Examining evidence from social and behavioral science, history, and evolutionary biology, Popenoe shows why fathers today are deserting their families in record numbers. The disintegration of the child-centered, two-parent family -- especially in the inner cities, where as many as two in three children are growing up without their fathers -- and the weakening commitment of fathers to their children that more and more follows divorce, are central causes of many of our worst individual and social problems. Juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and child poverty can be directly traced to fathers' lack of involvement in their children's lives. Our situation will only get worse, Popenoe warns, unless men are willing to renew their commitment to their marriages and to their children. Yet he is not just an alarmist.
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The American family is changing. Divorce, single parents, and stepfamilies are redefining the way we live together and raise our children.
Is this a change for the worse? David Popenoe sets out the case for fatherhood and the two-parent family as the best arrangement for ensuring the well-being and future development of children. His argument has two critical assumptions, which he supports with evidence from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, and history.
The first is that children flourish best when raised by a father and a mother with their differing psychological and behavioral traits. The second is that marriage, which serves to hold fathers to the mother-child bond, is an institution we must strengthen if the decline of fatherhood is to be reversed.
The author, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University David Popenoe is professor of sociology emeritus and was co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University. He is the author or editor of numerous books and articles and as co-chair of the Council on Families in America, he was the primary author of its pioneering report Marriage in America: A Report to the Nation.
David Popenoe. The Human Carnage of Fatherlessness. The Remarkable Decline of Fatherhood and Marriage.
A World Without Fathers
The American family is changing. Divorce, single parents, and stepfamilies are redefining the way we live together and raise our children. Is this a change for the worse? David Popenoe sets out the case for fatherhood and the two-parent family as the best arrangement for ensuring the well-being and future development of children. His argument has two critical assumptions, which he supports with evidence from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, biology, and history.
LIFE WITHOUT FATHER
While he decries divorce and single-parenting as exemplified by television's Murphy Brown, he rejects the notion that there are acceptable substitutes to the presence of the biological father. The role of fatherhood itself must be redefined by rethinking what he says are traditionally negative male attitudes toward gentle nurturing, housework, cooking, doing laundry, and other once-womanly chores. Men must strive for an active role as parents, but at the same time they must eschew the idea of role reversal. Popenoe looks toward tax and governmental policies that reward men who stay married and calls for revamped welfare programs intended to actively promote marriage. He doesn't explain how to go about it but wants divorces to be more difficult to obtain when there are children. Vacuous and warmed-over solutions aside, his contention that the two-parent, nuclear family is the only healthy familial unit denies both history and reality.