November 27, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
If it weren’t bad enough for Ellen Friedrichs to simply ignore all the known information on family structure and child well-being, when she does manage to cite some, she does so only to disparage it (Everyday Feminism, 11/18/16). So eventually, she actually manages to quote Sara McLanahan and Jane Waldfogel on some of the detriments of single parenting for children. Too bad she doesn’t pay attention to what they say.
Take Columbia University Social Work Professor Jane Waldfogel, for example. In an article on the rise of unmarried parents in the Wall Street Journal, she opined, “In terms of instability and uncertainty for kids, [cohabitation] is in some ways closer to single parenthood than it is to marriage.”
Somehow she manages to take a dig at a range of families in this comment without offering any proof!
That’s because Waldfogel was writing a comparatively short piece for a daily publication. She didn’t have a lot of room in which to cite sources. Of course, if Friedrichs knew the first thing about her topic, she’d know that Waldfogel’s remark is backed up by a wealth of information. But Friedrichs is averse to doing research on her own.
McLanahan, one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject is more to the point.
Later in the article, another expert, Princeton Sociology Professor Sara McLanahan, explains of cohabiting parents: “There’s just a lot of complexity and instability in these households. There are enormous transaction costs involved in running a household like this, compared to just being a married-parent family and staying married.”
The article goes on to warn readers that “cohabiting parents are more likely to split up. When they do, they often form new partnerships, and have additional children, creating a complex web of half-siblings, step-parents, child-support payments, and family visits.”
Does Friedrichs notice that both authorities she quotes cite the instability of unmarried relationships and how difficult that makes kids’ lives? She doesn’t. Does she notice that the Fragile Families and Child Well-being data set provides a huge amount of information that backs up both women? Nope. Has she read McLanahan and Sandefur on the subject of “Growing Up With a Single Parent?” Of course not. What about Malin Bergstrom’s study of 150,000 kids in Sweden that concludes that the best family structure for kids is married parents living together, followed at a distance by cohabiting parents and single parents? She’s never heard of it.
So what is Friedrichs’ take on the science on single parenting?
This description sounds pretty familiar to me, as I’m sure it does to plenty of American families. But what I view as a rich and loving family system is simply disparaged here as a “complex web” without any nuance.
Let’s see. This is the same writer who, just three paragraphs earlier criticized Waldfogel for not offering any proof for her assertions. What does Friedrich give her readers? Her “view” that a family structure that has been demonstrated time and again to promote a range of bad outcomes for children is actually “a rich and loving” one. It may be, but that doesn’t alter the fact that kids do best with two married parents. Remarkably, Friedrichs doesn’t deny the fact, she just doesn’t like it.
Even a casual glance at what Friedrichs considers a rich and living environment for kids reveals that it’s not. Over 72% of African-American children are born to single mothers. Unsurprisingly (to anyone but Friedrichs), it is that very community that has the highest rates of crime, high school dropouts, drug and alcohol abuse and the lowest rates of employment. It’s hard to conclude anything but that Friedrichs thinks that’s just grand and we should all want more of it. Sensible people with a less anti-social agenda know better.
What Friedrichs calls “rich and loving,” researcher Kathryn Edin reports as single fathers being steadily marginalized in their children’s lives by mothers who move from partner to partner. Each move further distances the child from its father and the father from his child. My guess is that Friedrichs would say that fatherlessness is not big deal, that children without fathers do just fine. After all, she’s writing for Everyday Feminism.
And since we’re on the subject of fathers, I might as well point out that they’re caught in a double bind, one that, naturally, Friedrichs is happy to ignore.
The first bind consists of all the ways in which state and federal laws discourage men from marrying. If a man marries, his wife can divorce him for any reason or no reason. If she chooses to do so, in the overwhelming majority of cases, he loses his children, his house plus half his other belongings. He then gets to pay his ex child support until the child is at least 18 and alimony possibly until the day he dies. Sound enticing? A lot of men don’t think so.
But what if he wants kids? By far the best way to do so is for him to marry. After all, as few rights as married men have, unmarried fathers have even fewer. For them, the chances of getting custody of their children or meaningful parenting time are far less than for their married counterparts. For men, our society sets up a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario.
But of course, for Friedrichs, fathers and children aren’t particularly important. Her brief is to convince readers of what they already believe – that single motherhood is fine for women and children and, since men aren’t relevant to her considerations, needn’t be mentioned.
Which brings us to women. They too are far better off being married than being single. Data Friedrich neglects to mention inform us that women are both safer and more affluent if they’re in married relationships than if they aren’t. So, as is so often the case with feminist nattering, even if you care not a whit about men and children, even if your only concern is for women, you don’t claim that marriage isn’t important. Friedrich manages to be both misandric and misogynistic.
Everyday feminism? Sounds about right.
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