Fathers and Traditional Families Matter

23 June 2023

5.9 MINS

We have known for decades now which family structure is best for children.

Who said this back in June 2008?

“We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled — doubled — since we were children. We know the statistics — that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”

Obviously some right-wing nut job. Obviously a disgusting bigot. Obviously a white supremacist. Well not quite. It actually came from a speech given by Barack Hussein Obama as he campaigned to become the 44th president of the United States. Hmm, hard to dismiss these words out of hand given where they came from. But such words are not usually spoken by left-wing politicians.

However, of interest, Obama did go on to say similar things some years later, much to the consternation of his liberal colleagues. In a speech also delivered in Chicago in February 2013, he said this:

“There’s no more important ingredient for success, nothing that would be more important for us reducing violence than strong, stable families — which means we should do more to promote marriage and encourage fatherhood.”

Endangering Children

The truth is, we have had well over 50 years of social science research backing up everything Obama said. Overwhelmingly, however, it has been ignored. We are told over and over again that family structure does not matter, fathers do not matter, and to claim that they do is the height of intolerance, hatred and bigotry. All of which is why I was rather interested to see this headline and sub-headline:

State Coroner probes the killing of baby Kaleb Baylis-Clarke in Cranbourne West. A coroner probing the killing of a Victorian baby – who was shaken to death by his mum’s boyfriend – has uncovered research showing a rise in child homicides by step-parents.”

The piece begins this way:

A coroner probing the killing of baby Kaleb Baylis-Clarke has uncovered international research that shows a rise in child homicides by step-parents due to an increase in blended families. Jesse Vinaccia was found guilty of killing his stepson after evidence showed the 17-week-old boy suffered a brain injury from being violently shaken, in January 2016. The then 22-year-old was looking after Kaleb in Cranbourne West as his girlfriend Erin, the baby’s mother, was working at a nearby restaurant.

During a coronial investigation to prevent similar deaths, the court found a global study identified “a rise in blended families has been a contributing factor to the increase in filicide deaths involving a step-parent”. State Coroner Judge John Cain referred to a Canadian study of 378 child deaths over five decades that found “step-parents are more likely to cause fatal injury to a child than genetic parents”.

As if that is new and surprising news. As I said, this has been known for many decades now. The evidence is simply overwhelming that any other family structure but the intact, two-parent, married heterosexual family generally speaking spells big trouble for children.

Some Older Studies

The evidence on all this has been around for at least a half-century. It all clearly indicates that the children who are at greatest risk of child abuse, neglect, and even murder are those not raised in normal, two-parent families, but in broken homes or blended families. Let me offer just a tiny fraction of such evidence. The studies are legion. (And all of these I have complete documentation for.)

  • One 1980 study found, “the risk of abuse and neglect is likely to be exacerbated where substitute individuals fill the roles of biological parents.”
  • A 1985 study found that when all the variables of class and maternal age are accounted for, “preschoolers in stepparent-natural parent homes … are estimated to be 40 times as likely to become abuse statistics as like-aged children living with two natural parents.”
  • In a 1982 study of child abuse cases in which there were children of a previous marriage, it was observed that only step-children were abused and not the natural children.
  • A 1994 study of 52,000 children found that those who are most at risk of being abused are those who are not living with both parents.
  • One family expert said it this way in 2005: “Among sexual abusers who are blood relatives, only a small fraction are fathers. The great majority are uncles, grandfathers, brothers and stepbrothers, and male cousins. When a father is the perpetrator, he is typically not the natural father but a surrogate father.”
  • A Finnish study of nearly 4,000 ninth-grade girls from 1996 found that “stepfather-daughter incest was about 15 times as common as father-daughter incest”.
  • Two Canadian professors of psychology said this in 1998: “Having a step-parent has turned out to be the most powerful epidemiological risk factor for severe child maltreatment yet discovered.” Indeed, they claim that the risk of child abuse and child murder is 100 times greater in a step-parent family than in a genetic family.
  • A 1992 study found that children in single-parent households are especially vulnerable to abuse, often at the hands of their mother’s boyfriends.
  • In 1993, Australian Human Rights Commissioner Mr Brian Burdekin reported a 500 to 600 per cent increase in sexual abuse of girls in families where the adult male was not the natural father.
  • A 2008 Australian study of 900 coronial inquiries into child deaths found that children were far safer with their biological parents than with step-parents or no biological parents. Deakin University’s Greg Tooley said children living with a step-parent were 17 to 77 times more likely to die from intentional violence or accident.
  • Also, cohabitation is more dangerous for children than marriage. A U.S. Justice Department study of 1992 found that a cohabiting woman is 56 times more likely than a wife to be assaulted.
  • And a 1994 study found that “cohabitors are more likely to experience violence than are single or marrieds.” It also found that “those males who had cohabited displayed the most accepting views of rape”.

And nothing has changed. What the coroner said above was not at all a startling discovery. We have known all this for decades now, as the above demonstrates so profoundly.

General Conclusions

By now it should be clear that a very strong case can be made for the two-parent family. Not only do we have mountains of data on all this, but many experts in the field have offered us summary statements about this huge amount of evidence. I close by featuring just a few of them. They tell us of the vital importance of fathers in particular and intact married families in general:

“The evidence is strong: Fathering is different from mothering; involved fathers are indispensable for the good of children and society; and our growing national fatherlessness is a disaster in the making.” (David Popenoe, 1996)

“A child is sexually safer with her father than with any other man, from a stepfather to her mother’s boyfriend to guys in the neighborhood. She is also safer with a father than without one. A child in a fatherless home faces a significantly higher risk of sexual abuse.” (David Blankenhorn, 1995)

“Research clearly demonstrates that children growing up with two continuously married parents are less likely than other children to experience a wide range of cognitive, emotional, and social problems, not only during childhood, but also in adulthood.” (Paul Amato, 2005)

“We reject the claim that children raised by only one parent do just as well as children raised by both parents. We have been studying this question for ten years, and in our opinion the evidence is quite clear: Children who grow up in a household with only one biological parent are worse off, on average, than children who grow up in a household with both of their biological parents, regardless of the parents’ race or educational background, regardless of whether the parents are married when the child is born, and regardless of whether the resident parent remarries.” (Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur, 1994)

“The weight of evidence indicates that the traditional family based upon a married father and mother is still the best environment for raising children, and it forms the soundest basis for the wider society. For many mothers, fathers and children, the ‘fatherless family’ has meant poverty, emotional heartache, ill health, lost opportunities, and a lack of stability.” (Rebecca O’Neill, 2002)

“A substantial body of research suggests that family structure is an independent factor influencing the well-being of children. Even after correcting for variables such as family income, parental education, and prior family history, children from single-parent families tend on average to fare less well economically, educationally, and emotionally, and encounter more difficulties on the road to becoming self-sustaining adults.” (William Galston, 1997)

To point out this preponderance of evidence is NOT to claim that there are no married heterosexual parents who abuse or kill their children, or are dysfunctional in various ways. And it is NOT to say that all single parents or blended families are always dysfunctional and harmful to children.

But the tiny sampling of evidence offered above DOES tell us some glaring realities and telling truths that we dare not ignore.


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Gustavo Fring.

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