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.

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