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.