The Genocide of Battered Mothers and their Children

MOTHERHOOD AND MARRIAGE: THE MYTHS AND THE FACTS

In domestic law on August 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

MOTHERHOOD AND MARRIAGE: THE MYTHS AND THE FACTS

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, what the research actually says!


Myth — "Maternal instinct" means that in general women both seek fulfillment through children and are naturally nurturing.

Fact: "Women [are] more likely than men to hold positive attitudes about childlessness."

    Tanya Koropeckyj-Cox and Gretchen Pendell, The Gender Gap in Attitudes About Childlessness in the United States, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 69 Issue 4, Pages 899 – 915 (2007)

Fact: To the extent there are biological forces at work in connection with mothering behavior, they also are not necessarily "maternal instinct" as that term has been used to mean indiscriminately nurturing. While "maternal responses that are biologically based are surely going on in the human species," nevertheless "mothers do not automatically and unconditionally respond to giving birth in a nurturing way."

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

Fact: "A number of studies have shown that human females in almost any age group prefer pictures of infants to those of adults more than males do, and are more likely to interact with live babies in a variety of circumstances than males are (e.g. Berman, 1980; Blakemore, 1983; Edwards, 1993; Feldman, Nash & Cutrona, 1977; Fullard & Reiling, 1976; Maestripieri & Pelka, 2002). Female responsiveness to infants is greatest in childhood and adolescence, and declines in middle-aged and elderly women, whereas a similar pattern is not observed for males (Berman, 1980; Feldman et al., 1977; Frodi & Lamb, 1978; Fullard & Reiling, 1976; Maestripieri & Pelka, 2002)."

Dario Maestripieri, James R. Roney, Nicole DeBias, Kristina M. Durante and Geertrui M. Spaepen, Father absence, menarche and interest in infants among adolescent girls, Developmental Science 7:5 (2004), pp 560-566

Fact: While there is no scientific support for the kind of "maternal instinct" that has been used for ages to restrict women into child-bearing, child-rearing and homemaking roles, there is some scientific evidence that during pregnancy, women are physiologically "primed" for the tasks of nurturing their own infant.

Walsh, Anthony. The Science of Love, Prometheus Books (59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, New York 14228-2197, USA), 1996, 276pp, £16.99, ISBN 1 57392 091 6.

Fact: "Despite clear evidence of hormonal and physiological factors in maternal instinct and behavior, there is no indication that this applies to the care of grown men, let alone those outside one’s immediate family. "

Davis, Elizabeth. Women, Sex and Desire, by arrangement with Hunter House Inc., Publishers, 1995


Myth — There is no such thing as "maternal instinct" at all.

Fact: While there indeed may be no universal longing of all women for motherhood (which sometimes has been mis-called "maternal instinct"), or instinctual knowledge of women about how to care for infants, as applied to women’s actual pregnancy and post-childbirth experiences, "scientists have yet to find a definitive explanation for the heightened sensitivity so often associated with mothering… Some research and informal observations suggest that the caregiving experience develops a stronger intuitive tie between the infant and the parent most often responsible for meeting the infant’s needs. But, other studies — and many women’s experiences — suggest that there is something beyond the caregiving duty that produces the responsiveness called maternal instinct. Extensive animal studies indicate that among rats, rabbits, mice and hamsters, for instance, hormones trigger a maternal response that prompts the female to ready a nest or engage in other such activities before or after giving birth. However, researchers say the hormone-related response is not so readily or uniformly clear among humans."

How Natural is Maternal Instinct?, Lowell General Hospital, 295 Varnum Avenue, Lowell, Massachusetts 01854 Main Telephone: (978) 937-6000, http://www.lowellgeneral.org/text/MaternalInstinct.html

Also see: Schore, Alan, "Effects of a Secure Attachment Relationship on Right Brain Development, Affect Regulation, and Infant Mental Health," 2001; Carter, C.S., Willams, J.R., Witt, D.M., Insel, T;;.R. (1992). Oxytocin and social bonding. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Jun 12. 652:204-211; Prescott, James W., PhD, "The Origins of Human Love and Violence," From Pre and Perinatal Psychology Journal, Volume 10, #3: Spring 1996, Henry Holt, 1997; Montagu, Ashley, "Touching : The Human Significance of the Skin," Harper, 1986; Ainsworth, M.D.S., "Attachments Across the Life Span." Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine 61, 1985; Ferris, C.F., Foote, K.B., Melster, H.M., Plenby, M.G., Smith, K.L., Insel, T.R. (1992) "Oxytocin in the amygdala facilitates maternal aggression," Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. June 12. 652:456-457; Gutkowska, J., Antunes-Rodrigues, J. and McCann, S.M., "Atrialnatriuretic peptide in brain and pituitary gland." Physiological Review 1997; 77; 2:465-515; Insel, T.R. (1992). Oxytocin–a nuropeptide for affiliation: evidence from behavioral, receptor autoradiographic, and comparative studies. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 17(1):3-35; Kamimura, S., Eguchi, K., Sekiba, K. (1991). Tryptophan and its metabolite concentrations in human plasma and breast milk during the perinatal period. Acta Medica Okayama. April 45(2):101-106; Winslow, J.T., Shapiro, L., Carter, C.S., Insel, T.R. (1993), "Oxytocin and complex social behavior: species comparisons," Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 29(3):409-414


Myth — Parental bonding begins at birth; mothers and fathers feel the same about their newborn infants.

Fact: "Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the biological mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the ‘primal wound.’

Verrier, N. N. , (1993). The Primal Wound: Understanding the adopted child. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, Inc.

Also see: Prescott, J.W. (1996). The Origins of Human Love and Violence. Pre- and Perinatal Journal of Psychology. 10 (3):143-188; Prescott, J.W. (2001) "America’s Lost Dream: Life, Liberty And the Pursuit of Happiness," The Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health 10th International Congress: Birth – The Genesis of Health; Raine, A., Brennan, P. and Mednick, S.A. (1994), "Birth complication combined with early maternal rejection at Age 1 year predispose to violent crime at age 18 years," Arch. Gen. Psych. V51:984-988; Salk,L., Lipsitt, L.P., Sturner, W.Q., Reilly, B.M. and Levate, R.HJ. (1985), "Relationship of maternal and perinatal conditions to eventual adolescent suicide, "The Lancet, March 15

Fact: Mothers have a lower threshhold of response to their infant’s needs than fathers, that is, they are physiologically aroused to a greater degree by infant signals and cries, and also respond more readily; however, in instances of severe distress, the response reactions of mothers and fathers (and probably other adults in proximity) are similar.

See generally, Hrdy, Sara Blaffer. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, 1999.

Fact: An experiment providing ultrasound imagery of their fetus over a period of two weeks to both mothers and fathers resulted in increases in mothers’ but not fathers’ antenatal attachment to the fetus.

Righetti, P.L., Avanzo, M.D., Grigio, M. & Nicolini. (2005). Maternal/paternal antenatal attachment and fourth-dimensional ultrasound technique: a preliminary report. British Journal of Psychology, 96, 129-139. http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2005/02/born-already-attached.html


Myth — Newborn infants are "blank slates" who will feel the same about any caregiver, and have no special feeling for or bond with the gestating mother.

Fact: Infant learning and familiarity with its environment begins in utero.

Atkinson, J. and Braddick, O. (1982). Sensory and Perceptual Capacities of the Neonate. In Psychobiology of the Human Newborn. Paul Stratton (Ed.), pp. 191-220. London: John Wiley. Birnholz, J., Stephens, J. C. and Faria, M. (1978). Fetal Movement Patterns: A Possible Means of Defining Neurologic Developmental Milestones in Utero. American J. Roentology 130: 537-540. Birnholz, Jason C. (1981). The Development of Human Fetal Eye Movement Patterns. Science 213: 679-681. Busnel, Marie-Claire, Granier-Deberre, C. and Lecanuet, J. P.(1992). Fetal Audition. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 662:118-134. Chapman, J. S. (1975). The Relation Between Auditory Stimulation of Short Gestation Infants and Their Gross Motor Limb Activity. Doctoral Dissertation, New York University. Chayen, B., Tejani, N., Verma, U. L. and Gordon, G.(1986). Fetal Heart Rate Changes and Uterine Activity During Coitus. Acta Obstetrica Gynecologica Scandinavica 65: 853-855. deVries, J. I. P., Visser, G. H. A., and Prechtl, H. F. R.(1985). The Emergence of Fetal Behavior. II. Quantitative Aspects. Early Human Development 12: 99-120. Fox, H. E., Steinbrecher, M., Pessel, D., Inglis, J., and Angel, E.(1978) Maternal Ethanol Ingestion and the Occurrence of Human Fetal Breathing Movements. American J. of Obstetrics/Gynecology 132: 354-358. Giannakoulopoulos, X., Sepulveda, W., Kourtis, P., Glover, V. and Fisk, N. M.(1994). Fetal Plasma Cortisol and B-endorphin Response to Intrauterine Needling. The Lancet 344: 77-81. Montagu, Ashley (1978). Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin. New York: Harper & Row. Roffwarg, Howard A., Muzio, Joseph N. and Dement, William C. (1966). Ontogenetic Development of the Human Sleep-Dream Cycle. Science 152: 604-619. Salapatek, P. and Cohen, L.(1987). Handbook of Infant Perception. Vol. I. New York: Academic Press. Schaal, B., Orgeur, P., and Rognon, C. (1995). Odor Sensing in the Human Fetus: Anatomical, Functional, and Chemeo-ecological Bases. In: Fetal Development: A Psychobiological Perspective, J-P. Lecanuet, W. P. Fifer, N. A., Krasnegor, and W. P. Smotherman (Eds.) pp. 205-237. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Shahidullah, S. and Hepper, P. G. (1992). Hearing in the Fetus: Prenatal Detection of Deafness. International J. of Prenatal and Perinatal Studies 4(3/4): 235-240. Slater, A., Mattock, A., Brown, E., and Bremner, J. G. (1991). Form Perception at Birth: Cohen and Younger (1984) Revisited. J. of Experimental Child Psychology 51(3): 395- 406. Smotherman, W. P. and Robinson, S. R.(1995). Tracing Developmental Trajectories Into the Prenatal Period. In: Fetal Development, J-P. Lecanuet, W. P. Fifer, N. A. Krasnegor, and W. P. Smotherman (Eds.), pp. 15-32. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Tajani, E. and Ianniruberto, A. (1990). The Uncovering of Fetal Competence. In: Development Handicap and Rehabilitation: Practice and Theory, M. Papini, A. Pasquinelli and E. A. Gidoni (Eds.), pp. 3-8. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers.

Also see, e.g."The dramatic finding of this study is that not only are human neonates capable of producing different cry melodies, but they prefer to produce those melody patterns that are typical for the ambient language they have heard during their fetal life, within the last trimester of gestation." Current Biology, In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 5 November 2009, Birgit Mampe, Angela D. Friederici, Anne Christophe and Kathleen Wermke. Newborns’ Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language, Science Direct http://www.sciencedirect.com/ News article (Fetus Learns Intonations of Mother’s Tongue byy Jennifer Thomas, HealthDay Reporter) at http://www.myfoxal.com/Global/story.asp?s=11451377&clienttype=printable

Fact: A newborn infant has an immediate bond with its mother. So long as that mother remains present, until age 2 to 3, the child’s closest bond and primary attachment will remain its mother.

Schwartz, P.(1994). Peer Marriage. New York: Macmillian Publishing Company; Dix et.al.(1994). Mothers’ Judgment in Movements of Anger. Psychology, 49-65.; Harris, K.(1991). Fathers, Sons, and Daughters: Differential Parental Involvement in Parenting. Journal of Marriage and Family,51, (1) 531-544.; Vinovkis, M.A.(1991). Historical Perspectives on the Development of Parent-Child Interactions. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company


Myth — Pregnancy does not negatively impact a woman’s health, body, or her employment effectiveness or functioning in other spheres of life.

Fact: It depends on the pregnancy and on the woman, and the same woman may experience different pregnancies differently as well. While being pregnant in and of itself does not justify a presumption that any particular woman is lesser-abled or disabled from her customary functioning, neither does it justify a presumption that pregnancy always will have no effect. Forty percent of all pregnancies have some complications; fifteen percent have severe complications; and even the best pregnancies will result in temporary and permanent side effects. Pregnancy is not "no big deal" — it is a major event in a woman’s life, and a major investment of time, and physical, emotional, social and opportunity-cost resources. It not only entails a measure of sacrifice, but also can be a major health risk.

http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/004.htm


Myth — Early feminists sought to throw off the shackles of having to care for their children and supported joint custody.

Fact: They fervently sought the right to have legal custody and care of their own children, both in marriage and in the event of divorce, and to be permitted the means to support themselves and their families. They did not seek to TRADE their abilities to bear and rear children or to form families in return for self-fulfillment in other areas, but the right to control the destiny of their own bodies and minds, and not be limited to the development of only part of their human potential. Foremost feminist philosopher Elizabeth Cady Stanton, argued in favor of maternal preference for young children.

The Feminist Origins of Family Law: Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Contributions to the Field, TRACY A. THOMAS University of Akron School of Law February 2004, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=497289

Report Of The Woman’s Rights Convention Adopted at Seneca Falls, N.Y. July 19-20, 1848, The Declaration of Sentiments;Woman’s Rights Party Platform: 1922. See http://www.undelete.org/library/library.html


Myth — Breastfeeding offers no significant advantages to infants over bottlefeeding; "I wasn’t breastfed, and I turned out just fine!"

Fact: In recent years, our understanding of the benefits of breast milk has steadily risen above being mere nourishment to something akin to medicine or even a vaccine. Indeed, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration puts breast milk in the same category as "liquid medications."

"The benefits extend to women. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk for developing osteoporosis, breast and ovarian cancers and type 2 diabetes, among other health benefits… Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is currently advising mothers to protect infants against the swine flu outbreak by breastfeeding and states that one of the ‘best things’ mothers can do for babies who become ill is to continue to breastfeed. It is generally recommended to keep breastfeeding even if the mother gets swine flu…" http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/4096

Fact: Two decades of research indeed have established that breastmilk is far preferable to formula — for both the baby and the mother! Among other benefits, breastfeeding: stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body promoting bonding between mother and baby; satisfies baby’s emotional needs; provides superior nutrition; helps prevent maternal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis; helps prevent future breast cancer in infant girls; promotes higher infant IQ; helps pass baby’s meconium; provides immunization against disease; is more digestible than formula; aids in mother’s post-partum physical recovery; helps protect the infant from Crohn’s disease, juvenile diabetes, allergies, asthma, SIDS, hemophilus b. virus, cardopulmonary distress, ulcerative colitis, necrotizing enterocolitis, and other medical problems; enhances vaccine effectiveness, and is a natural contraceptive.

http://www.promom.org/101/

Also see: Lanting, D.I., Fidler, V. Huisman, M., Touwen, B.C., Boersma, E.R. (1994). "Neurological differences between 9-year old children fed breast-milk or formula-milk as babies," (1994). Lancet. Nov 12 344(8933):1319-22; Neuringer, M. (1993). "Cerebral cortex docosahexaenoic acid is lower in formula-fed than in breast-fed infants," Nutrition Reviews. August 51(8):238-41; Newman, J. (1995). "How Breast Milk Protects Newborns," Scientific American. December; Uauy, R. and De Andraca, I. (1995). Human milk and breast feeding for optimal mental development. J. of Nutrition. August 125(8 Suppl):2278S-2280S;

AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS 2005 POLICY STATEMENT ON BREASTFEEDING

Fact: Children who are breastfed are significantly less anxious as ten years later than children who were not breastfed. The study included a comparison of breastfed and non-breastfed children who later experienced their parents’ divorce. " Breastfed babies are more resilient as they cope better with stress in later life than bottle fed babies…"

"Breast feeding and resilience against psychosocial stress" S. Mongomery et al Archives of Disease in Childhood, online edition, 3 augusti 2006, Doi: 101136/adc.2006.096826 http://ki.se/ki/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=130&a=15251&l=en&newsdep=130

Comment: Breastfeeding and related nurturing also may mitigate against aggression in grown males.

See http://newsbureau.upmc.com/TX/AggressiveMen.htm WHY MEN ARE MORE AGGRESSIVE: WHAT A MOTHER SHOULD KNOW, research on aggressive and sexual behaviors presented at International Congress of Neuroendocrinology June 19-22, 2006 presented as Hot and Bothered: The Basis for Aggressive and Sexual Behaviors,ÿÿ Tuesday, June 20 at 12 p.m., moderated by Eric B. Keverne, Sc.D., FRS, FMedSci, professor of behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, U.K.


Myth — Breastfeeding by the mother offers no important advantages over bottle feeding expressed breastmilk.

Fact: Breastfeeding directly from the breast offers significant benefits over bottlefeeding expressed breastmilk for both mother and infant, including, among others: infant jaw development, infant control of milk flow, psychological attachment of infant to mother, health benefits for mother that pumping the breast does not achieve, infant’s ability to feed on demand, the stimulation and maintenance of mother’s milk supply that pumping alone cannot achieve (and some women cannot successfully pump), avoidance of problems such as that some babies will not move back and forth easily between bottle and breast, nutritional variation of milk during the breastfeeding, that it’s cheaper and avoids the need for a variety of feeding equipment, and that breastmilk from the breast is always fresh and free of contaminents.

http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/895_brstfeed.html

Fact: "The nutritional benefits of breast milk appear to be the factor in the average intelligence gain of breast-fed infants. Researchers estimate that 60% of the increase comes from the food value of the milk with the other 40% from the maternal-child bond."

Anderson, J.W., et al. Breast-feeding and cognitive development: a meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1999 Oct; 70(4):525-535.

Fact: "The benefits extend to women. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk for developing osteoporosis, breast and ovarian cancers and type 2 diabetes, among other health benefits…

See cites at http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/4096

Fact: Controversy exists over the safety of polycarbonate plastics widely used in baby bottles and other food containers, especially when heated. The industry (which has a financial interest) marshals studies and arguments claiming the clear plastic is safe, while environmental safety groups claim otherwise, and point to research that has found widespread harms in animal studies.

See e.g. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/561228, http://www.bisphenol-a.org/sixty-minutes2a.html, http://www.ewg.org/node/20934


Myth — Babies will be better "socialized" if they get used to a variety of caregivers, rather than depending on just one.

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.

Fact: A new study released in 2003 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.

Ibid.

Fact: "Secure attachment is understood to be an important feature of adjustment in infants and children, much of which is organized in the child’s earliest experiences. The mother is presumed to be the only attachment figure before Lamb, among other researchers, conducted a series of studies to determine the conditions under which infants and toddlers preferred mothers over fathers (e.g., Lamb, 1976a, 1977a, 1977b). Attachment relations were not restricted to mothers. Children chose the available parent under distress, and when both parents were available, the mother was preferred."

National Center on Fathers and Families, Father Presence Matters: A Review of the Literature, Toward an Ecological Framework of Fathering and Child Outcomes, by Deborah J. Johnson http://fatherfamilylink.gse.upenn.edu/org/ncoff/litrev/fpmlr.htm; Lamb, M. E. (1976a). Interactions between two-year-olds and their mothers and fathers. Psychological Reports, 38, 447-450; Lamb, M. E. (Ed.). (1976b). The role of the father in child development. New York: Wiley; Lamb, M. E. (1977a). The development of mother-infant and father-infant attachments in the second year of life. Developmental Psychology, 13, 637-648; Lamb, M. E. (1977b). The development of parental preferences in the first two years of life. Sex Roles, 3.


Myth — Having a child "cements" a marriage and brings a couple closer together.

Fact: More often, the birth of a first child disrupts marital harmony and requires adjustment. Among other things, "the increased time spent with the newborn often reduces the time husband and wife spend together. The decreased time spent alone as a couple for first-time parents often contributes to a decline in marital satisfaction."

Belsky, J. ( 1986). Transition to parenthood. Medical Aspects of Human Sexuality, 20, 56-59.; Feldman, S.S., & Nash, S.C. (1984). The transition from expectancy to parenthood: Impact of the firstborn child on men and women. Sex Roles, 11, 61-78; Levy-Shiff, R. (1994). Individual and contextual correlates of marital change across the transition to parenthood. Developmental Psychology, 30, 591-601; Wright, P.J., Henggeler, S.W., & Craig, L. (1986). Problems in paradise? A longitudinal examination of the transition to parenthood. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 7, 277-291.

Also see: Sonja Perren, et al. Intergenerational Transmission of Marital Quality Across the Transition to Parenthood, Family Process Vol. 44 Issue 4 (Dec 2005) 379-504 (Amount of marital decline with arrival of first child is influenced by parents’ families of origin).

Fact: "This meta-analysis finds that parents report lower marital satisfaction compared with nonparents There is also a significant negative correlation between marital satisfaction and number of children. The difference in marital satisfaction is most pronounced among mothers of infants (38% of mothers of infants have high marital satisfaction, compared with 62% of childless women). For men, the effect remains similar across ages of children. The effect of parenthood on marital satisfaction is more negative among high socioeconomic groups, younger birth cohorts, and in more recent years. The data suggest that marital satisfaction decreases after the birth of a child due to role conflicts and restriction of freedom."

Jean M Twenge, W. Keith Campbell, Craig A Foster (2003) Parenthood and Marital Satisfaction: A Meta-Analytic Review Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (3), 574-583.

Fact: "Married mothers’ lives are marked by more housework and more marital conflict but less depression than their childless counterparts. Parental status has little influence on the lives of married men."

Kei M. Nomaguchi, Melissa A. Milkie (2003) Costs and Rewards of Children: The Effects of Becoming a Parent on Adults’ Lives Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (2), 356-374.


Myth — Women and men are now equal economically; mothers are no longer dependent spouses.

Fact: "Several recent studies have shown a negative association between motherhood and wages. However, an analysis of change over time in the motherhood penalty has not been conducted. Using two cohorts of young women drawn from the 1975-1985 National Longitudinal Survey of Young Women and the 1986-1998 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we explicitly test the relationship between motherhood and wages across two cohorts and examine whether that relationship has changed. Even after controlling for unobserved heterogeneity and human capital variables, each additional child is associated with a negative effect on women’s wages. Moreover, our findings suggest that the penalty has not diminished over time."

Sarah Avellar, Pamela J Smock (2003) Has the Price of Motherhood Declined Over Time? A Cross-Cohort Comparison of the Motherhood Wage Penalty Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (3), 597-607.


Myth — Wives do more housework and childcare than husbands because husbands earn more of the income; it’s about role division.

Fact: "Women’s own earnings matter more to their housework performance than do their earnings compared to their husbands’, that is, their relative earnings." Women who earn more (relative to other women) do less housework and childcare, and vice versa. It is possible that as women earn more, they purchase lower-cost third-party help. But that women do more in the home bears little relationship to whether their husbands earn more or less relative to their wives.

Sanjiv Gupta (2007) Autonomy, Dependence, or Display? The Relationship Between Married Women’s Earnings and Housework Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2), 399-417.

Fact: "Married mothers in dual-income households generally experience more positive affect at work and more negative at home. In contrast, their husbands experience the reverse: experiencing more negative emotion at work and more positive at home. What seems to account for these differences is that these men do less housework and cooking, engage less with their children, and enjoy more relaxation and leisure when at home than do their wives."

Terry Arendell (2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade’s Scholarship Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1192-1207.

Fact: "Although men’s relative contributions have increased, women still do at least twice as much routine housework as men."

Scott Coltrane (2000) Research on Household Labor: Modeling and Measuring the Social Embeddedness of Routine Family Work Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1208-1233.

Fact: "[E]mployed women tend to label unbalanced divisions of labor as fair and from research showing that men who do little persist in seeing the allocation of household tasks as fair (Ward, 1993). Suitor (1991) replicated the oft-cited U-shaped curve of marital satisfaction by finding that wives’ satisfaction with the division of household labor is highest in the preparental and postparental stages and lowest when children are present (i.e., when women do the most domestic work). In contrast, husbands’ fairness ratings and satisfaction with housework show little variation across the life course."

Ibid.

Fact: "Studies find that young teenage girls do about twice the amount of household labor as young teenage boys do (Juster & Stafford, 1991), with girls concentrating their efforts on routine inside chores of cooking and cleaning and boys concentrating their efforts on occasional outside chores such as yard care (Antill et al., 1996; Blair, 1992b; Goldscheider & Waite, 1991; McHale et al., 1990)."

Ibid.


Myth — The divorce rate is increasing, and more couples than ever are getting divorced.

Fact: Our population has grown in numbers, however  "[t]he rate of divorces per year per 1000 people in the U.S. has been declining since 1981."

Dr. Paul Amato Department of Sociology University of Nebraska-Lincoln, http://www.smartmarriages.com/divorcestats.html

Fact: "The divorce rate per 1,000 population was 4.7 in 1989 and 1990 and is 11 percent lower than the peak rate of 5.3 in 1979 and 1981."

The National Center for Health Statistics has released a new report, Advance Report of Final Divorce Statistics, 1989 and 1990, http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/pubs/pubd/mvsr/supp/44-43/mvs43_9s.htm

Fact:  Touting a "fifty percent divorce rate" is misleading.  Touting a "quadrupling in the numbers of divorced persons," given the increasing population is misleading.  In 1970, 3% of all persons over 18 years of age were divorced.  After nearly 25 years of a lessening on legal restrictions hampering the right of persons to get out of untenable marriages, in 1994, post the "divorce revolution," the percentage of all persons over 18 who were divorced was 9%. 

See Saluter, Arlene, Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1994 , U.S.. Bureau of the Census, March 1996; series P20-484

Also see John Crouch’s page on the "fifty percent" statistic at http://patriot.net/~crouch/adr/50percent.html


Myth — Premarital counseling can help prevent divorces.

Fact: While couples who experienced premarital counseling claim to be more satisfied in their marriages than couples who did not, in the end there is no difference in marital outcomes between those couples who have had extensive premarital counseling and those who have not.

Sullivan, K.T., & Bradbury, T.N. (1997). Are premarital prevention programs reaching couples at risk for marital dysfunction? Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology , 65 (1), 24-30.


Myth — Religious faith and Christian family values can help prevent divorces.

Fact: The states with the highest divorce rates in the United States are those in the South which also have the most Christian churches, the highest percentages of persons who identify as being "churched," the lowest percentages of women who identify as "feminist," and the most pervasive and traditional perspectives on family roles.  "[F]our of the five states with the highest resident divorce rates in the country are in the Deep South, where families pray together but, apparently, can’t stay together.  Metropolitan states like Massachusetts and New York, supposed havens of marital dysfunction, actually have comparatively low divorce rates."

http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2000/01/24/divorce/index.html "Southern governors declare war on divorce." See the figures from the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics. (Some of the 1994 statistics are reproduced at http://www.divorcereform.org/94staterates.html)


Myth — Religious faith and Christian family values can help prevent teen pregnancies.

Fact: The teen birth rate rises with the religiosity of the teenager’s home. "At the level of states in the U.S., conservative religious beliefs predict teen birth rates highly and significantly; the correlation remains high and significant after controlling for income and estimated rates of abortion."

Myth — Living together before marriage increases the risk of breaking up after marriage.

Fact: No research has found this. Some of the research has found a correlation (not causation) between premarital cohabiting and later divorces. It’s likely that a significant percentage of these couples cohabited, delaying their marriage, because they were unsure of each other to begin with, and that others ended up marrying because of social pressures connected with the cohabiting. "DeMaris and MacDonald (1993) found that the only situation in which cohabitation is associated with a higher divorce rate is among ‘serial cohabitors’ — people who have cohabited with more than one partner. That’s a small portion of all cohabitors. The study actually concluded that for first-time cohabitors who then marry their partners, there’s no increased risk of divorce."

Ten Problems (Plus One Bonus Problem) With The National Marriage Project’s Cohabitation Report, http://www.unmarried.org/10problems.html. Also see: Ross, Catherine (1995). "Reconceptualizing Marital Status as a Continuum of Social Attachment." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 57:1, 129-40; Susan L. Brown and Alan Booth. 1996. "Cohabitation Versus Marriage: A Comparison of Relationship Quality." Journal of Marriage and the Family. 58:668-678.


Myth — Women [who file for two-thirds of divorces] often file for divorce for vague or frivolous reasons, such as "boredom," or to "find themselves."

Fact: "[Th}e first major study of divorce reasons ... found that wives cited twice as many complaints as husbands, and were far more likely to complain of physical abuse, financial problems, drinking, and verbal abuse; husbands were more likely to cite in-law trouble and sexual incompatibility. Results varied by socioeconomic status: lower-status couples seemed more concerned with problem behaviors, while middle-class couples concentrated on emotional issues."

Levinger, G. (1966). Sources of marital dissatisfation among applicants for divorce. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 36,, pp 803 - 807 http://www.utexas.edu/courses/pair/CaseStudy/DH.html#N_1_

Fact: "The majority of men and women in this study mentioned affective dimensions of their marriage relationship - encompassing communication problems, incompatibility, changed lifestyle desires and instances of infidelity - as the main reason for their divorce... Differences between men and women emerged where abusive behaviour was cited as a main reason," with far more women citing abuse.

Wolcott, Ilene and Jody Hughes (1999), Working paper No. 20 June 1999 Towards understanding the reasons for divorce. http://www.aifs.org.au/external/institute/pubs/WP20.html

Fact: "Presland and Gluckstern (1993) found that one-third of women aged 45 and over who had been married for at least 15 years and who had initiated the final separation also had not wanted the marriage to end, or were uncertain about it. A husband's affair was a main contributing reason for initiating separation..."

Wolcott, citing Presland, P. & Gluckstern, H. (1993), 'Divorce for mature age women: why now?', NSW Family Court of Australia, Sydney.

Fact: "[T]he more a man buys into masculine stereotypes, the worse it will be for his wife, because this kind of relationship puts a huge amount of strain on women. As she’s the one feeling the stress, it’s not surprising that she’s the one to say ‘enough’. However, saying ‘enough’ comes only after women have tried to find ways to make the marriage work, by accessing counselling services and support from friends and family."

Macken, Julie. Financial Review August 28, 1999 Australia, The mystery of why women marry http://lists.his.com/smartmarriages/msg00812.html

Fact: "In Britain in 1995, 26% of divorces were granted on grounds of adultery; 44% for unreasonable behaviour; 23% after a two year separation by mutual consent; 6% after a five year separation and fewer than 1% on the grounds of desertion. Identifying the point of ‘irretrievable breakdown’ is difficult, and many factors contribute to divorce…"

http://www.oneplusone.org.uk/faqs.asp#causesofdivorce

For more, see: Why Do People Divorce? (Why women file for the majority of divorces.)


Myth — Mothers in two-parent homes are better parents than single mothers.

Fact: "Single mothers spend similar amounts of time engaged in primary child care as married mothers."

    Sarah M. Kendig and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Single, Cohabitating, and Married Mothers’ Time With Children, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1228 – 1240 (2008)

Fact: "[T]here does not appear to be a significant difference in quality of parenting between divorced mothers and mothers in intact homes, when controlling for income.

Rosenthal, D., Leigh, G. K., & Elardo, R. (1985). Home environment of three to six year old children from father-absent and two-parent families. Journal of Divorce, 9 (2), 41-48.

Colletta, N. D. (1979). The impact of divorce: Father absence or poverty? Journal of Divorce, 3(1), 27-35.

Fact: "[D]espite their greater dating experiences, [adolescents] from single-mother families were less likely to choose their romantic partners over mothers as primary confidants than those from two-biological-parent families… [and] unlike the popular notion that it is normative for adolescents to turn away from their parents, the adolescents who nominated peers — romantic partners or friends — were more likely than those who nominated mothers to have increased involvement in delinquency or substance use."

    Kei M. Nomaguchi, Gender, Family Structure, and Adolescents’ Primary Confidants, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1213 – 1227 (2008)

Fact: "[S]ingle mothers have higher poverty rates than other families and …a substantial portion of their poverty is a consequence of marital disruption."

McLanahan, S., & Booth, K. (1989). Mother-only families: Problems, prospects, and politics. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 51 (3), 557-580.

Fact: "A new multiethnic study at Cornell University has found that being a single parent does not appear to have a negative effect on the behavior or educational performance of a mother’s 12- and 13-year-old children What mattered most in this study, Cornell researcher Henry Ricciuti says, is a mother’s education and ability level and, to a lesser extent, family income and quality of the home environment. He found consistent links between these maternal attributes and a child’s school performance and behavior… The study is a follow-up of children who were assessed when they were 6 and 7 years old. The first study, published in 1999, found that single parenthood did not affect young children’s school readiness or social or behavioral problems…" Adverse affects of "single parenthood" did not emerge over a period of 6 to 7 years in which children’s mothers did not have a spouse or partner living in the home.

Cornell News, May 6, 2004. Ricciuti, Henry. Journal of Educational Research (Vol. 97, No. 4) http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/May04/single.parents.ssl.html.

Fact: Stress negatively impacts parenting, as well as other kinds of functioning. Stress factors that are more likely to be present and to affect single mothers than happily married mothers include: financial problems, living in a bad neighborhood, juggling increased outside employment and childcare demands, post-break-up domestic violence and harassment, divorce and custody litigation, and interference with family and household routines by nonresident parents and other third parties (i.e. responsibility without decision-making authority).

See, e.g., Tama Leventhal, Ph.D. (Center for Children and Families, Columbia University) Does Neighborhood Disadvantage Affect Family Well-being? Evidence From a Randomized Mobility Experiment; Jennifer Jenkins, Ph.D. (Institute of Child Study, University of Toronto), Thomas O’Connor, Ph.D. (Institute of Psychiatry), and John Rasbash (University of London) Understanding the Sources of Differential Parenting: The Role of Family and Child Level Effects; Xiaojia Ge, Ph.D. (University of California-Davis), Gene Brody, Ph.D. (University of Georgia) and Ronald Simons (Iowa State University) Contextual Amplification of Pubertal Transition Effects on Deviant Peer Affiliation and Externalizing Behavior, all cited at http://www.srcd.org/pp12.html.

Fact: "The most stressed of all mothers are those who are married, employed, have young children, and encounter difficulty in locating and affording child care and handle child rearing mostly alone (Benin & Keith, 1995; Hughes & Galinsky, 1994; Marshall, Barnett, et al., 1998; Neal, Chapman, Ingersol-Dayton, & Emlen, 1993; Sears & Galambos, 1993)… When economic conditions are constant, single and married women experience similar levels of maternal distress (Ross & Van Willigen, 1996)."

Terry Arendell (2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade’s Scholarship Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1192-1207.


Myth — Children raised in single mother homes are more likely than children raised in two-parent homes to have problems with their adult relationships.

Fact: It’s not true. A study of family interactions spanning three generations and comparing the adult relationships of children from single mother households with those from two parent households found that children who had warm, supportive relationships with their single mothers formed satisfying, committed relationships with equal success to those who had similar parent-child relationships in two-parent homes. It depends upon the parents.

Iowa State University College of Agriculture 8-Feb-01, http://www.newswise.com/articles/2001/2/ROMANTIC.IAG.html


Myth — Single mothers have less time and energy to give their children than married mothers.

Fact: "[After accounting for maternal and child personal characteristics], single mothers spend significantly more time in primary and routine child care activities than married mothers and spend similar amounts of time in interactive child care activities and total time with children as married mothers. Single mothers have higher rates of employment and tend to be less educated, both of which are associated with reduced child care time. Controlling for these two factors, in addition to controls for maternal age, age of youngest child, number of children, and race/ethnicity, eliminates or reverses differences in child care time between married and single mothers. Cohabiting mothers do not differ significantly from married mothers…"

    Sarah M. Kendig and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Single, Cohabitating, and Married Mothers’ Time With Children, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1228 – 1240 (2008)

Comment: "The current policy focus on marriage and disadvantages of children in single-parent families seems to miss the important fact that all mothers try to privilege investments in their children over other things, to the extent they are able. It is conceivable that spending time with their children may become especially precious to single mothers and the focus of their energies. Single mothers do not have the support for parenting from a partner that married mothers have. At the same time, they also do not have to negotiate with a partner about expenditures of either their time or money and may often make children the central focus of both."

    Ibid.

Fact: "Utilizing the 2003 and 2004 American Time Use Survey (ATUS), this study examines the relationship between family structure and maternal time with children among 4,309 married mothers and 1,821 single mothers with children less than 13 years of age. Single mothers spend less time with their children than married mothers, though the differences are not large. Marital status and living arrangement differences in time with children largely disappear or single mothers engage in more child care than married mothers after controls for socioeconomic status and other characteristics are introduced. Thus, less maternal time with children appears to be mainly attributable to the disadvantaged social structural location of single mothers rather than different proclivities toward mothering between married and single mothers."

    Sarah M. Kendig and Suzanne M. Bianchi, Single, Cohabitating, and Married Mothers’ Time With Children, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1228 – 1240 (2008)

Fact: Not necessarily. And it’s not directly correlated with employment of the mother, either. Being married and maintaining a household with a man itself consumes a significant amount of mother’s time and attention, both directly to the relationship as well as in heavier homemaking burdens (even men who "help out" in the home seldom contribute equivalent to the chores they create.) In addition, "Engle and Breaux (1998) have shown that some fathers’ consumption of family resources in terms of gambling, purchasing alcohol, cigarettes, or other nonessential commodities, actually increased women’s workload and stress level."

Louise B. Silverstein and Carl F. Auerbach, "Deconstructing the Essential Father," AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST, Vol. 54, No. 6 397-407 (June 1999.)

Fact: The studies look at this issue more honestly when it’s a man other than the children’s father, e.g.:"[T]he two-adult structure of a coresidential or cohabiting arrangement might benefit children, providing more adults to supervise, monitor, and be emotionally involved with children. At the same time, cohabiting males or stepfathers may compete with children for mothers’ time and resources, thereby diminishing children’s well-being."

Living arrangements of single-mother families: Variations, transitions, and child development outcomes. Ariel Kalil, University of Chicago Harris Graduate School of Public Policy Studies

Fact: "Our major finding is that union formation and/or the disruption of new unions have very few effects on mothering. Mothers’ and children’s reports sometimes produce different results, but the patterns do not suggest that children’s reports are any more or less accurate than those of mothers. The most consistent effects of union change indicate that the presence of a partner reduces mothers’ time with children… Remarriage or repartnering is not good if we value time for and supervision of children. Children in intact unions at the second survey report spending less time with their mothers than children whose mothers were single."

Thomson, Elizabeth, Jane Mosley, Thomas L. Hanson, Sara S. McLanahan, REMARRIAGE, COHABITATION, AND CHANGES IN MOTHERING Center for Research on Child Wellbeing Working Paper #98-14

Fact: "[H]usbands seem to create more labor in the household by their mere presence – as much as eight hours more labor per week – despite the work that they do perform in the home. In other words, even when a man’s labor in the household has been taken into account, he causes eight additional hours of labor for his spouse (South and Spitze 1994)."

Why Don’t Low-Income Single Mothers Get Married (or Remarried)? Kathryn Edin University of Pennsylvania Department of Sociology 3718 Locust Walk Philadelphia, PA 19119

Fact: "Controlling for work hours, single parents are not more likely than married parents to feel that they spend insufficient time with children."

Melissa A. Milkie, Marybeth J. Mattingly, Kei M. Nomaguchi, Suzanne M. Bianchi, John P. Robinson (2004) The Time Squeeze: Parental Statuses and Feelings About Time With Children Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (3), 739-761.

Fact: "Marriage increases the amount of time that women spend in household labor (Bianchi et al., 2000) and decreases the amount of time that men spend in household labor (Gupta, 1999). Not surprisingly, marriage curtails women’s free time and has few effects on men’s free time (Mattingly & Bianchi, 2003). Upon the birth of a child, the household division of labor becomes even more traditional (Gjerdingen & Center, 2005; Sanchez & Thomson, 1997; Thompson & Walker, 1989) and the gender gap in free time becomes even more pronounced (Mattingly & Bianchi). These household demands affect women’s work. Married women are more likely than married men to report that family demands have caused them to turn down overtime hours and beneficial work assignments (Keene & Reynolds, 2005).

Rebecca Glauber (2007) Marriage and the Motherhood Wage Penalty Among African Americans, Hispanics, and Whites Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (4), 951-961.

Fact: "Employed and full-time mothers generally engage in the same array of child care activities, with the exception that full-time mothers watch more television with their children (Bryant & Zick, 1996; DeMeis & Perkins, 1996). Mothers holding employment do not spend less time with their children than full-time homemaker mothers (see Bianchi & Robinson, 1997). Further, many employed mothers "compensate for their absence from the home during work hours by increasing the amount of time they spend in intense interaction with children during nonwork hours [Mischel and Fuhr, 1988]" (Amato & Booth, 1997, p. 60)."

Terry Arendell (2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade’s Scholarship Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1192-1207. ("Single and married mothers spend roughly the same amount of time in total family and child care responsibilities (Bianchi & Robinson, 1997; Duxbury, Higgins, & Lee, 1994").

Fact: Women first shave time from their own personal activities when there is a deficit because of employment or other factors, not from the children. Even in circumstances in which lone mothers have less time for their children than they would if married, the studies all are quite clear that lone fathers spend even less parenting time with children. So flipflopping children in joint custody won’t alleviate this situation — it merely will rotate the children from one parent who is devoting less time than she formerly did to another who is devoting even less time. For more on joint custody, see liznotes.

Terry Arendell (2000) Conceiving and Investigating Motherhood: The Decade’s Scholarship Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1192-1207. ("Single and married mothers spend roughly the same amount of time in total family and child care responsibilities (Bianchi & Robinson, 1997; Duxbury, Higgins, & Lee, 1994").

Also see: Huston, A.C. & Aronson, S.R. (2005). Mothers’ time with infant and time in employment as predictors of mother-child relationships and children’s early development. Child Development, 76, 467-482. "…working mothers tended to compensate by sacrificing other activities, like housework or socialising, and by spending more time with their children at weekends than non-working mothers."


Myth — Divorce, especially in and around the time of litigation, causes mothers to become overwhelmed and results in a diminishment in mothers’ parenting.

Fact: Parenting practices are unrelated to divorce. "…to determine whether divorced parents exhibit a diminished capacity to parent in the period following divorce. Using 2 waves of data from a national survey of Canadian children, the current study prospectively follows 5,004 children living in 2-biological parent households at initial interview and compares changes in parenting practices between households that subsequently divorce and those that remain intact. Results show that divorce is unrelated to changes in parenting behavior, suggesting that there are more similarities than differences in parenting among recently divorced and continuously married parents."

Lisa Strohschein (2007) Challenging the Presumption of Diminished Capacity to Parent: Does Divorce Really Change Parenting Practices? Family Relations 56 (4), 358-368.

"My findings that parenting practices are unrelated to divorce appear to fly in the face of accepted wisdom," states Strohschein. "Undoubtedly, some parents will be overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of parenting in the post-divorce period, but the expectation that all parents will be negatively affected by divorce is unfounded."
        "This study is important because governments in both Canada and the US have allocated considerable resources over the past decade to provide parenting seminars on a mandatory or voluntary basis to parents who legally divorce," says Strohschein. "Although these programs do assist parents and children in adjusting to divorce, it is equally clear that not all parents will be well served by such programs. For those who work directly with families during the divorce process, this means making greater effort to build on the existing strengths of parents."
        "Researchers need to shed much more light on the predictors of parenting behavior in the post-divorce period so that this knowledge can be used to design programs that effectively target the real needs of divorced parents," says Strohschein.
Also see: http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/536088/

Fact: "…Freeman and Newland (2002) detected no differences in parental control or responsiveness among newly divorced and stable two-parent households, either prior to or following marital change. Similarly, Hanson, McLanahan, and Thomson (1998) failed to find postdivorce differences in maternal supervision between divorced and continuously married parents. These findings further support the limited applicability of a diminished capacity to parent in the aftermath of divorce…The finding that parenting practices are unrelated to divorce appears to fly in the face of accepted wisdom. In actuality, such beliefs are intuitive only to those inclined to view divorce as unavoidably destructive or who infer that people with failed marriages must also lack the qualities required of a good parent… the expectation that all parents will be adversely affected not only is unfounded but may also represent an inefficient use of resources and services for those who do not need them."

Id. Also see: Freeman, H. S., & Newland, L. A. (2002). Family transitions during the adolescent transition: Implications for parenting. Adolescence, 37, 457-475. Hanson, T. L., McLanahan, S., & Thomson, E. (1998). Windows on divorce: Before and after. Social Science Research, 27, 329-349.


Myth — Divorce harms children.

Fact: "Based on two waves of a large, nationally representative panel, this study demonstrates that even before the disruption, both male and female adolescents from families that subsequently dissolve exhibit more academic, psychological, and behavioral problems than peers whose parents remain married. Families on the verge of breakup are also characterized by less intimate parent-parent and parent-child relationships, less parental commitment to children’s education, and fewer economic and human resources. These differences in family environment account for most well-being deficits among adolescents in predisrupted families. Furthermore, the deterioration in different domains of the family environment appears to be associated with maladjustment in different aspects of children’s lives. The postdisruption effects on adolescents can either be totally or largely predicted by predisruption factors and by changes in family circumstances during the period coinciding with the disruption."

Yongmin Sun (2001) Family Environment and Adolescents’ Well-Being Before and After Parents’ Marital Disruption: A Longitudinal Analysis Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (3), 697-713.

Fact: "The quality of the single-parent family environment is at least as important for children’s well-being as the fact of the divorce itself."

Heath, P. A., & MacKinnon, C. (1988). Factors related to the social competence of children in single-parent families. Journal of Divorce, 11, 49-65.

Fact: "Meta-analysis supports the notion that the impact of father absence appears to be mediated by family conflict; father absence in itself may not affect children’s well-being. The family conflict perspective was strongly confirmed by the data. This perspective holds that children in intact families with high levels of conflict should have the same well-being problems as children of divorce, and the data supported this hypothesis."

Amato, P. R., & Keith, B. (1991). Parental divorce and the well-being of children: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 110, 26-46.

Also see: Myths and Facts about Fathers, http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/017.htm

Fact: "[T]he most psychologically salient long-term influence on children is their relationship with the residential parent, not the physical separation of the parents, although it may be the most obvious and acutely distressing aspect of divorce."

Emery, R. (1988). Marriage, divorce, and children’s adjustment. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Fact: "Various researchers conclude that it is intraparental conflict which most adversely affects children in divorce (e.g., Johnston et al., 1989; Furstenberg and Cherlin, 1991; Emery, 1988; Ferreiro, 1990). Many children enter the divorce phase already disadvantaged by exposure to parental strife and conflict (Chase-Lansdale and Hetherington, 1990; Block et al., 1988; Block et al., 1986; Hetherington et al., 1982; Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980). Without question, as a large body of literature demonstrates (e.g., Furstenberg and Cherlin, 1991; Seltzer et al., 1989; Seltzer, 1991a), many children are adversely affected economically when fathers fail to contribute financial support subsequent to divorce: only about half of divorced fathers comply fully and regularly with child support orders. Moreover, child support payments amounted to only about 17% of the total income of custodial mothers and their children in 1989, with the average monthly child support payments made by fathers, not including those who contributed nothing, being 277 dollars (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1992). Mothers in several studies argued that the economic hardship which accompanied divorce was the source of most of their and their children’s difficulties (Arendell, 1986; Kurz, 1995)."

Arendell, Terry. Co-Parenting: A Review of the Literature, National Center on Fathers and Families, 1999. http://www.ncoff.gse.upenn.edu/litrev/cplr.htm

Fact: "Research seeking explanations for the links between divorce and the adverse outcomes experienced by some children has found that: financial hardship and other family circumstances that pre-date, as well as follow, separation play an important part in limiting children’s educational achievement; family conflict before, during and after separation is stressful for children who may respond by becoming anxious, aggressive or withdrawn; the ability of parents to recover from the distress associated with separation is important for children’s own ability to adjust." Another important factor is multiple changes in family structure.

Rodgers, Bryan and Jan Pryor, (1998) Divorce and separation: the outcomes for children, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York YO31 7ZQ, http://www.jrf.org.uk/pressroom/releases/240698.asp

Fact: "Controlling for predivorce parental socioeconomic and psychosocial resources fully accounts for poorer child mental health at initial interview among children whose parents later divorce… a significant interaction between parental divorce and predivorce levels of family dysfunction suggests that child antisocial behavior decreases when marriages in highly dysfunctional families are dissolved."

Lisa Strohschein (2005) Parental Divorce and Child Mental Health Trajectories Journal of Marriage and Family 67 (5), 1286-1300.

Fact: "[W]e discovered that many of the seeming effects of childhood divorce disappear when we control for pre-divorce circumstances including background characteristics of the family and measures of how the child was doing at age 7 before parents separated."

Kierrnan, Kathleen, The Legacy of Parental Divorce: Social, economic and demographic experiences adulthood, CASEpaper Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics, October 1997

Comment: "Undoubtedly, children benefit from being raised in an emotionally and economically secure two-parent family but if this is not possible the evidence from this study suggests that in the context of the long-term welfare of children we should be as concerned about the conditions that precede divorce and sometimes lead to divorce, such as poverty and economic uncertainty, as well as with the consequences of marital breakup."

Ibid.


Myth — Children do better post-divorce with the continuing involvement of nonresidential fathers.

Fatherless Children History SeriesFact: "Studies have consistently demonstrated that conflict between ex-spouses over custody, child support, visiting arrangements, and other issues is associated with poor adjustment among children of divorce (Johnston et al. 1989). It is probable that conflict and contact are positively associated, given that contact provides opportunities for conflict to occur. So although continued contact with non-resident fathers may be beneficial for children in certain ways, it may also exacerbate conflict between parents, which is bad for children. The end result would be one in which continuing hostility between parents cancels out the benefits that might otherwise follow from a high level of contact with the non-custodial father. Two American studies provide support for this reasoning. Hetherington, Cox, and Cox (1982) reported that father visitation was associated with positive child adjustment when interparental conflict was low but was associated with decrements in children’s adjustment when interparental conflict was high. Similarly, Healy, Malley, and Stewart (1990) found that father visitation was associated with high child self-esteem when legal conflict was low, but not when legal conflict was high."

Amato, Paul, Contact With Non-custodial Fathers and Children’s Wellbeing, Australian Institute of Family Studies, "Family Matters", No. 36, Dec 1993, pp. 32-34, http://www4.tpgi.com.au/users/resolve/ncpreport/amato(1993).html

Also see MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FATHERHOOD, http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/017.htm

Fact: "A recent survey of 9,816 secondary school students in the Netherlands indicates that the level of well being of children living in single mother families is higher than that of students living in two parent families with much parental conflict, the well being of children living in single mother families with no parental conflict and with a great deal of contact with the departed father is lower than that of children living in two parent families without parental conflict and finally, the degree of parental conflict after divorce is more important for the well being of the children than the degree of contact with the departed father (Dronkers, 1996)."

WORKING DOCUMENT, THE EFFECTS OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN, A Selected Literature Review. Research and Statistics Division. October 1997, WD1998-2e, UNEDITED. Department of Justice Ministère de la Justice Canada, canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/rs/rep/wd98-2a-e.pdf

Fact: "Using data from the United States National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth, Jekielek (1996) found that both parental conflict and marital disruption were associated with decreases in the children’s well being but children who remain in the high conflict environments do worse than children who experienced high conflict but whose parents had divorced at least two years previously. The results suggest that parental divorce following high conflict may actually improve the well being of children relative to a high conflict status. Using a 12 year longitudinal study, Amato, Loomis & Booth (1995) also found that the consequences of parental divorce depend on the degree of parental conflict prior to divorce."

Ibid.


Myth — Mothers "gatekeep" and thereby interfere with the development of paternal involvement in childcare.

Fact: "[1] Fathers who reported strong authoritarian views were involved relatively less in weekday caregiving, playing, teaching, and nighttime soothing and in weekend teaching during early infancy…Attitudes consistent with authoritarian parenting, in which demands for obedience and behavioral control of children are prominent, appear to have lasting, negative effects on fathering even early in life, long before parent-child conflicts and matters of discipline become common…
        "[2] Consistent with prior work linking maternal attitudes and father involvement, fathers engaged in relatively less caregiving, playing, and teaching on weekends during early infancy when their partners held highly protective attitudes… Although an initial lack of experience or support might be expected to diminish father involvement over time, relations between maternal protective attitudes and fathers’ relative involvement did not hold longitudinally… the lack of longitudinal relations may suggest that father involvement is primarily self-determined and that mothers’ attitudes are in part a consequence of how involved fathers actually are in childrearing."

    Bridget M. Gaertner, Tracy L. Spinrad, Nancy Eisenberg, Karissa A. Greving, Parental Childrearing Attitudes as Correlates of Father Involvement During Infancy, Journal of Marriage and Family, VOlume 69, (p 962-976) (2007).

Fact: "Nonresident fathers showed slightly lower levels of involvement when their adolescents did not live with their biological mothers, supporting previous work that suggests a pattern of mothers pulling nonresident fathers into parenting (Harris & Ryan, 2004), rather than gatekeeping to limit contact with the adolescent."

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: "The results of this study support a gender system view of parenting, as parent gender, compared to parent residence, was found to be the stronger dimension underlying parent-adolescent involvement. In terms of involvement frequency, mothers tend to be more involved than fathers, and even nonresident mothers engage in as wide a range of activities with children as do most resident fathers. Moreover, in the multidimensional scaling analysis, parent gender accounted for approximately 95% of the variance between parent categories in patterns of involvement. Macrostructural, normative, internalized, and even biological aspects of the gender system may allow, encourage, or sanction mothers to participate in a wide range of activities and forms of communication with their adolescent children, irrespective of living arrangements."

Ibid.

Fact: It is fathers’ beliefs about roles, and NOT mothers’ that influences fathers’ participation in childrearing. "Mothers’ traditionalism was not a significant predictor of paternal involvement. Fathers married to egalitarian mothers are neither more nor less likely to become involved with their children. Instead, the influence of gender ideology is direct. Controlling for mothers’ ideology, fathers with less traditional attitudes about gender are more involved in both breadth of involvement and proportion of hours spent with children. These findings have important implications for how we understand the division of parenting labor. Although prior research reminds us that parenting is a dynamic process resulting from parents’ negotiations with each other (Glass, 1998; Greenstein, 1996), the ideas mothers have about gender are inconsequential to some measures of paternal involvement. Instead, fathers’ ideas about gender influence their levels of involvement."

Ronald E Bulanda (2004) Paternal Involvement with Children: The Influence of Gender Ideologies Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 40-45.

Fact: "Although an initial lack of experience or support [from mothers] might be expected to diminish father involvement over time, relations between maternal protective attitudes and fathers’ relative involvement did not hold longitudinally… the lack of longitudinal relations may suggest that father involvement is primarily self-determined and that mothers’ attitudes are in part a consequence of how involved fathers actually are in childrearing. Fathers who resist active participation may indeed be less skilled, less comfortable, or less interested in the parenting role, and mothers’ protective attitudes-particularly with respect to fathers’ direct interaction with their children-may emerge as a result.

Bridget M. Gaertner, Tracy L. Spinrad, Nancy Eisenberg, Karissa A. Greving (2007) Parental Childrearing Attitudes as Correlates of Father Involvement During Infancy Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (4), 962-976.

Fact: In a study of unwed adolescent mothers, "while over 80% of mothers reported that their children’s fathers had at least some contact with the children, approximately 80% of mothers indicate that the fathers themselves had some sort of emotional or behavioral problem… While their father’s level of involvement did not have an effect on the children at first, between the end of the second and third years, children’s problem behaviors were directly related to fathers’ involvement."

Ross Leadbeater, B. J., Way, N., & Raden, A. (1996). Why not marry your baby’s father? Answers from African American and Hispanic adolescent mothers. In B. J. Ross Leadbeater & N. Way (Eds.), Urban girls: Resisting stereotypes, creating identities (pp.193-207). New York: New York University Press.

Fact: "[N]umerous factors influence the amount of time fathers spend caring for their children. These factors include individual, family, larger system, and cultural influences… fathers’ involvement with their children is a complex reality with multiple levels of influence."

Parke, R. D. (1996). What determines fathers’ involvement? In Fatherhood (pp. 73-118). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fact: Perhaps the most significant predictor of father involvement inside and outside of marriage is the father’s relationship with the mother. It is not that mothers actively work to prevent paternal participation in childrearing per se; rather, father’s roles in the family are mediated by mothers and integrally tied to the father’s relationship with the mother. Father’s relationships with their children are social constructs, not direct. Where the marital relationship is poor, or where the mother otherwise receives lower emotional and financial support from the father, the mother is less inclined to actively work to facilitate the father’s relationship with the children. (There also may be a correlation between the father’s personality and both his child-nurturant qualities and beliefs with the success of the marital relationship.)

See generally Arendell, Terry. Co-Parenting: A Review of the Literature, National Center on Fathers and Families, 1999. http://www.ncoff.gse.upenn.edu/litrev/cplr.htm.

Also see: Cox, M. J., Owen, M. G., Lewis, J. L. & Henderson, V. K. (1989). Marriage, adult adjustment, and early parenting. Child Development, 60, 1015-1024; Doherty, W. J., Kouneski, E. F. & Erickson, M. F. (1998). Responsible fathering: An overview and conceptual framework. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 277-292; Belsky, J. (1984). Determinants of parenting: A process model. Child Development, 55, 83-96; Parke, R. D. (1996). Fatherhood. (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press); Belsky, J., Youngblade, L., Rovine, M. & Volling, B. (1991). Patterns of marital change and parent-child interaction. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53, 487-498; Feldman, S. S., Nash, S. C. & Aschenbrenner, B. G. (1983). Antecedents of fathering. Child Development, 54, 1628-1636; Cox, M., Payne, C. C. & Margand, N. A. (1995, March). Becoming a father: The family context of early father-child relationships.(In M. S. Forgatch & L. Fainsilber Katz (Chairs), Fathering from birth to adolescence: Contextual factors and effects on child. Symposium conducted at the meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Indianapolis, IN.); Cox, M., Paley, B., Payne, C. C. & Burchinal, P. (1999). The transition to parenthood: Marital conflict and withdrawal and parent-infant interaction.(In M. Cox & J. Brooks-Gunn (Eds.), Conflict and cohesion in families: Causes and consequences (pp. 87-104). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum); Cummings, E. M. & O’Reilly, A. W. (1997). Fathers in family context: Effects of marital quality on child adjustment.(In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 49-65). New York: Wiley.)

Fact: "[Five] factors influence the level of fathers’ involvement: child characteristics and paternal sociodemographic characteristics; motivation; skills and self-confidence; social supports; and institutional factors or practices…. no single factor emerges as the most important, but all show valid degrees of influence on fathers’ involvement." The authors warn that much of the research on "father involvement" is flawed because it fails to account for the quality of that involvement. By the measures used in many studies, a frequent child beater would have a high score of "father involvement."

Pleck, J. H. (1997). Paternal involvement: Levels, sources, and consequences. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 66-104). New York: Wiley.

Fact: "Mother Nature sets the threshhold for direct and exclusive care of young higher in fathers than in mothers. If primate mothers respond to infant needs right after birth, they are unlikely to ever misdirect their care. Males cannot be so sure… the majority of hunter-gatherer societies are characterized by close infant-mother proximity for at least the first several years. Care of infants by fathers is unusual, and care by male alloparents rarer still. But the recipe is not carved in stone… Female primates have always entrusted infants to willing allomothers whenever a mother could be confident of safely retrieving them." [Apply that to divorce custody theory. -- liz]

Hrdy, Sara Blaffer. Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, 1999. p. 498

Fact: "If the circumstances are conducive, almost any primate male can be induced to behave in a nurturing way. How is it, then, that it is almost always females who end up holding babies? In only a tiny minority of species do males care for infants even remotely as much as mothers do… The simplest answer is that… [people follow] the path of least resistance… the mother is more sensitive to infant needs than the father… And that’s just the point. The act of caring has its own consequences — habits of mind and emotion… insignificant difference in threshholds for responding to infant cues gradually, insidiously, step by step, without invoking a single other cause, produces a marked division of labor by sex… Since the women’s movement revolutionized the way that we talk about male caretakers and paternal roles, there has been a marked change. It would not be honest, however, to pretend that this represents a revolution… fathers in the United States spend much more time today directly caring for children than they did at the beginning of the twentieth century, but the change is still measured in minutes per week, not hours… From a newborn infant’s point of view… little has changed. Mothers are rarely as close or consistently available as the infant desires. Babies have no way of knowing that the mother who went out of town on business is not dead, that sabertooth tigers are extinct, jaguars scarce, abandonment illegal, or how few modern mothers would, in fact, contemplate it."

Id., p. 209-212; 499-501; 509-510

Comment: "[C]onsiderable debate exists as to the role of maternal attitudes and behaviors in determining father involvement (Walker & McGraw, 2000). Some research has found no relation, whereas other work has indicated that men’s involvement in fact predicts mothers’ opinions about their fathering (Aldous et al., 1998; Bonney et al., 1999; Marsiglio, 1991). Further, although mothers are in a position to inhibit father involvement, they are poised to facilitate and support it as well (Walker & McGraw). Men’s own attitudes toward fathering and perceptions of their skills are related to their level of parenting involvement (Beitel & Parke, 1998; Bonney et al.), and they themselves may exert substantial control over how and when they choose (or choose not) to be engaged with their children. Moreover, specific combinations of parenting attitudes (e.g., a very authoritarian father with a highly protective partner) may be particularly detrimental for fathers’ involvement."

Bridget M. Gaertner, Tracy L. Spinrad, Nancy Eisenberg, Karissa A. Greving (2007) Parental Childrearing Attitudes as Correlates of Father Involvement During Infancy Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (4), 962-976.

Comment: "The idea that women who’ve been the primary caretakers should simply adjust (read, ‘lower’) their standards of child care when men decide they are ready to try out being more involved fathers is unfair and unrealistic. Rather, we suggest that men who’ve not been much involved in day-to-day child care should ask lots of respectful questions of their partners to learn how and why they developed their routines with the kids, what cues to notice in the children about what they need, and what seems to work best."

Fraenkel, Peter, Ph.D. All About Fathers NYU Child Study Center Letter, November/December 1999


Myth — When children’s relationships with their fathers falter post-divorce, a likely cause is custodial mothers’ interference with the relationship.

Fact: This phenomenon occurs even when the "children of divorce" are adults, indicating that something else is going on. "The implications of later life parental divorce and widowhood for relations between parents and young adult children are explored in a sample of 3,281 young adults who grew up in intact families. Family disruption that occurred after children were grown had sizable effects on parent-adult child relations. Later life parental divorce lowered relationship quality and contact between adult children and parents. The effects were stronger for father-child than for mother-child relations, and stronger for father-daughter than for father-son relations. Widowhood had negative effects on father-child but not on mother-child relations."

William S. AQUILINO, Department of Child and Family Studies, 1430 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706 (U.S.A.) Later life parental divorce and widowhood: Impact on young adults’ assessment of parent-child relations (p. 908-922)

Fact: "Adult children of divorced mothers are just as likely as children of widowed mothers to help their older mothers… Nevertheless, not only are adult children of divorced fathers less likely than children of widowed fathers to help their older fathers, but they also are less likely than children of divorced mothers to provide personal care."

    I-FEN LIN, Consequences of Parental Divorce for Adult Children?s Support of Their Frail Parents, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 1, Pages 113 – 128 (2008) (And "father-child bonds are unlikely to be a determinant of support after taking fathers? and children?s characteristics into consideration.")

Fact: "[D]ivorce is linked to altered parent-child relationships, even when it is postponed until the children are adults… most of the variability in relationships immediately following the divorce was associated with situations arising after the divorce or with aspects of the divorce process itself, rather than with predivorce family dynamics. However, one predivorce factor that had negative effects on postdivorce intimacy was parental drinking, especially on the part of fathers."

Cooney, T. M., Hutchinson, M. K., & Leather, D. M. (1995). Parenting: Surviving the breakup? Predictors of parent-adult child relations after parental divorce. Family Relations, 44, 153-1

Fact: "Research has indicated that nonresident mothers do a better job in maintaining close contact with their children than nonresident fathers (Stewart, 1999) and are engaged in as wide a range of activities with their children as are most resident fathers (Hawkins, Amato, & King, 2006)."

    Kei M. Nomaguchi, Gender, Family Structure, and Adolescents’ Primary Confidants, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1213 – 1227 (2008)

Fact: "Prior to divorce, 57% of adolescents reported a very close relationship with their father compared to 71% who reported being very close to their mother… In terms of predivorce experiences, the results indicate that compared to offspring whose relationship declined following divorce, those who maintained a close relationship with their father had a stronger mother-offspring bond and a greater sense of well-being… It appears that a high-quality mother-offspring bond, along with a strong sense of well-being, may encourage nonresident fathers to continue their relationships with their children… We found that a predivorce familial experience (mother-offspring relationship quality) and an individual attribute (offspring?s feelings of wellbeing) played major roles in preventing close father-offspring relationships from deteriorating…
      "Other studies suggest that parent conflict is not as serious an impediment to father-offspring closeness as common wisdom suggests. Sobolewski and King (2005), using another nationally representative data set, found that parental conflict was unrelated to nonresident father-adolescent offspring relationship quality."

Mindy E. Scott, Alan Booth, Valarie King, David R. Johnson (2007) Postdivorce Father-Adolescent Closeness Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1194-1209.

Fact: "Researchers have looked mainly at post-divorce withdrawal, but there is some evidence that paternal disengagement begins well before separation. In a 10-year study of personality and cognitive development of children in 110 families (41 of whom experienced divorce during the study), it was found that the fathers who eventually divorced withdrew from their children long before the crisis period and end of the marriage. Paternal disengagement and unreliable behaviour — particularly with regard to sons — coincided with the mother’s wish that the father would become more involved in parenting. If indeed disengagement develops before separation, explanations relating to post-separation variables may be regarded as partial. Efforts to address the disengagement of fathers, however, have focused on post-separation variables, such as custody and access language. The fact that paternal disengagement begins before separation and may continue regardless of what happens afterward has been given little attention."

Baily, Martha J., Relocation of Custodial Parents: Final Report, Status of Women Canada, http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/, citing J.H. Blocke et al., "The Personality of Children Prior to Divorce" (1986), 57 Child Development 827

Fact: "[M]others are more likely than fathers to state that a nonresident father should have visitation (38.9% vs. 31.2%) and decisionmaking rights (23.3% vs. 20.9%) if he can afford to pay [child support] but does not."

I-Fen Lin, Sara S. McLanahan (2007) Parental Beliefs About Nonresident Fathers’ Obligations and Rights Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (2), 382-398.

Fact: "Becoming the noncustodial parent resulted in severe deterioration of the father-child relationship. Noncustodial mothers, in contrast, enjoyed relations with adult children that were nearly as good as those of custodial mothers… In custodial father families, the father’s remarriage sharply reduced the quality of adult children’s relations with nonresidential biological mothers. In custodial mother families, in contrast, mother’s remarriage had only a slight negative influence on adult children’s relations with nonresidential biological fathers."

William S. Aquilino, Department of Child and Family Studies, 1430 Linden Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706 (U.S.A.) Impact of childhood family disruption on young adults’ relationships with parents (p. 295-313)


Myth — When charged with the responsibility of parenting, fathers and mothers can and do parent similarly.

Fact: "[W]hen families are observed in unstructured situations in which they are permitted to go about their everyday household routines, there is very little similarity between mothers and fathers in sheer quantity of involvement. These data thus highlight the need to distinguish between parental competence and performance, that is, between what fathers can do and what they in fact do on a routine day-to-day basis."

Terry Arendell, citing to Berman, P., & Pedersen, F. (1987a). Men’s transitions to parenthood: Longitudinal studies of early family experience. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates., Berman, P., & Pedersen, F. (1987b). Research on men’s transitions to parenthood: An integrative discussion. In P. Berman & F. Pedersen (Eds.), Men’s transitions to parenthood: Longitudinal studies of early family experience (pp. 217-242). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Fact: "[F]indings were consistent with previous findings that teens in single-father families tend to have less close emotional ties either with their nonresident mothers or with resident fathers, compared with teens growing up with mothers living in the household (Downey, 1994). In U.S. society, attending to the well-being of children is considered to be women?s work, and women learn the skills of paying attention to children?s needs and establishing emotional connections with children primarily by observing other women and sharing experiences with them (DeVault, 1991). Men are not expected to obtain such skills and capacity, although a nurturing, involved father has become a popular image of the ideal father… Contrary to the prediction, the odds of preferring romantic partners over mothers as primary confidants were 21% lower for middle adolescents from single-mother families than for those from two-biological-parent families. Compared with those from two-biological-parent families, adolescents from single-father families were 1.7 times more likely to nominate romantic partners and 2.2 times more likely to nominate someone else as primary confidants over parents, and there was no gender difference."

    Kei M. Nomaguchi, Gender, Family Structure, and Adolescents’ Primary Confidants, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1213 – 1227 (2008)

Fact: "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: "…children residing without biological mothers fare worse than those without 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)


Myth — Fathers play with their children more than mothers do.

Fact: "Mothers’ interactions with their children are dominated by caretaking, whereas fathers are behaviorally defined as playmates. Mothers actually play with their children much more than fathers do, but as a proportion of the total amount of child-parent interaction, play is a much more prominent component of father-child interaction, whereas caretaking is much more salient with mothers."

Lamb, M., & Oppenheim, D. (1989). Fatherhood and father-child relationships. In S. Cath, A. Gurwitt, & L. Gunsberg (Eds.), Fathers and their families (pp. 11-26). Hillsdale, NJ: Analytic Press

Fact: "[A] number of studies that have pointed to the fact that fathers engage in more playful kind of ‘companion’ types of interaction with their children, whereas mothers? interaction is less playful and little bit more focused… those differences are seen in many of the Anglo Saxon countries… you don?t see it in many other cultures. …Middle East …Sweden …other parts of Europe don?t show those major differences… I would say it?s probably not that important in itself for the child?s development…"

Michael Lamb, May 2004 interview discussing his book "The Role of Fathers in Child Development" (2004) http://www.abc.net.au/cgi-bin/common/printfriendly.pl?http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/lm/stories/s1099987.htm


Myth — Children will experience more stability post-divorce in joint custody arrangements than in sole custody arrangements.

Fact: "[M]aternal custody arrangements appear to be more stable than other arrangements: children who live with their mother after divorce are more likely to remain in this arrangement during the first three to four years after separation, while over half of the children who start out by spending time in each parent’s household or who start out living with their father make at least one change (Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992)…"

WORKING DOCUMENT, THE EFFECTS OF DIVORCE ON CHILDREN, A Selected Literature Review. Research and Statistics Division. October 1997, WD1998-2e, UNEDITED. Department of Justice Ministère de la Justice Canada, http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ps/rs/rep/wd98-2a-e.pdf

For more information on joint custody, see liznotes on JOINT CUSTODY and MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FATHERHOOD


Myth — Children do better in single mother households when the mother is employed.

Fact: The income level of the household is determinative; not maternal employment per se.

Cohen, P., Johnson, J., Lewis, S. A., & Brook, J. S. (1990). Single parenthood and employment: Double jeopardy? In J. Eckenrode & S. Gore (Eds.), Stress between work and family (pp.117-132 ). New York: Plenum Press.

Fact: "[C]hildren who grow up in poor or low-income families tend to have lower educational and vocational attainments, are more likely to become teenage parents, and are more likely to become welfare recipients than more affluent children. Mothers’ employment during a child’s early years appears to have a modest adverse effect on educational attainment."

Haveman, R., & Wolfe, B. (1995). The determinants of children’s attainments: A review of methods and findings. Journal of Economic Literature, 33, 1829-1878.

Fact: "The existing research has not demonstrated clear effects, either negative or positive, of mothers’ employment on children’s development or educational outcomes."

Spitze, G. (1988). Women’s employment and family relations: A review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 595-618.

Fact: "[C]hildren with employed mothers view the family as more together and organized. Similarly, the family is more structured and tasks are routine and pre-defined for mother and children. Children of employed single-mothers also have a higher self-esteem, a solid sense of their mother’s beliefs, and their beliefs were more similar to the mother’s."

Alessandri, S. M. (1992). Effects of maternal work status on single-parent families on children’s perception of self and family and school achievement. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 54, 417-433.

Fact: Where women work full time outside the home whether married or not, "raising children alone is often easier for women than taking care of a husband not participating in daily family responsibilities as well."

http://www.ciesin.ee/UNDP/nhdr/CH9.html


Myth — Girls from permissive homes which give them too much freedom are more likely to engage in premarital sex.

Fact: "70% of the sexually active teenage girls studied had initiated sexual relations with male peers as a result of parental restrictions on activities and as a way to assert autonomy."

Jacobs, J. L. (1994). Gender, race, class, and the trend toward early motherhood: A feminist analysis of teen mothers in contemporary society. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 22, 442-462.


Myth — More teenage girls are having babies than ever before.

Fact: Teen birth rates in the United States have reached their lowest level since record keeping began 60 years ago.

The National Center for Health Statistics, see http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/99trends/index.htm


Myth — Children of young, teenage mothers are at higher risk merely because of their mothers’ youth.

Fact: "Using multiple techniques to control for background factors, we analyze 2,908 young children and 1,736 adolescents and young adults in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) and the NLSY79 Children and Young Adults (CNLSY79) data sets to examine whether early childbearing causes children’s outcomes. We find evidence that teen childbearing plays no causal role in children’s test scores and in some behavioral outcomes of adolescents. For other behavioral outcomes, we find that different methodologies produce differing results. We thus suggest caution in drawing conclusions about early parenthood’s overarching effect."

Judith A. Levine, Clifton R. Emery, Harold Pollack (2007) The Well-Being of Children Born to Teen Mothers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (1), 105-122.


Myth — Girls are most at risk of sexual abuse in single mother households.

Fact: "[S]ociologists have found that the factor most decisive to a girl’s increased sexual vulnerability was living in a household with adult males after her parents’ separation. This increased risk held true whether that male was the natural father or someone brought into the family by the child’s mother… Research findings also confirm that stepfathers represent a greater proportion of abusers than their incidence in the general population would predict. [However, d]aughters living in their father’s custody are equally at risk. A national survey of sexual abuse risk factors found "markedly higher risk" for girls following their parents’ divorce, "particularly when living alone with [their] father.

"[C]ompared to children living with only females after separation, children living with males in their household after separation "were more than 7 times more likely to be abused. Girls living with males in the household after separation are not only at a markedly higher risk for sexual abuse, but that risk is substantial: Bolen found that 53% were sexually abused."

Wilson, Robin Fretwell "CHILDREN AT RISK: THE SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF FEMALE CHILDREN AFTER DIVORCE," Cornell Law Review, 86 Cornell L. Rev. 251, January, 2001.


Myth — Men and Women are equal perpetrators of child abuse; children are as (or more) likely to be physically abused and/or killed by their mothers as by their fathers.

Dads break or fracture the bones of their children far more often than moms, and they tend to inflict their abusive rage on infants younger than five months old, according to a study in Child Abuse & Neglect.Idealized fathers - murderous mothersComment:Terms require definition. "LIkelihood" means something different if it refers to sheer numbers occurring in a total victim population than it does if it refers to "risk" based on a comparison of incidents occurring as a percentage of defined perpetrator subgroups. The National Clearinghouse statistics reflect "household" rather than "perpetrator", and thus give a misleading impression as far as physical abuse perpetrated by mothers versus fathers (versus stepparents and third parties.) If the incident counts of physical child abuse reported by child welfare agencies appropriately are adjusted into percentage format by taking into account actual numbers of children cared for by mothers and fathers, actual time spent directly caring for children by mothers and fathers, numbers of incidences per actual numbers of direct caregiver mothers and fathers — not to mention making adjustment to differentiate "neglect" reports from affirmative "physical abuse" — you will find that children are at many times more risk of physical abuse in the care of men than women, and at astronomically more risk for serious physical abuse and sexual abuse. See here for the statistical analysis.

See Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters. "Dads Break Bones Of Children More Often Than Moms." ScienceDaily 6 December 2007; Idealised Fathers and Murderous Moms. Parenthood in Murder-Suicide News: When a man kills his children and himself he is often portrayed as a caring parent. A woman is a "killer mom", her act is "a murder", and her personality is described in the light of the deed. http://www.nikk.uio.no/?module=Articles;action=Article.publicShow;ID=467

Also see, regarding bias in news reports of domestic violence murders, Rae Taylor, Slain and Slandered: A Content Analysis of the Portrayal of Femicide in Crime News, Homicide Studies, Vol. 13, No. 1, 21-49 (2009), http://hsx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/1/21?etoc


Myth: There are two broad types of "domestic violence" — "situational couple violence" and "intimate terrorism". Johnston, custody evaluators, et al.

Fact: "The argument for distinguishing between two qualitatively different types of domestic violence — intimate terrorism and situational couple violence — has been widely accepted by domestic violence researchers. The present study suggests that this acceptance may have been premature… Results from this study indicate that the use of the IT/SCV typology does not consistently work better than a simple measure of the breadth of violent acts used by respondents? husbands to predict negative outcomes of partner violence victimization… [and] both of these measurement strategies fail to examine the general effect of husbands? control… The preliminary empirical evidence reported here suggests that these victims of coercive control are an unrecognized category of victims… IPV researchers should focus on the dynamics of coercive control in intimate abuse whether or not this control occurs in the context of physical violence. This would entail a substantial shift in our approach to IPV, which has historically emphasized the experience of physical violence… more accurately reflect the experiences of victims, who have been telling researchers for many years that emotional control is the deeper and more central form of abuse."


Myth — The increase in single mother households over the past 25 – 30 years has contributed to increased violent crime among children and adolescents.

Fact: "Violent crimes committed by young people have dropped sharply. In 1998, the serious violent crime offending rate for youth was 27 crimes per 1,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17, totaling 616,000 such crimes involving juveniles — a drop by more than half from the 1993 high, and the lowest level since data were first collected in 1973."

Child Stats, America’s Children 2000, http://www.childstats.gov/ac2000/highlight.asp


Myth — Either single mother households, or loosening morals, or feminism has contributed to the rise in violence by young women proportionate to that committed by young men.

Fact: There has been no such rise in violence by young women. "From 1980 to 2003, the UCR data show that the percentage of girls arrested for assault (combined figures for aggravated assault and simple assault) rose from 20 percent to more than 30 percent; the NCVS victimization data show up-and-down swings over the same period but with the female-to-male percentage of assaults averaging about 22 percent in both the 1980s and 1990s. The female percentage was 20 percent in1980 and 19 percent in 2003."

See http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/016.htm for the research.


Myth — "Parents or caretakers may be charged with a form of criminal or civil penalty called ‘failure to protect’ when they do not prevent another person from abusing the children in their care."

Fact: "Although couched in gender-neutral terms, defendants charged with failure to protect are almost exclusively female."

http://www.nyu.edu/pages/lawreview/76/1/fugate.pdf

Also see New York Times, Judging a Mother for a Crime by Someone Else, November 27, 2002 by Adam Liptak, excerpt here.


Myth — Unwed mothers would improve their chances for their family’s economic and long-term viability if they would just get married.

Fact: Not according to the mothers. A study of mostly single women on workfare indicated that women believed that "they themselves had to take primary responsibility for making ends meet and for child rearing… Marriage as a mode of support was not a preferred option. Virtually no woman believed she should marry for the sake of her children. In fact, they saw marriage as undermining their ability to care for their children. Men were simply another demand on their time… Many women had suffered stormy relationships. Domestic abuse, cheating, substance abuse, and inability of the men to hold a job were common complaints. They also felt that men contributed little to the household and, instead, competed with their children for their attention. Other concerns included the safety of their children. Many women believed that men who were not the fathers of their children posed a risk of abuse, both physical and sexual.

Welfare Reform and the Work-Family Tradeoff, research by Ellen K. Scott, Kathryn Edin, Andrew S. London, and Joan Maya Mazelis, working paper "My Children Come First." http://www.jcpr.org/wp/WPprofile.cfm?ID=11

Fact: "The negative consequences of a parent change, especially a mother change and especially for young children, are greater than the deficits incurred by living without both parents in adolescence, if in a stable family. Recent policy initiatives that encourage single parents to marry overlook the negative effect of family instability. Simply marrying to provide children with a twoparent family, particularly if the spouse is not the child’s biological parent, will not eliminate the disadvantages children face (Lichter, 2001). In contrast, policymakers should focus on preserving the long-term stability of families, regardless of their structure. Doing so is particularly important for new families with young children; given recent patterns of nonmarital childbearing and cohabitation, young children are most likely to be exposed to family instability (Osborne, Manning, & Smock, 2004). Finally, the importance of parent gender is dependent on the timing of parent presence and transitions. Parenting is still a gendered activity…"

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.


Myth — We can improve marriage rates by helping young fathers become employed, rather than funding more education and job programs for single mothers.

Fact: Nope. The most recent comprehensive and methodologically sound study found "clear evidence of a [very small] positive effect of improved employment opportunities for women on their likelihood of marriage but no significant effect of improved employment opportunities for men on their likelihood of marriage." [Caveat: the researchers appear to call for more research to see if a specific demographic group, e.g. older men, can be found for which this is true, perhaps to continue justifying the call for more and more useless fatherhood programs. The latest evaluations of these programs have been posted on the ACF/HHS website at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/strengthen/build_fam/index.html ]

Arif A. Mamun, Effects of Employment on Marriage: Evidence from a Randomized Study of the Job Corps Program, Final Report, December 17, 2008; DHHS http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/strengthen/build_fam/reports/employ_marr/employ_mar_title.html


Myth — Welfare reform, i.e. workfare, sending mothers to work, has had a positive influence on child wellbeing, because it teaches them lessons in responsibility.

Fact: "Our analysis suggests that welfare reform has not reduced teenage fertility and school dropout. We find modest evidence that welfare reform is associated with higher risk of teenage births for girls in welfare families and higher risk of school dropout for girls in poor families."

Lingxin Hao, Andrew J. Cherlin (2004) Welfare Reform and Teenage Pregnancy, Childbirth, and School Dropout Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 179-194.


Myth — If single mothers would just get married, their children would be better off because children do better in two-parent homes.

Fact: Research published in 2009 by Claire Dush of Ohio State looked at 4,910 mothers and 11,428 children. She found — consistent with all other research that has examined this issue — that family stability is more important than whether the home had one or two parents, and that marriage or remarriage, family transitions, can be detrimental.

Fact: "The findings from this study indicate that regardless of whether a parent remarries or forms a cohabiting stepfamily, child outcomes are similar. The addition of a cohabiting partner is not associated with higher levels of well-being relative to living in a single-mother family."

Susan L. Brown (2004) Family Structure and Child Well-Being: The Significance of Parental Cohabitation Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (2), 351-367.

Fact: "Although there is some evidence that children living with their married parents, even parents in unstable marriages, have better outcomes than children living in certain nonmarital arrangements, the findings vary across domains and specifications, and the effect sizes are generally small. Thus, any benefits of policies aimed improving child well-being by encouraging and enhancing parental marriage are likely to be modest at best."

Gregory Acs (2007) Can We Promote Child Well-Being by Promoting Marriage? Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1326-1344.

Fact: "The salutary effects of being raised by two married, biological parents depend on the quality of care parents can provide. Using data from an epidemiological sample of 1,116 5-year-old twin pairs and their parents, this study found that the less time fathers lived with their children, the more conduct problems their children had, but only if the fathers engaged in low levels of antisocial behavior. In contrast, when fathers engaged in high levels of antisocial behavior, the more time they lived with their children, the more conduct problems their children had. Behavioral genetic analyses showed that children who resided with antisocial fathers received a "double whammy" of genetic and environmental risk for conduct problems."

Sara R Jaffee, Terrie E Moffitt, Avshalom Caspi, Alan Taylor (2003) Life With (or Without) Father: The Benefits of Living With Two Biological Parents Depend on the Father’s Antisocial Behavior Child Development 74 (1), 109-126.

Fact: "In much of the policy debates about fatherhood and marriage, it has been assumed that two-parent families are better for children than one-parent families. But a number of studies now suggest that the well-being of children in mother-stepfather families is no greater, on average, than in single-parent families… Moreover, evidence is accumulating that the greater the number of family transitions children experience, the lower is their well-being. Family transitions occur when cohabiting or married biological parents separate… it is not clear that the children born to single mothers who later cohabited or remarried are better off, on average, than they would have been had their mothers remained single…" Among other problems, marriage in this context frequently means only that one or some of the single mother’s children will be living with their biological father. The other children will be living with a man who is not their biological father, and all of the children will be at greater risk of suffering another family transition from the breakup of this relationship.

Cherlin, Andrew J. and Paula Fomby, WELFARE, CHILDREN, AND FAMILIES: A THREE-CITY STUDY WORKING PAPER 02-01; http://www.jhu.edu/~welfare/work_paper_2-20.pdf

Fact: "Using data from the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth, analyses show that adding transitions into and out of cohabitation to those into and out of marriage increases our measure of family instability by about 30% for White children (N = 1575) and over 100% for Black children (N = 774). We conclude that future research on the impact of children’s family composition while growing up should take into account transitions into and out of cohabitation."

R Kelly Raley, Elizabeth Wildsmith (2004) Cohabitation and Children’s Family Instability Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 210-219.

Fact: "[A] large study in New Zealand found that both children whose married mothers had stayed married and children whose single mothers had stayed single had fewer behavioral problems than children whose mothers had changed partners."

Id., re J. M. Najman, B. C. Behrens, M. Andersen, W. Bor, M. O’Callaghan, and G. M. Williams. 1997. Impact of family type and family quality on child behavior problems: A longitudinal study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 36: 1357-1365.


Myth — Unwed mothers would improve their chances for their family’s economic and long-term viability if they would just get off welfare and get a job.

Fact: "Mandated work requirements contained in recent welfare legislation suggest the need to evaluate the extent to which parental work – or the lack of it – contributes to the high poverty rates of American children. Data on 41,996 children under age 18 from the 1990 Current Population Survey support three general conclusions. First, parental employment and children’s poverty are inextricably linked in married-couple and female-headed families. Second, simulations reveal that child poverty rates are nevertheless relatively insensitive to increases in parental employment. Only very large and unrealistic increases in maternal employment would significantly reduce child poverty rates. Third, the large black-white differences in child poverty are not simply a result of racial differences in paternal and maternal employment. The problem is not one of finding a job, but rather a job that pays well enough to lift the family (and its children) out of poverty."

Daniel T. LICHTER and David J. EGGEBEEN, Population Research Institute, 601 Oswald Tower, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 (U.S.A.) The effect of parental employment on child poverty (p. 633-645)

Comment: New studies indicate that "workfare" programs that force unwed mothers to get jobs significantly decrease the likelihood that such women will marry the father of their children.

Mathematica Study, Iowa, 2002; University of California, Connecticut, 2002.
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/03/nyregion/03WELF.html?ex=1024077892&ei=1&en=8e9 2c7a23db80847


Myth — Children do better when parents are married, rather than when they are merely cohabiting.

Fact: "Although children living with married rather than cohabiting parents fare better in terms of material well-being, this advantage is accounted for by race and ethnic group and parents’ education… the initial marriage advantage for children living with two biological parents (cohabiting two biological vs. married two biological) and stepparents (cohabiting stepparents vs. married stepparents) are explained by the covariates included in the models. Our results suggest that both child and parent characteristics are integral to the association between family structure and children’s economic well-being. Given that decisions about whether to marry or cohabit vary by race and ethnic group as well as by education (e.g., Clarkberg, 1999; Manning & Smock, 1995, 2002), the benefits of marriage may be a result of parents’ education and race and ethnic group rather than marriage per se."

Wendy D Manning, Susan Brown (2006) Children’s Economic Well-Being in Married and Cohabiting Parent Families Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (2), 345-362.


Myth — Children do better in cohabiting biological parent families than in cohabiting stepparent families.

Fact: "Using data collected from 10,511 kindergarten children and their parents from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, this study examines child well-being across cohabiting 2-biological-parent families; cohabiting stepfamilies; married stepfamilies; and married 2-biological-parent families. Findings indicate no differences in child well-being for children living in cohabiting stepfamilies and cohabiting 2-biological-parent families."

Julie E. Artis (2007) Maternal Cohabitation and Child Well-Being Among Kindergarten Children Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (1), 222-236.


Myth — Children in single-mother households are the likeliest demographic group to be without medical insurance.

Fact: Children living with custodial fathers are.

http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/p60-224.pdf

Comment: This fact supposedly "baffles researchers." Father’s groups claim it’s because fathers don’t have access to services that are available to single mothers, but CHIP programs, medicaid, and so forth are unrelated to parents’ genders. The spin on the last decade’s research touting fathers as "encouraging risk-taking" and "independence" is a clue. So is the fact that men as a group are less likely than women to go for regular medical checkups or to make wills. So are the studies that show that children are more likely to suffer medical neglect, take drugs, and not get help for college in households where they reside with their fathers (with or without stepmothers) instead of their mothers.

See (the actual findings, not the writeup spindoctoring) in Braver’s study "Relocation of Children After Divorce." Also see, e.g., re "baffled researchers" http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/national/AP-Uninsured-Kids.html

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)


Myth — Providing waivers to permit married couples to receive welfare will reduce out-of-wedlock births and encourage marriages.

Fact: These waivers have been shown to have little to no effect on nonmarital childbearing.

Welfare Waivers and Nonmarital Childbearing, research by Ann Horvath-Rose and H. Elizabeth Peters, http://www.jcpr.org/wp/WPprofile.cfm?ID=133.


Myth — Growing up in a single mother household puts children at academic risk.

Fact: "…ordinary least square regression analyses show negligible disadvantages of students with a single parent in Hong Kong and Korea, once students’ demographic characteristics and socioeconomic background are held constant. Students in single-parent families in Indonesia and Thailand outperform their peers in intact families."

Hyunjoon Park (2007) Single Parenthood and Children’s Reading Performance in Asia Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (3), 863-877.

Fact: Maternal education is a far more important predictor of child academic success than family type.

Lit Scan Vol 4 No. 3 MATERNAL EDUCATION MORE POWERFUL PREDICTOR OF KINDERGARTNER’S READING SCORES THAN FAMILY TYPE, (3/13/2000)

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


Myth — New research by Sanford Braver shows that moveaways by divorced custodial mothers harm children.

Fact: The most well-adjusted children of those studied were those who remained with their mothers whose fathers moved away; children who moved away with their mothers were not significantly affected. Children who either moved with their fathers away from their mothers, or remained behind with their fathers when their mothers moved away were the most detrimentally impacted group. Children in the custody of their fathers when the mother moved or who moved with the father were the only young people who showed troubled behavior.

See comments and analysis of Judith Wallerstein, Ph.D., on the findings in the study Relocation of Children After Divorce and Children’s Best Interests, by Sanford L. Braver, William V. Fabricius, Ira M. Ellman. http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/braver.html


Myth — Children can never have too many parents (e.g. stepfather and biofather involvement), or too many extended family kin; the more the better.

Fact: "Based on our findings, the larger kin networks associated with multipartnered fertility do not lead to increased availability of instrumental social support. To the contrary, we found an inverse relationship between multipartnered fertility and perceived instrumental support from social networks in our pooled analysis. During the 3 years following a recent birth, mothers were less likely to perceive that instrumental support was available from their social networks when they or their partner had engaged in multipartnered fertility… The relationship between multipartnered fertility and perceived instrumental support was similar whether the children with a previous partner were the mother’s or the father’s. The results clearly suggest that, although childbearing with multiple partners may expand the size of kin networks, these larger kin networks do not translate into greater availability of social network support in financial, housing, and child-care areas."

Kristen Harknett, Jean Knab (2007) More Kin, Less Support: Multipartnered Fertility and Perceived Support Among Mothers Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (1), 237-253.


Myth — The factor that creates risk to the wellbeing of a child reared in a "fatherless home" is the child’s lack of a relationship with the father.

Fact: "[M]ost children who grow up with a single parent do quite well… Why would the loss of a biological father reduce a child’s chances of success? We argue that when fathers live apart from their child, they are less likely to share their incomes with the child, and, consequently, mothers and children usually experience a substantial decline in their standard of living when the father moves out. We estimate that as much as half of the disadvantage associated with father absence is due to the economic insecurity and instability. Another quarter is due to the loss of parental time and supervision, and the rest is probably due to a loss of social capital attributable in large measure to the higher incidence of residential mobility among single mothers and remarried mothers. Stated differently, if parents who decide to live apart were able to cushion their child from the economic instability and disruptions in neighborhood ties that often accompany the breakup of a family, and if single mothers were able to establish and maintain regular routines and effective systems of supervision, their children would likely do just as well as children raised in two-parent families."

Sara McLanahan, "Father Absence and the Welfare of Children", on-line paper, available at Network on the Family and the Economy, http://www.olin.wustl.edu/macarthur/working%20papers/wp-mclanahan2.htm


Myth — Child support enforcement programs were enacted to benefit women and children.

Fact: Child support enforcement programs were enacted to benefit state welfare coffers and recoup the burden of public welfare payments.

See, e.g. discussion at CLASP — What If All the Money Came Home http://www.clasp.org/pubs/childenforce/pilr2300.htm


Myth — "Child support belongs to the child."

Fact: This is what is known as a "legal fiction." It was created as an artificial premise in the law for the purpose of enabling the state to obtain subrogation rights to keep the child support money it collects from some men as restitution for welfare dollars spent on women and children. The legal fiction disables mothers and fathers from contracting privately, either to pay private child support or to waive it altogether.

See, e.g. discussion at CLASP — What If All the Money Came Home http://www.clasp.org/pubs/childenforce/pilr2300.htm For definition of "legal fiction" see http://www.thelawyerpages.com/legalterms/L.

Comment: The legal fiction (aided and abetted by widespread public misconceptions about what constitutes a "parent" under the law) also is responsible for the avalanching trend — contrary to historical jurisprudence and contrary to the relationship-based notion of "family" that underlies the "liberty interest" respected by the U.S. Constitution — to consider unwed nonresident biological sires to be "legal fathers." It is considered to be in the public interest to establish someone as a second parent (like an insurance policy) to hold responsible for supporting a household with children in case one parent cannot do it alone — even if if that someone is a man who was never married to the mother, even if continuing with the pregnancy was the unilateral decision of the woman, and even if such contributions are neither needed nor wanted by the mother. This idea as a premise of the law frequently benefits neither men nor women in its immediate application. In its long-term jurisprudential effects, it is particularly noxious with regard to notions of women’s equal abilities, responsibilities and rights, freedom of contract, and partnership theories of marriage, family, alimony and childbearing. The application of this fiction underlies father’s rights claims for joint custody in the hopes of eliminating the financial imposition by becoming an equivalent half-time single parent household providing child support "in kind," and in a number of other ways it also bolsters the strategy of rather vicious agenda — elevating patriarchal notions of fatherhood while turning the clock back on women’s independence and rights.

See generally, liznotes, and articles Male Bashing? and on the National Fatherhood Initiative. Contact liz if you have a need for further information and resources.


Myth — Single mothers and single fathers face the same issues and circumstances in caring for their families.

Fact: "[Fathers are] much less likely than mothers to be left caring for their families single-handedly following the loss of their spouses and [are] more likely to receive help than single mothers."

Ferri, E. (1973). Characteristics of motherless families. British Journal of Social Work, 3, 91-100.


Myth — Children living with single mothers are more likely than children living with single fathers to be also living with that parent’s unwed paramour.

Fact: In 1999, 16 percent of children living with single fathers and 9 percent of children living with single mothers also lived with their parents’ partners. Children were nearly twice as likely to be living in a cohabitation situation if they resided with their fathers.

Child Stats, America’s Children 2000, http://www.childstats.gov/ac2000/highlight.asp


Myth — All first-time parents, men or women, have to learn the ropes through trial and error [i.e. neither knows more about child care than the other.] Cathy Young

Comment: Female older siblings are far more likely than male older siblings to be given child care responsibilities while young; teenage girls are far more likely than teenage boys to hold childcare and babysitting jobs; new mothers are far more likely to have prepared for parenthood by reading pregnancy-to-parenting articles and books as well as talking with (and spending social time with) primary caregiving women friends and relatives and their children; the ever-present months-long pregnancy itself initiates mothers into a mindset of habitual constant awareness of child-whereabouts; and various biological and hormonal factors make mothers more responsive to routine infant cues (other than severe distress cries.) See cites above.

Fact: "[P]lay parenting occurs much more frequently with girls (Lever, 1978; Pitcher & Schultz, 1983; Sandberg & Meyer-Bahlburg, 1994; Sutton-Smith et al., 1963). The sex difference in play parenting is related, in part, to the fact that girls are assigned child-care roles, especially for infants, much more frequently than are boys throughout the world (Whiting & Edwards, 1988). In addition, girls seek out and engage in child-care, play parenting and other domestic activities (e.g., playing house) — with younger children or child substitutes, such as dolls — much more frequently than do same-age boys (Pitcher & Schultz, 1983), as is the case with many other species of primate (Nicolson, 1987)."

http://web.missouri.edu/~psycorie/development.html


Myth — Post-divorce, children do just as well emotionally in father-custody as in mother-custody;and

Myth — Children tend to do best in the custody of a same-sex parent. Richard Warshak

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

INTERESTS: NEW EVIDENCE AND LEGAL CONSIDERATIONS", http://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/braver.html


Myth — Children do better in two-parent, biological parent homes.

Fact: There is only limited support for this proposition, and recent research sheds considerable doubt on previous toutings of clear findings. "Our goal was to investigate the importance of family structure in predicting psychological wellbeing and relational quality of family members in five different family configurations. Four theoretical perspectives led to hypotheses about whether these families would differ from one another and, if so, how they would differ. One perspective is that stigmatization is the key factor leading to poor developmental outcomes (see Brodzinsky, 1987). As the most stigmatized group due to their lack of biological ties, adoptive families would be expected to show lower well-being and poorer relationship quality than would the other family structure groups, and twoparent biological families would be expected to look the most well adjusted. We found limited support for this hypothesis… children from two-parent biological families did not always look best… We found that single mothers had somewhat lower well-being than did married mothers. They did not differ in consistent ways from other families, and children in single-mother households did not report any differences in well-being or relationships compared with children in other types of families… Mothers in two-parent biological families reported that their children had fewer behavior problems (but did not differ from stepmothers’ reports) and spent more time with their children (but did not differ from adoptive mothers’ reports) than did mothers in other types of families. In addition, fathers in two-parent biological families reported spending more time with their children and having higher family cohesion than did fathers in all other types of families. These were the only indices that differed… Consistency among different reporters from the same family strengthens the evidence that these constructs, particularly children’s school grades, sibling relationships, and friendships, do not differ substantially by family structure. Furthermore, family structure differences in mothers’ well-being and mothers’ reports of their child’s well-being were no longer significant after controlling for family process variables…. after controlling for disagreements between spouses and between mothers and children, family structure differences in well-being were no longer significant."

Jennifer E Lansford, Rosario Ceballo, Antonia Abbey, Abigail J Stewart (2001) Does Family Structure Matter? A Comparison of Adoptive, Two-Parent Biological, Single-Mother, Stepfather, and Stepmother Households Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (3), 840-851.


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.

liz


 

Also see liznotes:
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT FATHERHOOD
THE NATIONAL FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE
(there IS no "fatherlessness problem")

REASKING THE WOMAN QUESTION AT DIVORCE
by Penelope E. Bryan (contact liz if you have trouble accessing this article)

ATTACHMENT 101 FOR ATTORNEYS:
Implications for Infant Placement Decisions

Review of Martha A. Fineman’s
THE NEUTERED MOTHER

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:
THE PRICE OF MOTHERHOOD:


LINCOLN, Ill., Nov. 20 – Tabitha Pollock was sleeping when her boyfriend killed her 3-year-old daughter. For failing to anticipate that crime, Ms. Pollock was convicted of first degree murder…

Legal experts said mothers had been held accountable for abuse by others, under various theories and often with more evidence, in hundreds of similar cases around the nation. They knew of no such cases involving fathers…

Ms. Pollock will go free only because a student plucked her letter from among the 17,000 that the law school clinic at Northwestern University receives every year, and the clinic persuaded the Supreme Court to hear an appeal filed after the deadline had passed. The court reversed the conviction outright rather than order a new trial…

She talked about her three other children. Ms. Pollock’s parental rights were terminated as a result of her conviction…

"Defendant’s concern for her children was too little, too late," the government wrote in its appellate papers.

When the police told her that Mr. English had confessed, she was incredulous. At trial, the prosecution produced no witness who had suspected Mr. English of earlier abuse.

"How could I have known he would murder my precious baby girl?" Ms. Pollock wrote. "I did not know, yet I received 36 years in prison for not being a mind reader."…

Jane Raley, a law professor at Northwestern and Ms. Pollock’s current lawyer, said her client’s conviction was one of several similar cases brought by a series of prosecutors in Henry County, in northwest Illinois. Ms. Pollock’s case may force the courts to reconsider some of those convictions.

"It was very mean-spirited," Ms. Raley said. "The prosecutors were trying to send a message to these women that they should make better choices in their boyfriends."…

Illinois and many other states accept the notion that parents may be held legally accountable for the deaths of their children when they have witnessed or otherwise know of grave threats to their safety. Ms. Pollock’s case differed in that she was held responsible on what lawyers call a negligence theory – that she should have known of the potential danger, even if she did not. A negligence standard is seldom used in the criminal law….

"The state has taken everything from me," she said. "I don’t have a house. I don’t have a car. I don’t have my children."

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/11/27/national/27MURD.html?ex=1039403654&ei=1&en=5f1 RETURN TO TEXT

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