Why Fatherlessness Is the Core of Family and Societal Problems

Why Fatherlessness Is the Core of Family and Societal Problems
Why Fatherlessness Is the Core of Family and Societal Problems

Several (probably apocryphal) stories about British Queen Victoria (1819-1901) tell about her ability not to see things that she did not want to see. One such tale involves a protest at Oxford University during Her Majesty’s visit. When the Chancellor of Oxford later apologized for the “unruly students,” the Queen is supposed to have replied, “Unruly students? We saw no unruly students.”

Such stories might appear charming and quaint. However, denying reality is not the sign of a good leader. Yet society expects leaders not to see the disaster of fatherless households in America.  Asserting that fatherlessness is related to any social issue is equivalent to wearing a sign on your back that says, “I’m a racist!”

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Yet fatherlessness is a huge problem. Anyone who looks dispassionately on fatherlessness sees a connection to crime, domestic abuse and educational issues.

Doesn’t Anyone Study Fatherlessness?

However, not much connective data exists because the researchers are unwilling to risk their reputations or careers. When the left-of-center Daniel Patrick Moynihan, for example, attacked fatherlessness in the 1965 report that bears his name, he faced a mountain of criticism. Even the president for whom he wrote it, Lyndon B. Johnson, ignored its recommendations.

When your salary depends on government grants, you study those things that the government wants you to explore.

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The Heritage Foundation outlines the problem well. In 1960, about five percent of American children were born to unmarried women, up slightly from the stable rate from 1930 through 1950. Today, that figure is eight times higher – 40.6 percent. According to the US Census Bureau, nearly one-quarter of all children in the United States live in homes where their father is not present.

Obscuring the Issue

The heirs of those who scoffed at the Moynihan Report have two reactions that have become reflexive with age. First, they argue that citing fatherlessness for society’s ills is “blaming the victim.” Second, they brand any attempt to fix the problem as “legislating morality.” Raising the problem interferes with the faulty “structural racism” narrative that is so dear to socialists.

Indeed, this is a moral problem that needs a moral solution. That problem has two dimensions – individual and governmental.

Millions of Immoral Decisions

The individual dimension has its roots in the Sexual Revolution of the sixties. Virtually overnight, cohabitation became common, casual and even “hip.” In 1967, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district hosted a months-long bacchanalia. The newspapers dubbed it the “Summer of Love.” The 1969 Woodstock Music Festival showcased increasingly the explosive mixture of rock music, drugs and sex upon its muddy fields.

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In response to this massive moral decline, the vast majority of those who hitherto fore had been responsible for defending morality; parents, teachers, government, and the clergy, were silent.

Of course, the sexual revolution left millions of broken people in its wake.  Young people who learned too much too soon came to distrust everyone. An oft-mentioned “generation gap” destroyed the unity of many families. The “college experience” became less about learning and more about a promiscuous life without restrictions. Abortion rates soared.

When the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) recently broadcast documentaries about San Francisco in 1967 and Woodstock, the overall tone was nostalgic.

The Not-So-Great Society

The governmental role dates back to President Lyndon Johnson. “The Great Society,” he told the nation, “is a place where every child can find knowledge to enrich his mind and to enlarge his talents…. It is a place where the city of man serves not only the needs of the body and the demands of commerce but the desire for beauty and the hunger for community.” He said nothing about the City of God – the Great Society was thoroughly secular.

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Part of the Great Society was a program called Aid to Dependent Children (ADC). That program’s goal was to assist children born out of wedlock. The government explained that those children had to raise themselves because their mothers had to work long hours at low-paying jobs. So, “welfare” provided these women with a place to live and a stipend so that they could stay home and raise their children.

The effects were disastrous.

Perhaps readers will forgive a personal anecdote that illustrates the disaster. This author managed a small apartment building in a depressed neighborhood in Flint, Michigan, during the late seventies. Since ADC paid landlords directly, the woman who owned the building liked renting to ADC mothers. While looking at a vacant apartment, one sixteen-year-old mother told the author, “Yeah, I got pregnant so that I could get my own place.”

Of course, no one in government was interested in gathering evidence of this phenomenon, but it was repeated tens of thousands of times – probably more – across the nation.

“No-Fault Divorce”

The epidemic of fatherlessness deepened with “no-fault divorce.” Before the mid-sixties, getting a divorce required proving that one party was guilty of abandonment, extreme cruelty or adultery. Only then could the “innocent” party be granted a divorce.

During the sixties, the “reformers” labeled the system as barbaric since it did not allow two people to admit their mistake and get on with their lives. In 1969, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the first such law. The only criterion for granting divorce was “irreconcilable differences.” Eventually, all states passed similar laws.

In 2020, one Pennsylvania lawyer advertises that a couple can get an “uncontested divorce” online for $137.00. Destroying a family costs less than the cost of a fine dinner with one’s new paramour.

According to the Washington Examiner, Ronald Reagan, years later, told his son that he regretted signing the law.

Can Anything Be Done?

ADC and no-fault divorce were only the tip of the iceberg. Those interested in more detail can read The Sexual State by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse. The extent of government complicity that she documents is eye-popping.

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It is time to stop ignoring the real harm caused by the epidemic of fatherlessness. While modern society is hostile to traditional morality, many are rebelling against the mainstream’s tired narrative. Leila Miller’s “Adult Children of Divorce Ministry” is an excellent example that addresses an important aspect of the fatherlessness issue.

It is time for society to deal with fatherlessness that lies at the core of many problems that plague the family and society.

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