Father-Absence Is Not A Problem
December 28, 2005
1995, David Blankenhorn made an earth-moving
is the greatest social problem we
America was transfixed. Someone had
hollered “fire” in a political tinder
box. The idea instantly became the
talk of the nation.
Blankenhorn liberals, who loathed
mounting political pressure to reform
the Great Society, had motive for
minting the father-absence paradigm
while blaming it on men in the same
sentence. Their policy goal was more
child support enforcement.
This prairie fire brought on a stampede
justifying paper conversion of the
welfare state into a “child support”
state, thus neutralizing nascent pro-marriage
welfare reforms sought by the original
Classic liberalism teaches us to fix
a problem by making someone else pay
for it. The Great Society has been
doing this for fifty years. We have
pumped sums greater than the national
debt into it, and have not fixed anything.
Nothing improved because David Blankenhorn
was wrong. Father-absence is not a
problem. It is a consequence of no-fault
divorce. We cannot fix consequences,
but they do go away if we fix the
Father-absence is only one of many
consequences of no-fault divorce.
Some complain about the “child support”
problem. Academics ponder why men
are not going to college in record
numbers. Sociologists wonder why marriage
rates are still decreasing. The Army
is seeing serious recruiting problems.
These are not problems. They are all
consequences of no-fault divorce.
The term “ownership society” bears
an important clue. When mens’ property,
families, life savings, and social
position can be easily taken away
in a no-fault divorce, intelligent
men might find something else to do.
Too many young men now settle for
sub-social existences. They are opting-out
of college educations in record numbers.
A high income is not important when
attracting a quality life-mate is
not a priority.
It is now common for young men to
say that marriage is “too risky”.
The Great Society taught them well.
Churches who failed to defend marriage
now wonder why men now practice faith
informally, if at all. “Shacking up”
is the consequence reflected in the
latest marriage data.
The Army had a
despite record incentives.
of the roughly 153,000 soldiers and
officers deployed by the U.S. Army
became casualties of no-fault divorce.
Ponder this: Casualty rates stateside
are far higher than in Iraq. Of all
eligible married men, who is going
to risk a four-year enlistment facing
a 24% marriage-casualty-rate and a
twenty-one year sentence slaving for
a conveniently-estranged family?
Boys who do not grow up anticipating
a secure long-term homeland investment,
as husbands and fathers, have nothing
valuable to defend. Ancient Rome learned
this lesson the hard way. We are headed
Are we listening attentively to the
meaning of these mass value judgments
yet? If not, then consider some other
We often put children at serious risk
of child abuse in divorce and illegitimacy
situations because court process procedurally
presumes custody of children to mothers.
The aftermath: two-thirds of serious
child abuse is caused by single custodial
mothers, while natural fathers are
the lowest risk group.
Divorce is not the wise solution in
most situations of family conflict.
Eighty-six percent of serious domestic
violence involves a spouse abusing
Domestic violence rates are approximately
three times higher in non-intact families.
Children of divorced or never-married
mothers are six to 30 times more likely
to suffer from serious child abuse.
We need laws that positively help
the responsible spouse get the troubled
spouse into chemical-abuse treatment.
When this fails, we must ensure that
custody of children never goes to
a chemical-abusing parent.
Revision of federal and state laws
that order “child support” benefits
greater than what men actually earn
will end perverse divorce incentives.
There is no reason to hold divorced
men to a higher standard of support
than we expect of their married counterparts.
Marriage is a haven compared to the
divorce trap. Divorce has left more
women and children in poverty, uninsured
and at risk, than any other event
in American history. Men are getting
off the marriage bus in record numbers.
We must act now.
Reform of no-fault divorce laws will
quickly tip the balance in favor of
marital responsibility. “No-fault”
actually means “no responsibility”.
Law and public policy must expect
spouses to work responsibly through
the normal processes and problems
of marriage and aging.
The two-year blues, the four-year
boredom, the seven year itch, the
fifteen-year mid-life crisis, menopause,
and retirement are normal stress-points
of any marriage. These life events
overlay precisely with peaks in today’s
longitudinal “no responsibility” divorce
Americans should be able to divorce
if they really want to, but not at
the expense of a responsible spouse.
If there is no valid cause for divorce,
there’s the door if you want one that
know in many ways when we have restored
a vibrant marriage culture. Divorce,
illegitimacy, military recruitment,
poverty, child support, crime, child
abuse, neglect, health care, and domestic
violence will no longer be major risks
to our national well-being and security.
David R. Usher
is President of the
American Coalition for Fathers and
Children, Missouri Coalition