Read the news coverage and op-eds about our Shared Parenting Report Card at the links below:
August 28, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, Deputy Executive Director
December 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Sigh. What to make of this New York Times op-ed (New York Times, 12/9/19)? Is it really as confusing and wrong-headed as it seems? You decide.
First, the headline (and sub-headline) not only don’t accurately describe the article and they don’t get close to describing the underlying study on which the article is based. Here they are:
The Myth of the Two-Parent Home
New research indicates that access to resources, more than family structure, matters for black kids’ success.
But of course the article says nothing about the two-parent home being a “myth.” On the contrary, author Dr. Christina Cross is at pains to say this:
Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that the two-parent family is bad for children of any race or ethnicity. Indeed, scholars have noted its wide array of benefits for children, parents and communities, especially those from middle-class backgrounds.
So, far from being a “myth,” Cross acknowledges the “wide array of benefits” for everyone that arises from two-parent households.
As to what “matters for black kids’ success,” Cross didn’t analyze that. “Success,” after all is an astonishingly broad term and not something we’d expect to be examined by a single study. No, what Cross looked at was first, kids’ likelihood of graduating from high school on time and, second, their likelihood of enrolling in college. Those two specific considerations were all she studied.
In short, the article’s headline has little to do with the article.
December 12, 2019 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors
Children do well when both parents participate actively in their upbringing and work to provide consistent attention, affection, and discipline, as well as meeting their material needs. This is easiest to achieve when the parents are married and living together.
That’s psychologist Nicholas Zill writing here (IFS, 12/4/19). In my last piece, I summarized some of his findings.
So Zill clearly understands the fact that children do better with both parents in their lives than in any other situation. But here too is Zill:
While married fathers of today are playing a more active role in their children’s lives than married fathers of yesteryear, many fathers who don’t live with their kids are doing little either to support their children or even interact with them. The trend data reviewed in this essay suggest that the situation is not improving.
That’s to be found under Zill’s heading “No Substitute for Responsible Fathers.” As such, Zill suggests that the problem of fatherless or “under-fathered” kids stems from the failure on the part of the men to take up their responsibilities as dads. It’s a common claim, particularly among those on the right of the political spectrum. The theory seems to be that if men were somehow to become better people, the problem of fatherless kids would vanish. The claim is terribly misguided. Worse, it’s an excuse for failing to do the hard work of not only reforming laws, but changing the cultural narrative on fathers. After all, if the problem is the fathers themselves, what can you or I do?
But for decades now we’ve known that the irresponsible dad trope is mostly nonsense. Of course there are men who flee their parental responsibilities, as do some women. But there’s plenty of social science that finds them to be in the minority. Even the poorest and least educated men want to play a real role in their children’s lives, as the many, many studies conducted using the data produced by the Fragile Families and Child Well-being longitudinal survey demonstrate. Two decades ago, Sanford Braver gave the lie to the claim that men don’t care about their kids.
Unfortunately for all of us though, this culture tells fathers, at every turn in the road of a child’s life, that they are unwanted and unneeded, that they’re at best superfluous and at worst a danger to children and mothers alike.