In case I left readers with the impression that the only thing wrong with Slate’s XX blog on single motherhood was the introduction’s utterly fraudulent claim that there is some body of social science supporting the notion that children without fathers on the whole do as well as those in intact families, let me say that nothing could be further from the truth. It’s true that XX’s particular level of intellectual dishonesty is probably record-setting, but that’s just in the article’s introduction. There’s more where that came from.
But I neglected to point out one thing in my last piece on the XX blog. It wants incurious readers to believe that somewhere there’s some social science to back up their patently false claims. So XX pretended that social science exists by linking to a beneath-contempt effort in the same vein by Katie Roiphe. For her part, Roiphe cited a single sociologist, Sara McLanahan, who explicitly stated that what Roiphe claimed she said in fact “does not describe my work.” As I said, Roiphe would have had to read all the way to the end of page one of McLanahan’s book to learn that what she was saying was false, and, well, we can’t expect her to do that.
Isn’t that interesting. I’ve read numerous articles promoting the wonders of single motherhood. I’ve taken part in a ”point/counterpoint” writing exercise in which my opponent tried to make the case for single motherhood. And what leaps out at me every time is this: if the pro-single motherhood crowd had some science to back up their claims, don’t you think they’d show it to us? After all, they’re trying to convert the skeptical to their way of thinking, so you’d think they’d bring out their best arguments, wouldn’t you?
But they never do because there isn’t any. Science refutes what they say and so they resort to silliness like that of XX. The intro is a flim-flam scam. What cup is the social science under? Oh, too bad! There’s not any.
Then there’s the article itself by single-mother, Pamela Gwyn Kripke. Her claim is that children of single mothers have, er, “grit.” Her other claim is that kids in intact families don’t. Of course, in keeping with the finest XX tradition, she offers not a single bit of evidence for her proposition. No social science, not even discussions she’s had with other single mothers, nothing.
She wants us to believe that her two daughters in some way have demonstrated the “grit” she neither defines nor describes, but her girls have barely reached adolescence – not much to go on when assaying grit.
Kripke, like so many who feel the need to defend single motherhood, has an imperfect grasp of what an intact family really is. To her it’s a “father living in the house,” or “the number of adults sleeping down the hall.” If that’s what she thinks an intact family is, it’s no wonder she’s not interested, but of course it’s vastly more. Fathers and mothers together give kids a plethora of things no single parent can match. Mostly those benefits come from the synergy that arises from the male and female ways of parenting. Then there’s the extra money that two-parent families have. And of course two parents have extended families that single parents don’t. And they model male and female behavior that single parents can’t. And they add all the social investments outside of extended families that single parents can’t. And two parents have more time for their kids than single parents do. Then of course there’s that University of Chicago study that suggests that single mothers invest less emotionally in their sons than in their daughters.
Again, both sociology and psychology show the value of two parents, and preferably two biological ones, to children. Neither Kripke nor anyone else can toss that aside with a few condescending words.
And, just like Roiphe, when Kripke does bump up against social science, she gets it wrong, I suspect intentionally.
Kids of unmarried parents, according to all of those studies (of rich moms and poor, educated moms and not-so), are supposed to be failures.Nope, the kids aren’t failures, their parents are. The children have deficits that often prove to be life long, and those come directly from the family structure their mothers chose for them. Trying to pass the buck is never pretty, Pamela, particularly when it’s an adult passing it to kids.
There is of course no data suggesting that these particular kids might have had similar paths regardless of the number of adults sleeping down the hall.No, actually there is. Indeed, comparisons of the outcomes of children of single mothers with those of intact families is one of the main ways we know the former tend to do worse than the latter. From where does Kripke imagine sociologists get their conclusions? But, as we’ve come to expect, Kripke, like all those in whose steps she follows, either knows nothing about the social science so patiently built up over half a century, or she’s so desperate to defend her position she’s driven to make stuff up. I’m going with the latter.
Who’s Dad, Where’s Dad? XX Doesn’t Tell UsAnd, like so many of those single mothers writing before her, Kripke never gets around to describing how she came to be a single mother. On that topic she’s suspiciously vague at best. She mentions a divorce, which leads me to believe the girls once had a father, but no longer do. What happened? Did he die? Become disabled? Vanish in a puff of smoke?
Kripke never says, and because of that, I suspect bad faith on her part. That and the fact that, close by her mention of divorce, she also says she “went to court for five different lawsuits” and describes dodging process servers for years. Who sued her, her ex? What were the suits about? Who won? What were the claims, what was the evidence? My guess is that her ex was trying to make get some sort of a say in his children’s lives, and she was fighting him. Apparently, she won, but by doing what? We all know what it takes for a mother to separate children from their father. I’d like to know what his side of the story is, but of course, that’s not exactly XX’s stock and trade, now is it?
Can single parents raise healthy, happy kids? Of course it’s possible, but, like so much else in life, the decision to have kids is a bet against odds. If Prospective Dad is over 50, the chances his child will be schizophrenic go up significantly. Pregnant Mom can probably drink a glass of wine occasionally with no ill effects, but half a bottle a night’s not such a good idea. Can the child turn out OK? Sure, but the odds just went way down.
And so it is with single motherhood. Not all single mothers intended to raise their children without a partner. Maybe their husband died or was put in prison. Maybe he turned out to be a father no one should have to live with. Those are possibilities. But for decades now, millions of mothers have acted like it doesn’t make any difference if their children have a father or not. They’ve been egged on by countless books, articles, movies and TV shows that want us to believe that single motherhood is “just another lifestyle choice.”
It can be for the mother, but not for the kids. In this life that’s plenty tough enough as it is, women who decide to keep their children from having a father just made their chances of success, happiness and contentment go way down. XX is there to applaud them. Overwhelmingly, their children are not.