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

“Young Voices” attends Brown and Black Forum (video)

“Young Voices” is a new program on TV/radio in which young men tell their stories of living through the boy crisis. They also attend events live in the field to listen and offer their voices. A few representatives attended the Democratic Brown and Black Forum in Iowa. Here are the three short videos from that event.

Live From The Field: Introduction

Bernie Sanders Campaign Representative Interview

Martin O’Malley Campaign Representatives Interview

Follow our YouTube channel for more content coming soon.

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.

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.

 

An Open Letter to Social Workers

dv

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.

9 Signs We Have A Boy Crisis

From CollegeStats.org, number 8 of 9:

Boys are far more likely to be the victims of violent crime:

A fact that goes hand-in-hand with boys’ high rate of incarceration is that they are up to five times more likely to die by homicide (as in 2004) and up to seven times more likely to die in a gun-related death than girls. These are the boys who got out of juvenile detention or managed to never be sent there and who raised their risk factors through certain high-risk behaviors, as laid out by the Department of Health and Human Services. These include early aggressive behavior, drug and/or alcohol abuse, hanging out with other troubled kids, and poor academic performance; in other words, all issues that could be prevented at a young age through education or other responsible adult instruction.

The whole list 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.

Let’s Not Take It Out on The Kids

From Mark Sherman in Psychology Today:

However, when the modern women’s movement began to turn its attention to girls – as in books like Failing at Fairness: How America’s Schools Cheat Girls(published in 1994) – they were already doing better than boys on many measures of educational achievement, including college enrollment(link is external). And this gender gap – favoring girls — has only widened in the more than two decades since.

But we don’t hear much about that, certainly not compared to how much we hear about the pay gap between men and women (which is more complex than the simple mantra of “77 cents for every dollar” would suggest). Or the “1-in-5” female college students who is sexually assaulted during her years on campus. But I’m not even arguing about that data here — though  good arguments have been made. I am simply saying that this does not imply that we should – as we have done since the early 1990s – take this concern out on half our children: our young sons.

When I say “take this out on,” I don’t mean that we necessarily treat boys badly. I mean that, relatively speaking, we simply ignore them and their needs, their relative lack of achievement, and who they are. Again, think of how often you hear or see something in the news about how women are being treated badly. (And much of this may be true.) But how about the fact that boys are not doing so well. How often do you hear about that?

The whole article is here.

Guns don’t kill people–our sons do.

Warren Farrell in USA Today after the Sandy Hook shooting:

We respond by blaming guns, our inattentiveness to mental health, violence in the media or video games, or family values. Yes, all are players, but our daughters are able to find the same guns in the same homes, are about as likely to be mentally ill, have the same family values and are exposed to the same violence in the media. Our daughters, however, do not kill. Why the difference?

Start with suicide. Each mass murder is also a suicide. Boys and girls at age 9 are almost equally likely to commit suicide; by age 14, boys are twice as likely; by 19, four times; by 24, more than five times. The more a boy absorbs the male role and male hormones, the more he commits suicide…

It’s time we go beyond fighting over guns to raising our sons. With one executive order, President Obama can create a White House Council on Men and Boys to work with the Council on Women and Girls he formed in 2009. Why? No one part of government or the private sector has a handle on the solution.

The whole article is here.

Why does speaking out about the issues men face always trigger such a furious reaction?

From Dan Bell of InsideMAN in The Telegraph:

A few days ago I was at a party in liberal north-east London, when I was asked the inevitable question, “So, what do you do then?”

It’s a question I have come to dread. This isn’t because I’m ashamed of my work, or because I think it’s dull and uninteresting, but because I know that if I tell the truth, the warm and open conversation I’d been having with the person in front of me will often suddenly be replaced by a chilled and awkward silence.

You see, telling people I write about men’s issues often feels a bit like telling them I work for Exxon.

On this occasion, I weighed up the conversational fork in the road ahead of me, and decided to take the plunge and be honest, so I told her I’d just finished editing a book of 40 writers exploring what it means to be a man in the UK today. Her response was simply: “That’s brave.”

Of course, it’s not really brave; not brave like writing about government corruption in China, or human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, but I knew exactly what she meant.

Speaking out as a man about the issues men face really can trigger a furious reaction.

The most recent example was in response to the author Matt Haig, after he said he wanted to write a book about masculinity. His statement brought down a Twitter storm of contempt in his head before he’d even written a word.

Read the full article here.

Boys and Young Men: A New Cause

From the archives of Psychology TodayBoys and Young Men: A New Cause for Liberals by Mark Sherman in 2010.

Even today, when someone writes about the way boys are lagging behind girls, he or she often talks about it as if it just started happening.  For example, in a Times oped piece published on March 27 of [2010], Nicholas Kristof, who has written extensively on the problems of girls and women in developing countries, says: 

“Around the globe, it’s mostly girls who lack educational opportunities.  Even in the United States, many people still associate the educational “gender gap” with girls left behind in math. Yet these days, the opposite problem has snuck up on us:  In the United States and other western countries alike, it’s mostly boys who are faltering in school.  The latest surveys show that American girls on the average have roughly achieved parity with boys in math.  Meanwhile, girls are well ahead of boys in verbal skills, and they just seem to try harder.”

I must admit that when I read this, and saw the words “snuck up on us,” my immediate reaction was “Where have you been?”  For anyone who cared to look at the data – and for millions of parents of sons – the problem was already there close to two decades ago.

The entire article is here.