"Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill it teaches the whole people by its example.
Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself."
–Supreme Court Justice Brandeis

Saturday, July 11, 2009




In orange: what the pundits, spin-meisters, and study summarizers SAY the studies have found (frequently interposed with could-bes, should-bes, what-ifs, comments, faulty conclusions, and suppositions without cites), and, in black: what the research actually says!

daycarep Myth -- Studies have shown that nonmaternal care, e.g. daycare, has no ill effects.

Fact: Nonmaternal care of babies and preschool children has been linked to behavioral problems at older ages.

Jay Belsky, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Margaret Burchinal, K. Alison Clarke-Stewart, Kathleen McCartney, Margaret Tresch Owen, The NICHD Early Child Care Research Network (2007) Are There Long-Term Effects of Early Child Care? Child Development 78 (2), 681-701.

Fact: Research indicates that maternal deprivation may have long-term negative physical consequences on the development of infants and young children.

Fact: "Evidence indicating that early, extensive, and continuous nonmaternal care is associated with less harmonious parent-child relations and elevated levels of aggression and noncompliance suggests that concerns raised about early and extensive child care 15 years ago remain valid and that alternative explanations of Belsky's originally controversial conclusion do not account for seemingly adverse effects of routine nonmaternal care that continue to be reported in the literature... No longer is it tenable for developmental scholars and child-care advocates to deride the notion that early and extensive nonmaternal care of the kind available in most communities poses risks for young children and perhaps the larger society as well. Importantly, even some one-time critics of this proposition have come to acknowledge that there is something about lots of time in nonmaternal care beginning in the first year of life that poses risks for children that may not be entirely attributable to the quality of care they receive."

Belsky, J. (2001). Emanuel Miller Lecture Developmental Risks (Still) Associated with Early Child Care. J. Child Psycho). Psychiat. Vol. 42, No. 7, pp. 845-859.

Also see Claudia Liebl et al, Gene expression profiling following maternal deprivation: involvement of the brain renin-angiotensin system, Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience., May 2009, Volume 2, Article 1

Also see, for research on what happens when mammal infants repeatedly are removed from their mothers (and other abuse): Cicchetti D. "An Odyssey of Discovery: Lessons Learned through Three Decades of Research on Child Maltreatment", American Psychologist (Nov. 2004): Vol. 59, No. 8, pp. 731 41. Glaser D. "Child Abuse and Neglect and the Brain A Review," Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines (Jan. Feb. 2000): Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 97 116. Luecken LJ, et al. "Early Caregiving and Physiological Stress Responses," Clinical Psychology Review (May 2004): Vol. 24, No. 2, pp. 171 91. Nemeroff CB, et al. "Differential Responses to Psychotherapy versus Pharmacotherapy in Patients with Chronic Forms of Major Depression in Childhood Trauma," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Nov. 25, 2003): Vol. 100, No. 24, pp.14,293 96. Sapolsky RM. Why Zebras Don¹t Get Ulcers: A Guide to Stress, Stress Related Diseases, and Coping. W.H. Freeman, 1994

Fact: A study by Carol George and and Judith Solomon of Mills College found that two-thirds of 12- to-18 month-olds who regularly spent overnight visits away from their mothers exhibited disorganized attachment to both their mothers and fathers, compared with babies who were not subjected to this arrangement (e.g. who saw their fathers only during daytime visits.)

George, Carol and Judith Solom. OVERNIGHT VISITS AFFECT BABIES' ATTACHMENT TO SEPARATED OR DIVORCING PARENTS http://www.newswise.com/articles/2003/4/DIVORCE.MLS.html

Comment: The study news release [4-3-03] optimistically proclaims that "overnights per se" were not thesole factor that caused the problems. However, confounding factors were those virtually certain to be present in contested custody disputes, e.g. disagreement and emotional tension between the parents, inconsistency in parenting, inability of the parents to communicate harmoniously.

Fact: "The most important relationship in a child's life is the attachment to his or her primary caregiver, optimally, the mother. This is due to the fact that this first relationship determines the biological and emotional 'template' for all future relationships. Healthy attachment to the mother built by repetitive bonding experiences during infancy provides the solid foundation for future healthy relationships. In contrast, problems with bonding and attachment can lead to a fragile biological and emotional foundation for future relationships."

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, Bonding and Attachment in Maltreated Children,ChildTrauma Academy, Parent and Caregiver Education Series; Volume 1, Number 4, October, 1999

Also see: Odent, Michele "The Scientification of Love," Free Association Books/ London/ New York, 1999; Janov, Arthur, "The Biology of Love;" Prometheus Books, New York, 2000; Lewis, Thomas, Amini, Fari, & Lannon, Richard, "A General Theory of Love," Random House, New York, 2000; Pearce, Joseph Chilton, "The Biology of Transcendence," Inner Traditions - Bear & Co., 2002; Heath, R. G. (1975): "Maternal-social deprivation and abnormal brain development: Disorders of emotional and social behavior," In Brain Function and Malnutrition: Neuropsychological Methods of Assessment (Prescott, J.W., Read, M.S., & Coursin, D.B., Eds). John Wiley, New York;

Fact: "Results for very young infants who spend more than thirty hours a week in the more institutionalized settings, where a few caregivers struggle to meet the needs of many infants, or for children who bounce from one facility to another, are less [than] encouraging... Not only can effects be seen in the way infants respond to their mothers, but also in the way mothers respond to their babies, who are already harder to soothe. Mothers who used daycare more than thirty hours a week tended to be less sensitive with their six-month-olds, more negative with fifteen-month-olds, than mothers who used daycare ten hours a week... Experts differ over just how flexible, how adaptable, human infants might be, yet no one is saying that human adaptability provides a carte blanche for indiscriminate care."

Hrdy, Sara Blaffer. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, 1999. pp 506-7.

Myth -- Children who are older do not benefit from stay-home mothers; mothers should be back to work full-time once children are in school.

Fact: Work and school hours rarely coincide, especially when one adds in the time eaten up in commuting, occasional overtime, work brought home, and career wardrobe and appearance maintenance. It creates an almost inevitable problem of not only latchkey kids, but also reduced supervision or else excessive after-school daycare time. It's also incompatible with school holidays, teacher conference days, daytime parental participation and volunteerism in schools, and child sickdays. Finally, what is rarely recognized or understood by those who have never been full-time primary caregivers, is that full-time maternal work also means that when children are not in school, the mother's time remains preoccupied doing all the shopping, cooking, cleaning, organizing, and other homemaking chores and errands that otherwise would have been accomplished during the six or seven hours a day the children were in school.

See generally, http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/021.htm

Fact: [M]aternal employment (during a child's adolescent years) significantly decreases grades.

Baum, Charles L. The Long-Term Effects of Early and Recent Maternal Employment on a Child's Academic Achievement, Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 25, No. 1, 29-60 (2004) DOI: 10.1177/0192513X03255461 SAGE Publications. http://jfi.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/25/1/29

Myth -- Stepmothers are acceptable substitutes for children's real mothers. [This is the cherished belief of many re-coupled nonprimary caregiving fathers who seek custody, and also of the custody evaluators who indulge them.]

Fact: "It has been consistently found that stepfamilies are not as close as nuclear families (Kennedy, 1985; Pill, 1990) and that stepparent-stepchild relationships are not as emotionally close as parent-child relationships (Ganong & Coleman, 1986; Hetherington & Chlingempeel, 1992, Hobart, 1989) Many clinicians and researchers assume that stepfamilies tend to become closer over time. However, previous longitudinal studies conducted on stepfamilies have found little empirical support for this (Hetherington & Clingempeel, 1992; Kurdek, 1991).

"Exploring the Stepgap: How Parents' Ways of Coping with Daily Family Stressors Impact Stepparent-Stepchild Relationship Zuality in Stepfamilies," by Melady Preece. University of British Columbia. (1996) http://www.psych.ubc.ca/~mpreece/compdoc.pdf

Fact: "The one most significant factor that neutralizes the advantages of remarrying is the psychological dilemma the child goes through over whom to love. The child seems to be polarized, for example, between loving the woman (the mother) who is now, as it usually happens, hated by the father, and the new woman (the stepmother) whom the father deeply loves. Virginia Rutter describes this conflict as "divided loyalty". She further explains that the child feels torn because their parents are pulling them in opposite directions. The symptoms of this divided royalty are that they brew up bad behavior or depression, a forced psychological path to resolve the conflict between the parents (Rutter). On the other hand children whose parents remain single do not experience this because no new figure (stepparent) is introduced to trigger that psychological trauma."

"Reconstituted families vs Single-Parent Families." http://wl.middlebury.edu/derick/ ; Rutter, Virginia. "Lessons From Stepfamilies". Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, Inc. May-June 1994 Vol27 n3 p30 (10). Oct. 31, 2002.

Fact: "Adolescents, however, would rather separate from the family as they form their own identities. "The developmental needs of the adolescent are at odds with the developmental push of the new stepfamily for closeness and bonding,".

Id. Also see "NEW PERSPECTIVES ON STEPFAMILIES:STEP IS NOT A FOUR LETTER WORD," by Susan Gamache, M.A., R.C.C.* STEPFAMILIES, Fall 1994 http://www.saafamilies.org/education/articles/prof/gameche.htm

Fact: "Only about 20% of adult stepkids feel close to their stepmoms, says the pioneering work of E. Mavis Hetherington involving 1,400 families of divorce, some studied almost 30 years. 'The competition between non-custodial mothers and stepmothers was remarkably enduring," she writes in For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered. 'Only about one-third of adult children think of stepmoms as parents,' suggests Constance Ahrons' 20-year research project. Half regard their stepdads as parents. About 48% of those whose moms had remarried were happy with the new union. Only 29% of those whose dads had remarried liked the idea of a stepmom.'

"Stepmoms step up to the plate," by Karen S. Peterson, USA TODAY. 5/6/2002) http://www.usatoday.com/life/2002/2002-05-07-stepmom.htm

Fact: "Stepmothers have the most difficulty building a relationship with stepdaughters. There is generally less affection, less respect, and less acceptance in this relationship than in other stepfamily relationships. The daughter may resent the stepmother's closeness with her father... Attempts by the stepmother to fulfill her role in the stepfamily may be perceived by the stepdaughter as efforts to replace her mother."

"Building Step Relationships." Stepping Stones for Stepfamilies. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/PM1832.pdf

Fact: "Stepmothers are also found to have more problematic relationship with stepchildren; while children, particularly girls, also experience higher stress when they are living with their stepmothers. (Jacobson, 1987 in Visher & Visher, 1993). Visher & Visher (1979) suggested that teenage daughters identify strongly with their mothers and resent any woman who replaces their mother for the father's affection. Teenage daughters also exhibit much competitiveness with their stepmothers for their father's affection. These findings suggested that there are strong situational dynamics at work that create special relationship problems for stepmother families. Difficulty between the children's mother and stepmother has also been mentioned as a possible contribution to the greater stress in stepmother families. (Visher & Visher 1988)

"Exploring the Difficulties of stepmothers in the Hong Kong Chinese Society," by Kwok Yuen-ching, Lily.The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (1998) http://swforum.socialnet.org.hk/article/fulltext/990502.doc

Also see: Ganong & Coleman. Remarried Family Relatioships Sage Publications. (1994); Visher, J.S. & Visher, E.B. "Stepfamilies: A Guide To Working With Stepparents & Stepchildren." Brunner/Mazel New York (1979); Visher, J.S. & Visher, E.B. "Old Loyalties,New Ties." Therapeutic Strategies with Stepfamilies Brunner/Mazel New York (1988); Visher, J.S. & Visher, E.B. " Remarriage Families and Stepparenting" in Walsh, T. (ed.) Normal Family Processes. New York Guilford Press (1993); Vuchinich S. et al (1991) "Parent-Child Interaction and Gender Differences in Early Adolescents." Adaptation to Stepfamilies. Developmental Psychology 1991 Vol. 27, No.4; Smith, Donna. "Stepmothering." Harvester Wheatsheaf. New York (1990)

Michael Lamb says that fatherlessness is not really a risk.  It's about the relationship with the caregiving parent, the level of support a child receives, and the harmoniousness of the environment.Fact: "Children raised in families with stepmothers are likely to have less health care, less education and less money spent on their food than children raised by their biological mothers, three studies by a Princeton economist have found. The studies examined the care and resources that parents said they gave to children and did not assess the quality of the relationships or the parents' feelings and motives. But experts said that while the findings did not establish the image of the wicked stepmother as true, they supported the conclusion that, for complex reasons, stepmothers do invest less in children than biological mothers do, with fathers, to a large extent, leaving to women the responsibility for the family's welfare."

"Differences Found in Care With Stepmothers," by Tamar Lewin, Tim Shaffer for The New York Times Susan Sasse, vice president of the International Stepfamily Association, with her husband, Erik, and their children in Chesapeake City, Md. (August 17, 2000) http://www.geocities.com/thesagacontinues2000/stepmoms.html

Also see http://www.geocities.com/wellesley/9204/custody.html; and "What's Normal In a Stepfamily"? by Peter K. Gerlach, MSW. Board member Stepfamily Association of America http://sfhelp.org/04/reality3.htm

Also see: Children living with custodial fathers are less likely to have health insurance than children who live with their mothers. http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-224.pdf

Fact: "[C]hildren experiencing multiple transitions, experiencing them later in childhood, and those living in stepfamilies fared poorly in comparison with those living their entire childhood in stable single-parent families or moving into two-parent families with biological or adoptive parents. Other studies show benefits of stable single-parent living arrangements for children's socioemotional adjustment and global wellbeing (Acock & Demo, 1994), and deleterious effects of multiple transitions (Capaldi & Patterson, 1991; Kurdek, Fine, & Sinclair, 1995), supporting a life-stress perspective."

David H Demo, Martha J Cox (2000) Families With Young Children: A Review of Research in the 1990s Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 876-895.

Fact: "[R]esearch suggests that being a stepparent is more difficult than raising one's own biological children, especially for stepmothers, and that stepmothers may compete with the child for the father's time and attention."

Pasley, K., & Moorefield, B. S. (2004). Stepfamilies: Changes and challenges. In M. Coleman & L. H. Ganong (Eds.), Handbook of contemporary families (pp. 317-330), cited in Valarie King (2007) When Children Have Two Mothers: Relationships With Nonresident Mothers, Stepmothers, and Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1178-1193.

Myth -- "The psychological literature indicates that children's overall adjustment following divorce does not differ between those living with custodial mothers versus custodial fathers. This finding holds true even with infants and young children." [Leighton E. Stamps, Ph.D. in Age Differences Among Judges Regarding Maternal Preference in Child Custody Decisions, referencing Mark Bornstein, HANDBOOK OF PARENTING (1995) http://aja.ncsc.dni.us/courtrv/cr38-4/CR38-4Stamps.pdf]

Fact: In a LaTrobe University therapeutic mediation study, McIntosh and Long found that the factors that most predicted children's poor emotional well-being one year after initial measurements were father's lower education, high conflict, shared care, and [a component of shared care] mother's low emotional availability during the year. Nonpredictors of children's emotional well-being included the mother's education, the amount of time since the parents' separation, and the father's relationship or closeness with the child.

      McIntosh, Jennifer E. and Caroline M. Long, Final Report: Child Inclusive Post-Separation Family Dispute Resolution, LaTrobe University (2006).

Myth -- Mother-absence is no different from father-absence; it's a single-parent family, and "gender" of the parent is irrelevant.

Fact: Gender may be irrelevant, but motherhood isn't. "...children residing without biological mothers fare worse than thosewithout biological fathers, across most outcomes. In addition, only longitudinal measures of mother absence directly influence school outcomes. The time lived away from the biological mother is related to adolescents' grades and school discipline, while the number of mother changes significantly reduces adolescents' college expectations."

"The Longitudinal Effects of Mother and Father Absence on Adolescent School Success." Population Association of America, Minneapolis, MN. (May 1-3, 2003)

Fact: "Using data from four national surveys, Biblarz and Raftery (1999) show that mother-absence is much more detrimental than father-absence to children's educational and occupational attainment. They find that once parents' socioeconomic status is taken into account, children raised by single mothers are much better off than children raised by single fathers or fathers and stepmothers, and are just as likely to succeed as children raised by both birth parents. Biblarz and Raftery conclude that the pattern of effects across family types and over time is consistent with an evolutionary perspective which emphasizes the importance of the birth mother in the provision of children's resources (Trivers 1972). According to this view, children raised by their birth mothers do better than children raised apart from their birth mothers. Furthermore, being raised by a single birth mother is better than being raised by a birth mother and step-father since step-fathers compete with children for mother's time and lower maternal investment."

Case, Anne, I-Fen Lin and Sara McLanahan. Educational Attainment in Blended Families, August 2000.

Fact: "Recent work on the determinants of children's human capital investments suggests that the absence of a child's birth mother puts the child at risk. Those investments that are typically made by a child's mother -- in food, health, and education, for example -- are made at a lower level when the child is raised by a non-birth mother."

Case, Anne, I-Fen Lin and Sara McLanahan. Educational Attainment in Blended Families, August 2000.

Fact: "[H]ypotheses posit that the impact of family structure on adolescent behavior is, in part, explained by the different types of communities within which families reside and that community characteristics moderate the impact of family structure on drug use. The results of multilevel regression models fail to support these hypotheses; adolescents who reside in single-parent or stepparent families are at heightened risk of drug use irrespective of community context. Moreover, adolescents who reside in single father families are at risk of both higher levels of use and increasing use over time. A significant community-level effect involves jobless men: Adolescents are at increased risk of drug use if they reside in communities with a higher proportion of unemployed and out-of-workforce men."

John P Hoffmann (2002) The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2), 314?330.

Justice's PosterousFact: "Some argue that single fathers adapt to single parenting by taking on more stereotypical "mothering" activities (Risman, 1987), making their involvement no different from that of single mothers. Downey (1994), however, finds that single mothers provide more interpersonal resources, whereas single fathers provide more economic resources. Given mothers' greater involvement in school activities, biological mother absence may have a more negative influence than biological father absence. Downey, Ainsworth-Darnell, and Dufur (1998) found mixed evidence of gender differences among single-parent families on a comprehensive list of child outcomes; all of the significant differences, however, occurred in educational measures and consistently showed a disadvantage for children living with single fathers... I find support for the hypothesis that, at least in early childhood, mother changes have more lasting influences on college expectations and school discipline than father changes..."

Holly E. Heard (2007) Fathers, Mothers, and Family Structure: Family Trajectories, Parent Gender, and Adolescent Schooling Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2), 435-450.

Fact: "Some research... suggests that resident fathers may not be as involved with (Hawkins, Amato, & King, 2006), or as close to (Clarke-Stewart & Hayward, 1996), children as resident mothers and that resident stepmothers take over more parenting responsibilities than resident stepfathers do (Pryor & Rodgers, 2001). Consistent with this premise, Buchanan et al. (1996) report benefits of a close father-child relationship for adolescent outcomes in father-resident families but found these effects to be weaker than the benefits of a close mother-child tie in mother-resident families."

Valarie King (2007) When Children Have Two Mothers: Relationships With Nonresident Mothers, Stepmothers, and Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1178-1193.

Fact: "[Children's residing in single mother households was associated with a double risk of incarceration, but] youths from stepparent families are even more vulnerable to the risk of incarceration, especially those in father-stepmother households, which suggests that the re-marriage may present even greater difficulties for male children than father absence."

Cynthia C. Harper, Sara S. McLanahan. FATHER ABSENCE AND YOUTH INCARCERATON, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing, Princeton University, Working Paper #99-03. harperc@obgyn.ucsf.edu

Myth --  Who is "family" is based on biological ties.

Fact: "Family membership and parentage appear to be at least partially socially constructed, not based solely on biology or law, as structuralists would suggest... adult children did not perceive their stepmothers to be more fully family and parents than stepfathers... When current and former stepparents had coresided with adult children, they were perceived more fully as family and parent... No other study that we know of has examined this relationship before; it is generally assumed that once stepparents and biological parents divorce, relationships with stepchildren are dissolved. This research shows that this is not necessarily the case. This finding has important theoretical and policy implications. It is inconsistent with the argument that family structure is the driving force behind family function (Popenoe, 1999). Although structural factors were significant, associational factors were also important... "

Maria Schmeeckle, Roseann Giarrusso, Du Feng, Vern L Bengtson (2006) What Makes Someone Family? Adult Children's Perceptions of Current and Former Stepparents Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (3), 595?610.

Fact: "Adolescents who are closer to their nonresident mothers exhibited significantly fewer internalizing problems and marginally fewer externalizing problems than adolescents who are less close to them. Closeness to the resident stepmother was unrelated to either outcome. Further, these findings did not vary by adolescent gender, providing no evidence for the same gender hypothesis, nor did the influence of one parent depend on ties to another parent.
        "The stronger association between adolescent outcomes and ties to nonresident mothers compared with ties to stepmothers stands in contrast to the results reported in prior research on resident mother families where close ties to resident stepfathers are more strongly associated with positive adolescent outcomes than ties to nonresident biological fathers (King, 2006; White & Gilbreth, 2001), suggesting important differences in the role of nonresident parents and stepparents by gender.... An unanswered question for future research to explore is why close ties to resident stepmothers do not result in better outcomes for adolescents despite the fact that adolescents report being closer on average to resident stepmothers than to nonresident biological mothers and as close to nonresident biological mothers who maintain contact with their children."

Valarie King (2007) When Children Have Two Mothers: Relationships With Nonresident Mothers, Stepmothers, and Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1178-1193.

Myth -- Stepfathers are less engaged with their stepchildren than biological fathers are with their own offspring, and are more likely to injure or kill the children with whom they reside than are biological fathers.

Fact: This is not a myth. It's true. However "biological fathers were more likely to physically abuse their partners than were stepfathers or other men, and... children were more likely to witness IPV if it was perpetrated by their biological father instead of a stepfather (Sullivan et al., 2000)...
        "We found some support for our first hypothesis that biological fathers would be more likely than social fathers to report that they observed negative effects of IPV [on their children]... We also found support for our second hypothesis that biological fathers would be more likely to express worry about the long-term effect of their abuse on their children, particularly on female children. In response to our third hypothesis regarding parenting, co-parenting, and partner's ability to parent, we found that biological fathers were more likely than social fathers to report that abuse negatively affected their partners' ability to parent but not more likely to report that IPV made it more difficult to co-parent or that this abuse negatively affected their feelings about themselves as fathers. Finally, we found no support for our hypothesis that biological fathers would be more likely than social fathers to report that they would take action to stop their violence, seek professional help, or take other protective actions if they saw that their abuse was harming their children.
        "Our findings suggest a disconnect between biological fathers' professed concern for their children who are exposed to IPV and their intentions of changing their abusive behavior. If this finding is replicated in future investigations, the consequences for child custody decisions could be significant."

Emily F. Rothman, David G. Mandel and Jay G. Silverman. Abusers' Perceptions of the Effect of Their Intimate Partner Violence on Children, 1179 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN 2007; 13; 1179, available at http://vaw.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/11/1179

Also see Hetherington, E., & Clingempeel, W. (1992). Coping with marital transitions: A family systems perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 57(2-3, Serial No. 227), and Hetherington, E., & Jodl, K. (1994). Stepfamilies as settings for child development. In A. Booth & J. Dunn (Eds.), Stepfamilies: Who benefits? Who does not? (pp. 55-80). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Myth -- Children feel closer to their divorced mothers than to their divorced fathers only because they are living with their mothers.

Fact: "Adolescents' ratings of closeness were much higher among resident than among nonresident parents, although nonresident mothers scored significantly higher on this variable than did nonresident fathers."

Daniel N. Hawkins, Paul R. Amato, Valarie King (2006) Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (1), 125?136.

Perception -- Fathers tend to direct their energies toward the children of the woman they love, unrelated to biological ties.

Fact: "New partners had little effect on mothers... For fathers, however, cohabiting or visiting with a new partner had a particularly detrimental effect on positive engagement [with their own children]... The difference between single fathers and those who had a new romantic partner is noteworthy, given that both groups were similar in that they lived apart from their child and did not have a romantic relationship with the biological mother... Fathers with a new partner who were engaging less in their children provide an interesting contrast to the result that mothers with a new cohabiting partner reported them to be higher than married, cohabiting, or visiting fathers on positive engagement and instrumental support. In essence, fathers with a new partner were interacting less with their children, yet men who found themselves thrust into the father role were interacting more."

      Christina M. Gibson-Davis, Family Structure Effects on Maternal and Paternal Parenting in Low-Income Families, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 2, Pages 452 - 465 (2008)

Myth -- Single custodial fathers who have remarried are the primary caregiver of their children in the household.

Fact: Stepmothers are. "The general picture that emerged is that stepmothers and mothers had been the lead actors in the monitoring and directing of activities and the nurturing and disciplining of these children. This finding about stepmothers was somewhat surprising, given that the children's longer term primary ties were to their biological fathers and that most participants only visited their stepmothers and fathers part time when they were minors. One might imagine that in a visitation or coresidential situation with biological fathers and stepmothers, fathers would take the lead over stepmothers in the guiding and care of their children. This did happen for one of the interview participants, Victoria, reflecting an organization of family practices along a biological/step distinction. Yet, gender imbalances in father-stepmother guidance and daily care of children tended to dominate in these interview findings despite biological fathers' longer term relationships and biological ties with their children that their current wives did not have... fathers' work obligations sometimes created situations in which children were left for long periods under the sole care of the stepmother."

Maria Schmeeckle (2007) Gender Dynamics in Stepfamilies: Adult Stepchildren's Views Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (1), 174?189.

Myth -- Single fathers who have more money than single mothers will be better providers of material necessities and advantages for children.

Fact: Children living with custodial fathers are more likely to be without medical insurance.


Fact: "This study uses Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study data (N= 1,073 couples) to analyze how mothers versus fathers controlling money affects U.S. children's food insecurity. Results show children are far less likely to experience food insecurity when parents' pooled income is controlled by their mother than when it is controlled by their father or even when it is jointly controlled."

Catherine T. Kenney, Father Doesn't Know Best? Parents' Control of Money and Children's Food Insecurity, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 3, Pages 654 - 669 (2008)

Fact: Single fathers spend more money than single mothers on eating out, alcohol ,and tobacco, and they spend less on children's education. They also spend a larger portion of their total expenditures on eating out, alcohol, tobacco, and recreation, and a smaller share on children's education.

Ziol-Guest, Kathleen M. A Single Father's Shopping Bag: Purchasing Decisions in Single Father Families, presented atBoston, MA, Population Association of America Annual Meeting, April 2005. Also see: http://www.human.cornell.edu/pam/seminars/ziolguest.pdf Cohort(s): Children of the NLSY79 ID Number: 5042 , pub. by Population Association of America.

Myth -- Post-divorce, children do just as well emotionally in father-custody as in mother-custody.

Fact: "[A]dolescents living in a father-custody household feel more hopeless than adolescents living in a mother-custody family. There is no difference in the effect of sex of the custodial parent between girls and boys. The same-sex hypothesis stating that children are better off living with the parent of the same sex is not supported by these data... [A]dolescents in a father-family perceive less appreciation than adolescents in a mother-family [but this factor] does not seem to have any consequences for the relation between the sex of the custodial parent and well-being...The ...question still needing an answer is why, then, adolescents in father-families suffer more from hopelessness than adolescents in mother-families."

Mieke Van Houtte PhD and An Jacobs, 2004, JOURNAL OF DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE, Volume: 41 Issue: 3, "Consequences of the Sex of the Custodial Parent on Three Indicators of Adolescent's Well-Being:: Evidence from Belgian " 143 - 163

Fact: Remarried custodial fathers are no more involved with their children than they were when married to the children's mothers; while somewhat more involved when still single, when married, they revert back into a pattern of letting the mother-figure in the household rear the children. "Repartnered resident fathers are located in the multidimensional space about halfway between unpartnered resident fathers and resident fathers who are married to resident mothers, indicating that repartnering may pull resident fathers back toward the parenting patterns seen in biological two-parent families."

Daniel N. Hawkins, Paul R. Amato, Valarie King (2006) Parent-Adolescent Involvement: The Relative Influence of Parent Gender and Residence Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (1), 125?136.

Fact: Notwithstanding widespread media disinformation conflating children in mother and father custody as generally suffering detriment that was attributed to their custodial parent's relocation, the actual numbers fromSanford Braver's study of college freshman from divorced families indicated that the most well-adjusted and satisfied children were those in the custody of their mothers whose fathers moved away. Children in the custody of their fathers scored significantly lower on personal and emotional well adjustment than children who remained in the custody of their mothers, had significantly more hostility, and ranked lowest of all groups in general life satisfaction.


Fact: [A]dolescents from single father households are judged by teachers to be less well behaved and to show less effort in class.  They also score slightly less than their single-mother counterparts on standardized tests, both verbal and math, and are perceived to be less academically qualified for college.  Children raised by single fathers attain on average six months less education.

Downey, D. B., Ainsworth-Darnell, J. W., & Dufur, M. J. (1998). Sex of parent and children's well-being in single-parent households. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(4), 878-893

Bias: Google search terms "father absence" and research -- 16,300; "mother absence" and research -- 588.

http://www.se-fight.com/index.php?lang=en_GB&word1=%22father+absence%22+research&word2=%22mother+absence%22+research (July 30, 2005)

Myth -- "Equality under the law" means that men and women are the same in all ways.

Fact: "Equality" under the law means that WHEN men and women are the same in all ways, the law will treat them that way, and that when they are not, the law will not default to what is characteristic of "man" as the standard. Thus, "equality under the law" means more than merely consideration of each person as an individual. It also means that that "consideration" will not be cast in terms of standards and rights that can attain only to non-gestating human beings. The law will not determine what is "reasonable" with reference solely to what would be "reasonable for a man;" the law will not determine what is "just" by reference solely to what could be "achievable by someone who cannot gestate;" and the law will not ignore reproductive differences between mothers and fathers where they do indeed exist and have effect.


Also see liznotes:
(there IS no "fatherlessness problem")

by Penelope E. Bryan (contact liz if you have trouble accessing this article)

Implications for Infant Placement Decisions

Review of Martha A. Fineman's

The Deliberate Construction of Families Without Fathers:
Is it an Option for Lesbian and Heterosexual Mothers?
by Nancy D. Polikoff

The Alternatives to Marriage Project

Ann Crittenden's genius:


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