The “Mystery Measure” That Lifts Children

The “Mystery Measure” That Lifts Children by Dr. Ned Holstein (This article first appeared in the commission newsletter, The Proposal.)
Despite the 50-year War on Poverty, the social safety net, and the War on Drugs, poverty and social dysfunction of various sorts appear undented.
Remarkably, there exists a simple “mystery measure” that could be implemented tomorrow, costs society nothing, improves the educational outcomes of children; decreases the number of children suffering from anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and attention deficit; decreases teen violence, gang involvement, and arrests; decreases teen pregnancy; increases child support payments; decreases childhood substance abuse; and improves the physical health of children.
Yet this “mystery measure” is barely on society’s radar screen.
To grasp the opportunity before us, we need to reassess the biases that may blind us to real opportunities. After all, if 50 years of sowing the same thing does not seem to be bearing sufficient fruit, perhaps it is time to reexamine our approach.
The “mystery measure” requires us to reassess our view of the family— in particular, how we value fathers and fathering. We have long acted as if fatherlessness is of little consequence to children so long as single mothers are adequately supported financially, either by child support payments or by the social safety net.
The evidence, however, supports the idea that we must explore means of restoring fathering to children, especially by reforming family court traditions that overwhelmingly favor the award of sole custody to one parent, usually the mother. Instead, courts should award shared parenting if both parents are fit and there has been an absence of significant domestic violence. Shared parenting is the “mystery measure” that will help all our children, both boys and girls, at no cost to society.
Despite enormous expenditures to support single-parent families, The Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Justice, the Census Bureau and numerous researchers have reported alarming outcomes for the 35% of children raised by single parents.

Despite the often-heroic efforts of these parents, their children account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 71% of high school drop-outs
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers
  • 85% of those in prison
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children

Three recent comprehensive reviews, based on 30 years of research, support shared parenting as the best arrangement for children after separation or divorce.

Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas authored one of the review papers and concluded, “…shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.” 110 experts around the world signed on to his conclusions.
The 2014 consensus statement of the First International Conference on Shared Parenting in Bonn, Germany reads, “There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents.”
And 32 experts with the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts concluded in 2014, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive…”
Many great ideas are simple. Shared parenting is a simple idea that will help boys and girls enormously.  It’s time has come, if only we can get past archaic gender stereotypes that place children exclusively with mothers after separation or divorce.
Ned Holstein, MD, MS Founder and Acting Executive Director National Parents Organization(https://nationalparentsorganization.org)
 
Dr. Holstein received his undergraduate degree from Harvard, a graduate degree in Psychology from M.I.T., and his M.D. degree from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, where he holds a voluntary appointment as clinical Assistant Professor. He is a recognized national authority in his field of medicine. He founded National Parents Organization in 1996. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Council on Shared Parenting. He is a Commissioner of the Coalition to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. He is the father of three and the grandfather of four.

To subscribe to the commission newsletter, please email WHC@whitehouseboysmen.com

Bringing an End to Custody Battles at the Holidays for the Good of the Children

Chart of custodial mother or fatherFrom Jim Ellis interviewing Dianna Thompson in The Legacy:

Many in society are aware of the prevalence of divorce and have a general idea of the impact on children. The landscape of fatherless homes is harsh, as shown by the statistics.

The non-profit National Father Initiative reported on a U.S. Census Bureau finding that 24 million children in America – one out of every three – live in biological father-absent homes. Nine in ten American parents agree this is a “crisis.”

  • According to research conducted by Joan Berlin Kelly, author of “Surviving the Break-up,” 50 percent of mothers “see no value in the father’s continued contact with his children after a divorce.”
  • The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry report “Frequency of Visitation by Divorced Fathers,” claimed that “40 percent of mothers reported that they had interfered with the noncustodial father’s visitation on at least one occasion, to punish their ex-spouse.”…

Thompson believes she knows where the fathers – the supposed deadbeat dads of the world – have gone. “I really think the fathers are right where the courts put them – locked out of their children’s lives.”

The whole article is here.

Family Structure and the Gender Gap

Following on an earlier post, the concerns about fatherless America 20 years ago, here is more recent data summarized by W. Bradford Wilcox in National Review:

On October 14, Princeton University and Brookings released a new issue of The Future of Children, focused on marriage and child well-being. After reviewing family research over the last decade, the issue’s big takeaway, co-authored by Princeton sociologist Sara McLanahan and Brookings economist Isabel Sawhill, was this: Whereas most scholars now agree that children raised by two biological parents in a stable marriage do better than children in other family forms across a wide range of outcomes, there is less consensus about why. Is it the quality of parenting? Is it the availability of additional resources (time and money)? Or is it just that married parents have different attributes than those who aren’t married? Thus a major theme we address in this issue is why marriage matters for child wellbeing. Although definitive answers to these questions continue to elude the research community, we’ve seen a growing appreciation of how these factors interact, and all of them appear to be involved. In other words, although scholars are not exactly sure why marriage matters for children, they know that marriage does matter for them….
Yesterday, the news was even worse for the family-structure denialists, after the New York Times highlighted a major new study from MIT economist David Autor and his colleagues showing that less-advantaged boys are floundering in school and society — and more so than their less-advantaged female peers — in part because, compared with more-advantaged boys, they are less likely to grow up in a married home with their father. In particular, compared with their sisters, less-advantaged boys “have a higher incidence of truancy and behavioral problems throughout elementary and middle school, exhibit higher rates of behavioral and cognitive disability, perform worse on standardized tests, are less likely to graduate high school, and are more likely to commit serious crimes as juveniles.”

The whole article is here.

A review of “Fatherless America”

A review of “Fatherless America” by Chester E. Finn in Commentary: 

And as for the now-absent biological father, even when he provides financial support and regularly visits his progeny, Blankenhorn is brutally candid: “The end of co-residency and the rupture of the parental alliance mean nothing less than the collapse of paternal authority. Visiting fatherhood almost always becomes disempowered fatherhood, a simulacrum of paternal capacity. . . . [O]nly wishful thinking permits us to continue viewing him as a parent at all. At bottom, he is no longer a father. A second reason for the low visibility of the type of fatherlessness arising from family breakup has to do with social class. Whereas illegitimacy happens mostly among people who live on the other side of the tracks, much divorce and separation take place in “our” own neighborhoods, indeed among our friends and relations, and sometimes even ourselves. If we are honest, we will acknowledge that this makes it harder to condemn the practice, or even to depict it as a pressing social problem. We are engaged, in Senator Daniel P. Moynihan’s evocative phrase, in “defining deviancy down.”

The entire review is here. Please note that the book is not new. Fatherless America and this review were written in 1994.

The Boy Crisis: A Sobering Look at the State of our Boys

Warren Farrell Ph.D. discusses the Boy Crisis at TEDxMarin. A few highlights:

  • “If our very survival has been dependent on our sons’ willingness to die for us, then being sensitive to male death competes with our survival instinct.”
  • “Dad deprived boys go from their dad deprived homes to male teacher deprived schools. We didn’t used to know the importance of that.”
  • “The feminist movement and society helped introduce women to the STEM professions but no one introduced boys to the caring professions.”
  • John Lennon story at the end.

 

Could Fathers Be the Key to Preventing Bullying?

From Could Fathers Be the Key to Preventing Bullying? by Anna Sutherland in Institute for Family Studies Blog 

But as the researchers note, many of the studies in this sphere focus on mothers rather than fathers; there is a “notable void in the literature” when it comes to fathers and bullying. And given what we know about how fathers influence kids’ behavior and social skills, that’s a major problem. For instance, a slew of studies underline that kids with absent fathers engage in more externalizing behaviors, meaning they are more aggressive and more apt to fight or break rules than kids whose fathers are present. Sara McLanahan, Laura Tach, and Daniel Schneider have shown that this difference is not just due to selection.

An Open Letter to Social Workers

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From Tom Golden at MenAreGood, “An Open Letter to Social Workers“, part 1:

In the 1980’s and 1990’s, when I worked as a psychotherapist with many traumatized men and women, it was clear that society’s focus was to help women suffering from emotional trauma. Matters became a lot more fuzzy where it concerned men’s pain. I found out very quickly that a man’s emotional pain was taboo. No one wants to hear it, people want to run away.

Honestly and compassionately addressing men’s pain usually triggers an instinctive fear that in doing so those men will no longer be available to provide and protect. They become, at least in our unconscious minds, a liability that we cannot afford.

It took me some time to understand that this fear created an empathy gap that is still rampant in the field. Even in what is supposed to be an enlightened field of work, we are operating on some level as though compassion for men will bring us to ruin. This detachment, indifference to and even hostility toward men’s pain and hardship will be made quite visible to you in the remainder of this article.

 

And part 2:

Our war dead are nearly all males. If that were any other group it would not be tolerated but since it is males, many in their teens, the response is silence. They are disposable. Our workplace deaths are 93% males. Child custody after divorce almost always means the virtual removal of one parent, more often the father. Rather than our courts seeking to restructure families through sensible plans of shared parenting, they opt for profitably ugly battles and persecution.

No one suffers more from this than the children of divorce. Fatherless children are clearly and negatively impacted by every psychosocial measure we can make of their lives. Truancy, delinquency, teen pregnancy, drug use, academic failure, violence and mental illness all skyrocket in homes where the father is largely absent.

Rather than point to the discrimination in courts and how it is ultimately damaging children, many, some social workers included, are generally more likely to sloganize the problem in terms of “deadbeat dads” and other shallow and misleading buzzwords.

 

Photo from Golden’s article, a playground mural illustrating the whimsy of violence against men.

Don’t Sell Fathers Short

Fathers are as crucial to a child’s well being as a mother by Barbara Kay in the National Post.

It is true that fathers abandon or are exiled by family court from their children “all the time,” as Jon notes. But the fact that fatherlessness is common — moreover widely accepted as normal by certain ideologues and, by trickle-down effect, in certain cultural enclaves — makes it no less tragic a loss for every father-deprived child. About a third of American children live apart from their fathers, and in general, they are not doing well.

Girls without fathers are more likely to suffer low self-esteem, become pregnant or embrace promiscuity, while boys without fathers are at risk for a multiplicity of poor outcomes, notably school dropout, gang membership and imprisonment. In black communities, where the epidemic is most acute, fatherlessness is a far more serious obstacle to upward mobility than racism. 

The full article is here.

Boy Trouble

An overview of what we call The Boy Crisis, Boy Trouble by Kay S. Hymowitz in City Journal, 2013: 

When I started following the research on child well-being about two decades ago, the focus was almost always girls’ problems—their low self-esteem, lax ambitions, eating disorders, and, most alarming, high rates of teen pregnancy. Now, though, with teen births down more than 50 percent from their 1991 peak and girls dominating classrooms and graduation ceremonies, boys and men are increasingly the ones under examination. Their high school grades and college attendance rates have remained stalled for decades. Among poor and working-class boys, the chances of climbing out of the low-end labor market—and of becoming reliable husbands and fathers—are looking worse and worse.

Two articles on the connection between fatherlessness and mass shootings.

From “Fatherlessness Common Among 2013 School Shooters” at Women of Grace:

Again, he cites the research of eminent sociologist David Popenoe who wrote: “ . . . (F)athers are important to their sons as role models. They are important for maintaining authority and discipline. And they are important in helping their sons to develop both self-control and feelings of empathy toward others, character traits that are found to be lacking in violent youth.”

Even though most fatherless boys will grow up okay, they are vulnerable, which is why so many are swept away into gangs, violence, and crime.

While the debate over gun control and mental health issues are valuable, if the U.S. wants to get serious about ending school shootings, “it must also get serious about strengthening the families that are our first line of defense in preventing our boys from falling into a downward spiral of rage, hopelessness, or nihilism . . .”

Read the full article here.

From “Which Mass Murderers Came from A Fatherless Home” at The Federalist:

Now, this isn’t to say that every single mom is doomed to raise a mass shooter. Not every kid who grows up without his father will turn into Roof, and not every mass shooter grew up without his dad. Mental instability can be a product of any number of factors. But to ignore the link between a mass shooter and his fatherless childhood would be to simply ignore the facts. On CNN’s list of the “27 Deadliest Mass Shootings In U.S. History,” seven of those shootings were committed by young (under 30) males since 2005. Of the seven, only one—Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho (who had been mentally unstable since childhood)—was raised by his biological father throughout childhood.

Read the full article here.

Both cite research that Brad Wilcox summarized in The Atlantic back in 2013.

Warren speaking with Rand Paul about a White House Council on Boys and Men

warren-paul-reg

When the White House created only a White House Council on Women and Girls in 2009, it left out the other half of the family: Boys and Men. Dr. Warren Farrell organized national leaders into a coalition to create a White House Council on Boys and Men. On April 26, 2015, members went to Iowa and spoke personally with seven of the Republican presidential candidates to invite them to a conference in Iowa this July to listen to boys, parents and experts explain the boy crisis and consider a White House Council on Boys and Men as a coordinator of solutions. Here Farrell discusses with Rand Paul the importance of fathers as a way to strengthen the family and reduce “government-as-a-substitute-dad”. A few minutes later, Paul spoke with 1700 Republicans at the Faith and Freedom Coalition and stressed the importance of fathers.

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Warren Farrell Explains Why a White House Council on Boys and Men Helps Cut Govt. Costs

 

In this video, Dr. Farrell explains how a White House Council on Boys and Men, by strengthening father involvement and the family, reduces the need for the government-as-substitute husband:

 

 





Newtown Shootings: Warren Farrell Offers New Ideas of What May Help

“It is time that we go beyond fighting over guns and to raising our Sons”.

Newtown Shooting – Warren Farrell offers a core issue beyond the Gun Control issue about the absence of support for boys and young men and why we need a White House Council on Boys and Men. See Warren Farrell original article called: “Guns don’t kill people — our sons do” – “After Newtown, Conn., parents cried out, “What’s making our children kill?” But it is not our children who are killing. It is our sons. All but one of the 62 mass killings in the past 30 years was committed by boys or men.”

Connect to:
Warren Farrell on Google Plus
Martin Brossman on Google Plus at: Google Plus

 

Honor Our Fathers: A Totally True Story of Sons and Gangs

by Jack Kammer

This could be dangerous, I thought. This is Los Angeles, early June 1992. The Rodney King riots had occurred just five weeks before.

Stranded and alone, hauling a heavy suitcase, I was running late for my plane at LAX. I decided that this was a chance I needed, no, wanted to take. I approached three young Hispanic men standing outside their car in a fast food parking lot.

Warily, I approached them. “How ya doing?” I said calmly and evenly. “I’m trying to get to LAX and I’m running late. The cabs aren’t cooperating. How much money would you need to take me?”

They looked at each other. One of them in a white T-shirt said to the one who must have been the driver, “Go for it, man.”

The driver hesitated. I said, “Name a price that makes it worth your while.”

He looked straight at me. “Ten bucks,” he said.

“I’ll give you twenty.”

“Let’s do it, man,” said the T-shirted youth. The driver nodded and popped the trunk. “You wanna put your suitcase here?”

“No, thanks,” I answered straight back. The image of being forced empty-handed out of the car was clear in my mind. “I’d rather keep it with me.”

“That’s cool,” Mr. T-shirt said.

I knew it could have been stupid, but I took out my wallet, removed a twenty and said to the driver, “Here, I want to pay you now.”

The driver took it with a simple “thanks.”

“So here I am, guys,” I said. “I sure hope you’re going to take care of me.”

T-shirt, sitting in the back seat with me, my suitcase between us, smiled knowingly and said, “It’s okay, man. We’re good guys.”

I nodded and shrugged, “I sure hope so, because if you’re not, I’m in big trouble, aren’t I?”

They all laughed and then T-shirt spoke up. “So where you from?”

“Baltimore,” I answered.

“Oh, man, it’s nice back east. That’s what they say. Green and everything.”

I smiled and nodded, “Yeah. And back east, L.A. is our idea of heaven.”

“Naah, it’s rough here, man. It’s hard.” T-shirt was clearly going to be the spokesman.

“How old are you fellows?” I asked.

They were sixteen and seventeen. They were all in school and had part-time jobs. T-shirt and the driver worked in a restaurant. The quiet young man riding shotgun didn’t say.

“Tell me about the gangs. Are there gangs at your school?”

“There’s gangs everywhere, man. Everywhere. It’s crazy.”

“Are you fellows in a gang?” I asked.

“No way, man.”

“Why not?” I wondered.

“Because there’s no hope in it. You just get a bullet in your head.”

“Yeah, but what hope is there for you outside the gang?”

“I don’t know. I just want to get a future. Do something.”

“What’s the difference between you and the young men in the gangs?”

“I don’t know, man. We just don’t want to do it.”

“Yeah, but why not? What’s the difference?” I gently pressed.

“I don’t know, man. I don’t know. We’re just lucky I guess.”

I let the question sit for a moment, then started up. “What about fathers? Do you have a father at home?” I asked the youth in the back seat with me.

“Yeah. I do.”

“How about you?” I asked the driver.

“Yeah, I got a dad.”

“Living with you?”

“Yeah.”

And the shotgun rider volunteered, “I got a dad, too.”

“How about the young men in the gangs? Do they have fathers living with them?”

“No way, man. None of them do.”

“So maybe fathers make a difference?” I suggested.

“Absolutely, man. Absolutely.”

“Why?” I probed. “What difference does a father make?”

“He’s always behind you, man, pushing you. Keeping you in line.”

“Yeah. Telling you what’s what,” driver and shotgun agreed.

And with that I was taken safely right where I needed to go. The driver even asked what terminal I wanted. On time. Without a hitch.

I will never forget their names: Pablo, Juan and Richard. I admired them because in spite of everything they were trying to be good.

But the men to whom I am most grateful are the men I never met. The men to whom I am most grateful are their fathers. It was their fathers who got me to the airport. It was their fathers who kept me safe.

Jack Kammer
Jack Kammer

Jack Kammer, MSW, MBA returned to school at the age of fifty-four to earn Masters degrees in Social Work and Business Administration. He did so to document, highlight and take action on male gender issues and the social problems that arise when those issues are ignored and mishandled. He specializes in the Race + Gender effect on marginalized African-American men and boys in urban settings. http://believeinmen.org

Expanding What We Mean by “Nurturing” – Excerpt from Michael Gurian’s new book “How Do I Help Him”

             In observing males and studying anthropological and neuro-biological information regarding male behavior, I developed the term “aggression nurturance” in 1995 in order to try to help professionals and parents look at males more closely.  My specific interest lay in hoping to accurately describe differences between the ways males and females nurture others and themselves toward self-confidence.

In both rural and urban environments in the United States, then in comparative research during two years in both rural and urban environments in Turkey, I observed that males (such as fathers) tended to nurture themselves and others through more direct aggression than females, with less emphasis on distended verbal nurturance, i.e. when they used words, they used them in quick bursts not long paragraphs.  Females, in general, tended to nurture themselves and others through less direct aggression than males, substituting more direct empathic responses to particular situations, and utilizing more distended word groupings.  Though my research goal was somewhat different than theirs, my ultimate outcome mirrors the work of Pepper Schwartz at the University of Washington and Deborah Tannen, in You Just Don’t Understand.

By now, in 2011, everyone has perhaps observed this kind of difference anecdotally, in their own lives.  But still, let’s illustrate it.  Here is a piece of dialogue I heard recently at a local park as two teenage boys walked off a basketball court.  When they parted company to go to their separate cars, they said:

“Right, then.  Later.”

“Yeah.  Love you, dude.”

“Stop it, fucker!”

“Yeah.  Peace, man.”

“Peace.”

Grinning, they both got into their cars.

Perhaps some part of why they grinned was from sheepishness at this intimate ritual being seen and heard by a gray-haired stranger, me, walking by.  But no matter the reasons for nuance, this kind of basic male ritual occurs all over the world.  It involves one-upping, masking-of-vulnerability, aggression, a mock show of anger, deep nurturance, and clear mutual love.

This kind of ritual is an example of what I call aggression nurturance.  This nurturance style, one based in male brain functioning, male biochemistry, and male socialization differs from direct empathy nurturance, which favors female biology, chemistry, and socialization.  Thus, while aggression nurturance can happen between two girls, it is more likely to go on between boys and men, for some very natural reasons.

___________________________________

Excerpted from HOW DO I HELP HIM?:  A Practitioner’s Guide To Working With Boys And Men In Therapeutic Settings by Michael Gurian.  For more information, visit http://www.michaelgurian.com/how-do-I-help-him.html.

Michael Gurian
Michael Gurian

Michael Gurian is a family therapist, child advocate, and the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty-five books, including The Minds of Boys, Boys and Girls Learn Differently! and The Wonder of Girls. Over the last twenty years, he has advocated relentlessly for boy-friendly research in the public dialogue. The Gurian Institute has provided teacher effectiveness training to over fifty thousand teachers in two thousands schools and districts. gurianinstitute.com

Baby Cupid and the Fatherless Child

Lionel Tiger

When we set aside all the mushy high-school love-friending, Valentine’s Day is about reproduction and Cupid with his arrow is a pregnancy tester. The event flourished during a sexual period very different than our own. Despite all that traditional formal morality business, it’s estimated on the basis of parish and similar records that at the turn of the last century from a third to a half of all marriages were shared with a pregnancy. The infant Cupid

Baby Cupid and the Fatherless Child

Lionel Tiger

When we set aside all the mushy high-school love-friending, Valentine’s Day is about reproduction and Cupid with his arrow is a pregnancy tester. The event flourished during a sexual period very different than our own. Despite all that traditional formal morality business, it’s estimated on the basis of parish and similar records that at the turn of the last century from a third to a half of all marriages Continue reading “Baby Cupid and the Fatherless Child”