The list of all the obstacles placed between fathers and children by courts and legislatures would fill a book, but here are a few:Another piece found on Glenn Sacks, written by Dutch child and educational psychologist Peter Tromp, is so full of good stuff, I just can´t ignore. We start with Shared parenting.
- Laws that give only married fathers presumptive rights.
- No requirement that fathers be informed of a pregnancy or birth of their children.
- No requirement that the father's name be placed on the birth certificate.
- No legal consequences for paternity fraud.
- Putative father registries that permit adoptions without notice to the father.
- Failure to punish perjury in adoption proceedings.
- Fraudulently-obtained default judgments.(? I didn´t get that one)
- Failure to enforce visitation orders on behalf of non-custodial fathers.
- Failure to grant primary custody to fathers in more than 16% of cases.
- Setting child support levels without regard to the father's ability to pay (See, Office of Child Support Enforcement report.)
- Failure to provide summary procedures to reduce child support to reflect reduced earnings.
- Issuance of child support orders against men who aren't the father of the child to be supported.
- Wholesale issuance of restraining orders without supporting evidence.
- Allowing perjury in family court to go unpunished.
- Allowing custodial parents to move away and thwart visitation.
- Debtor's prison for fathers who don't have the ability to pay support obligations.
- Refusal of state CPS workers to contact fathers before placing children in foster care.
- Active promotion of divorce by women's DV shelters.
- Absence of DV shelters for fathers and their children.
Better outcomes for children in shared parenting arrangements
From a meta-analysis on 33 underlying separation researches Robert Bauserman (American Psychological Association, 2002) concluded, that children growing up in a form of shared parenting with frequent contact with and care from both parents, had
- less behavioural – and emotional problems,- exhibited higher levels of self-worth and self-confidence,- were better capable of building and preserving social contacts and relations, both within and outside the family and- performed better at school,than children who had grown up in the sole care of only one of their parents.
Children growing up in shared parenting of both parents after divorce and separation did so much better than children growing up under sole care of only one of their parents, that shared parenting arrangements after separation by far proved to be the “second best” parenting arrangement for growing up children, providing them with a new post-divorce family situation that best approached the ideal situation of an intact family.
From a range of other researches it further became clear, that children growing up in shared parenting of both parents
- develop better,- are more satisfied,- prove to be better adapted and adjusted and- have more self-confidence and self-worthin comparison with children growing up in sole care of one of their parents (Nunan, 1980; Cowan, 1982; Pojman, 1982; Livingston, 1983; Noonan, 1984; Shiller, 1984.,1986; Handley, 1985; Wolchik, 1985; Bredefeld, 1985; Öberg & Öberg, 1987).
From a Harvard study on 517 separation families over a period of 4 years wide, children growing up under post-divorce shared parenting proved to be less depressed, exhibited less unadjusted behaviours, and achieved better school results than children growing up in post-divorce sole care. (Buchanan, MacCoby, Dornbusch, 1996.)
Also, boys growing up in shared parenting are found to have less emotional problems than boys growing up in sole care (Pojman 1982; Shiller 1986).
Post-divorce father involvement in children’s lives makes all the difference
A little reminder shared parenting is something some feminist groups are actively fighting in Canada and the USA. But there will be another post. We continue with the effects that missing fathers have on kids.
Another line of comparative research focuses on the different effects on children of growing up with either involved or not involved (i.e. excluded) non-residential fathers after parental separation and divorce.
Carlson (2006) found in her research “Family structure, father involvement and behavioural effects on adolescents” based on the 1996 and 2000 data cohorts of the USA National Longitudinal Youth Study on 2.733 10-14 year old adolescents living only with their mothers while their fathers were non-residential that the greater the involvement of fathers was in the lives of their adolescent children, the less behavioural problems the adolescents had in terms of aggression, antisocial behaviour, and negative feelings like anxiety, concern, depression and low self-esteem.
The meta-study conducted by Robert Bauserman (APA, 2002) however found that, in contrast with what is usually claimed, the number and levels of conflicts between the parents in shared parenting arrangements strongly diminished in comparison with the number of conflicts in situations of sole care with access arrangements. As a result these lower level of conflicts between the divorced parents in shared parenting arrangements contributes greatly to better child welfare and well being.
Moreover, not only do parents experience less mutual conflicts in shared parenting arrangements, but also children growing up in shared parenting appear to have fewer conflicts with their parents, than children growing up in sole care of one parent (Karp, 1982).
It is also frequently claimed by antagonists to shared parenting that children growing up in shared parenting arrangements with both parents do not have a place and home of their own (“Do not take away the children’s home”, it is claimed). Children in shared parenting arrangements are pictured as being constantly underway between houses and as being continuously exposed to conflicts of allegiance. Available research however confounds this picture. Children are more flexible – within reason of course – than we expect them to be. What is more important to them is keeping their relations with both their parents. (Steinman, 1981, Luepnitz, 1986, Shiller, 1986, Coller, 1988, Tornstam, 2000).
From child-research in which children themselves are questioned on their preferences however, it becomes clear that children themselves also most prefer shared parenting and care from both their parents after separation (Fabricius, 2003). Children themselves most want to preserve and maintain their relations with both parents after divorce and separation. They consider having narrow links and bonds with both their parents as being important to them, while growing up in shared parenting leaves them more satisfied than growing up in sole care. (Kelly, 1993).
Finally, children of divorce growing up in single parent mother-headed families themselves are at a 3,5 times greater risk of separation and divorce later on in their lives (Spruijt, 2007), thus contributing to a self perpetuating and accelerating cycle of new broken families into the future.
Post-divorce shared parenting arrangements on the other hand however – instead of accelerating the pace of separation and divorce resulting into broken families in the future – also prove to be a valuable incentive for keeping two-parent families together when possible. The more shared parenting arrangements are to be implemented instead of mother-only custody and care after separation, the fewer parents are inclined to go for a divorce. (Brinig & Allen, 2000) This contributes directly to the best interest of the children involved, as all of the research so far has indicated that intact two-parent families are still the best and most ideal setting for children to grow up in and flourish into the jewel in society’s crown they deserve to be, instead of growing to be a liability and burden on the state.
This situation of 30% of children left fatherless or with marginalized fathers after parental separation is prevalent in most European Union countries, including the new East European members. The incidence of fatherlessness tends to be still somewhat lower in Southern European countries and higher in Northern European countries.
For future trends we need to look at the USA, being at the forefront of the situation where Europe is also heading to. And in the USA now already 40% of all children are growing up completely fatherless (Source: Newsweek figures from January 2006).
A recent Dutch research study on the Parental Alienation Syndrome in the Netherlands (Kaplan, 2008) found PAS in the Netherlands to be a much bigger problem than was previously estimated. Some of the main conclusions of the Dutch study on Parental Alienation are:
• 72% of Dutch separated fathers believe PAS to be a problem.
• 64% of mothers believe PAS to be a problem
• According to father’s PAS is a severe problem in 21% of cases
• But according to mothers PAS is only a severe problem in 10% of cases.
• Overall Dutch fathers consider serious PAS twice as big a problem as Dutch mothers
Adverse effects on children’s health and well-being of growing up fatherless in one-parent familiesWhew....I concentrated on the data here and let out the analysis of European countries and law reform, to not completely rip the original of. I suggest your read it though. It is a very well done document.
The available research clearly shows that children growing up in sole care – mainly fatherless and with their mothers in mother-headed families – do much worse than children growing up in shared parenting.
Children being raised by one parent are at a greater risk for many things as they grow up, including health risks such as poorly controlled diabetes and asthma. (Holmes, 2007)
A Swedish large scale population study on children’s health found that children growing up fatherless in single-parent families also have more depression complaints, use more and earlier drugs and alcohol (binge-drinking), get more accidents and more often commit suicide, than children growing up in the care and with the involvement of both parents. (Swedish population study into the consequences of single-parent families on children, Ringbäck Weitoft, Hjern, Haglund, Rosén, 2003).
And a recent Dutch study on the importance of fathers for their children after parental separation and divorce (ENOVA, 2008) found that in the Dutch province of Drenthe 62% of all children in need of special youth care and youth welfare provided by the Dutch state originated from single parent families headed by mothers.
Also a consistency has now been determined between growing up in fatherless single-parent families and the prevalence of children being diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder ADHD/ADD. Children in single parent families are at twice the risk of being ADHD-diagnosed and prescribed with the drug Ritalin than children from intact two-parent families (Strohschein, 2007).
Child abuse risk and “new boyfriend-” or stepparent-risk
Child abuse can happen in all types of families, but it happens most in single parent mother-headed families and in new “patchwork-families” with stepchildren.
Children, especially boys, growing up in single parent mother-headed families are at twice to 2,5 times the risk of child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional and mental abuse and neglect by either the mother herself or her “new friend”, the so-called “stepparent”. (Holmes, 2007; AMK, 1999, 2000, 2001)
Effects on children of growing up fatherless in single parent families in the different age groups (O’Neill, 2002)
If we take a closer look at the effects of growing up fatherless on the different age groups children (0-12) growing up in fatherless single-parent families have a greater risk of a life in poverty, run more risk on physical, emotional and sexual abuse, more often become runaways from home, have a greater risk of becoming homeless youths, have more risk of health complaints and have more problems at school and in their social contacts with others (O’Neill, 2002).
Teenagers growing up in fatherless single-parent families have a greater risk of teenage-pregnancy, to end up in (youth) crime, to smoke, to use alcohol and drugs, of playing truant, to be suspended, of becoming drop-outs and ending their school careers at an early age school, and of getting adaptation problems (O’Neill, 2002).
Young adults (18 onwards)
And young adults, having grown up in fatherless single-parent families, stand a greater risk of not having finished a proper vocational education, earning lower incomes, becoming jobless and in need of benefits, at risk of becoming homeless, or of getting involved in crime, of developing chronic emotional and mental-health problems, of developing general physical health complaints, and sooner have cohabiting relations, more often have extramarital children, only to end up in separation and divorce more often. (Meta-study “Experimenting in living, The fatherless family”, Civitas, O’Neill, 2002).
Parentification of children of divorce in single parent families
British teenage-girls who have grown up in sole care or single parent families reported that they get stressed out and overloaded by the separation problems of their parents, especially caused by the call on them by their caring parent, in 90% of the cases the mother, for support in the fight concerning the children, put up with the other parent after divorce and separation. (Bliss survey, 2005: Girls take strain or parents’ split)
In single parent families it is often not the child who is being taken care of by the parent, but – as “mother’s little helper” – the child becomes an instrumental friend and partner to the parent in distress taking care of the parent’s welfare instead, thus forcing children of divorce into early maturation and depriving them of their youth. This phenomenon is documented in the psychological literature as that of “parentification”.