearing to day care centers and our policies with respect to fertility clinics, sperm banks, and surrogate motherhood are also experiments in social engineering.  The results have not always turned out to our liking.

We have become accustomed to watching social experiments play out before our eyes, but encouraging fatherlessness on such a large scale is a truly seminal experiment.  It remains to be seen whether increasing the number of fatherless children will be good for society in the long term.  We have pointed out that historical precedents argue strongly that it will not.

This is a self-correcting problem.  If too many fatherless children grow up to be barbarians instead of becoming members of civilized society, the society will collapse.  At that point, any child who lacks a strong connection to a man who is willing to feed him will starve and any woman who is unable to persuade a man to feed her will not be able to raise any children.

As Pogo used to say, "We have met the enemy and it is us."