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More Single Dads Means More Bad News for Kids


The number of households in America headed by single fathers has increased nine-fold since 1960. According to a new Pew report, these households now account for nearly one quarter of all single-parent families, up from only 14 percent in 1960.

While we’re pleased to see more fathers who are deeply involved in their children’s lives, this is part of a bigger and more disturbing trend. The number of single mother households more than quadrupled since 1960. Overall, 58 percent of poor and middle-class women now give birth to their first child outside of wedlock.

Add these numbers together, and it’s clear that there are far too many children not getting what they need most: a stable, loving, two-parent family. Children born into single-parent homes are more likely to have emotional problems, less likely to graduate from high school, and more likely to have children out of wedlock themselves.

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  • Philopoemen

    How do they define “single”? Is anyone who is not married automatically considered “single”, or does “married” include committed but non-married couples with children?

    The linked article mentions that 41% of these single fathers live with a “cohabiting partner”, which I don’t consider being “single” at all.

    • Corlyss

      When in the law has there ever been a classification for cohabiting? That’s a pollsters’ term. There has long been the loosey-goosey “common law” marriage, but the couple has to hold itself out as married and it has to exist for a while. Bed hopping not contemplated. As far as the law is considered, those 41% are just sleepin’ around.

      • Philopoemen

        … because married people don’t “sleep around”?

        • Corlyss

          You’re missing the point. Married people have a spouse of official records. Governments (the law) want to know who has rights implied by marriage and who don’t. With a few exceptions, unmarried people sleepin’ around don’t generally create rights in the other party.

          The new normal is serial monogamy, whether it’s by multiple marriages or multiple hook-ups. I’m not sure serial divorcing that comes of it is all that great for kids either. That’s not that much more stable. What the society needs is for the revival of the family with two parents of the opposite sex in a stable relationship, at least till the kids become adults. What we’re going to get probably will fall badly short.

    • rheddles

      This brings up my other radical suggestion, which is that all mothers be compelled to identify the father on the birth certificate. If she refuses, or if DNA testing shows the man not to be the biological father, she loses all benefits. If the father is identified, he becomes financially responsible to the government for half of all benefits paid to the mother on behalf of the child. Like a student loan, this debt would not be dischargeable in BK.

      • lhfry

        Yes. However, one of the huge problems to overcome is that many of these “fathers” are in prison and unable to provide support. I would put such prisoners to work for the benefit of their children, however, unions generally oppose such schemes as harmful to wage earners not in prison because prisoners are usually paid little.
        When my grandchild was born last February, my son and his wife were given a DNA sample instead of the previously provided footprint. I asked them who else gets that sample and they didn’t know. Clearly if a DNA sample can be taken without the parents’ consent, it could be used to identify paternity in questionable cases.

  • lukelea

    It’s the end of the family for the bottom half of our society. I don’t think the values that distinguish our culture and civilization can be transmitted from one generation to the next in the absence of the family. What does that portend for the future of America and our liberal institutions?

    The government needs to institute wage subsidies and tax credits to married couples raising children (gay or straight) in order to head off this disaster.

    • rheddles

      The problem is not so much to subsidize family formation but how to penalize out of wedlock births without harming the innocent child. Right now there is a significant subsidization of out of wedlock births for those at the bottom of the ladder. We do so for the benefit of the child, but in fact the benefit of the subsidies redound to the benefit of the parent. And all we do is incent the birth of more children out of wedlock.

      This problem would be dramatically reduced if we made all unwed parents ineligible for assistance. This would bring about great misfortune for many of the children but it would spare many more children from being born into a life in the culture of dependence and poverty.

      • Corlyss

        “This problem would be dramatically reduced if we made all unwed parents ineligible for assistance. ”

        Amen. But an entitlement once given can never be stopped, reduced, or removed. The first cash outlay creates an equity right that must be continued. That’s why the administration is anxious to get to the point in Obamacare where they start paying out subsidies to people to buy health insurance. Once that floodgate is opened, there’s no turning back.

      • Jim__L

        You assume that public assistance is the only kind of assistance.

        The issue of children of unwed parents would actually get a lot more attention if responsibility for them weren’t shuffled off onto a faceless bureaucracy.

        • rheddles

          Public assistance is the predominant form of assistance in dollars.
          The imputed value of labor provided by family members is probably very high, but unaccountable and born by the family, not a faceless bureaucracy. I think we are in agreement.

  • dwk67

    Unfortunately a byproduct of our pursuit of egalitarianism is that the roles of the sexes are no longer complimentary of each other, but are now in competition with one another in all facets of life. Tradition never gets to become tradition if it is truly at loggerheads with human nature. When we decided to veer from tradition, divorce rates shot up, workplace competition depresses wages, sexual license weakens the bonding process, and the general tone of the culture does more to foment resentment and mistrust between the sexes than anything positive. Children grow up as pawns in a larger game that does nothing to serve their interests and will only make each successive generation that much more cynical as they come of age. Once again, mankind took a bite of an apple that it probably shouldn’t have, and will suffer for it…

  • Corlyss

    One of these days in the not too distant future if the time has not already come, comments like WRM makes above will be considered racist and sexist hate speech. Truth-telling that does the nation any good at all often consists of describing dangerous social and personal pathologies that ought to be remedied. But we’re told constantly that they are “life-style” choices. How does one fight that kind of obfuscation?

    • Jim__L

      Just keep telling the truth, with courage and perseverance.

      The “constant change” they keep pushing will eventually turn on them and crush them, and their terrifically bad ideas will fall of their own dead weight.

  • James Joyner

    I doubt very many of the families headed by single fathers are a consequence of out-of-wedlock birth. While there must be cases of women carrying their babies to term so that the baby daddy can adopt, I suspect they’re exceedingly rare. Almost all cases, then, are following divorce or, as in my case, the death of the wife.

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