Monday, August 16, 2010




In black: 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, in black bold: what the research actually says!

Myth -- A father's involvement is crucial for the well-being of a child.

Fact: "While it would be a seemingly obvious proposition to most of us, that fathers' consistent and substantial involvement in child care would benefit the child, this appears to have not been well established.  The relationship between paternal involvement and children's well-being seems to be mediated by a number of other conditions that involve the father, the mother, and the child.  In other words, increased paternal involvement does not automatically result in improved child outcomes.  Nor is it clear whether the father's involvement provides unique nurturance that can not be as readily provided by substitute caregivers."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: "In 38 studies published since 1990, researchers examined linkages between children's well-being and their relationships with nonresident fathers. In general, these studies do not provide strong support for the belief that visitation with nonresident fathers benefits children. Of the 24 studies that included data on the frequency of contact, only 10 (42%) found that contact significantly predicted some aspect of children's well-being. Other studies focused not on contact but on how close children feel to their fathers. Of these 10 studies, only 3 found significant associations in the predicted direction. Taken together, these studies suggest that the frequency of visitation and children's feelings about their fathers are not good predictors of children's development or adjustment."

William Marsiglio, Paul Amato, Randal D Day, Michael E Lamb (2000) Scholarship on Fatherhood in the 1990s and Beyond Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 1173-1191.

Michael Lamb says that fatherlessness is not really a risk.  It's about the relationship with the caregiving parent, the level of support a child receives, and the harmoniousness of the environment.Fact: "The primary aim of this study is to assess how multiple dimensions of nonresident father involvement are associated with different dimensions of adolescent well-being... studies provide some limited evidence that nonresident father-child closeness and authoritative parenting practices may contribute to adolescent well-being independently of the mother-child relationship. All these studies, however, also report that the quality of the mother-child relationship has a stronger, more consistent effect on adolescent well-being than the father-child relationship... The effects of nonresident father involvement on adolescent well-being found in this study are clearly modest. This finding is consistent with the meta-analysis by Amato and Gilbreth (1999) showing that when it comes to nonresident father involvement, although feelings of closeness and indicators of authoritative parenting have the strongest influence on child well-being, the effects are generally modest... Our results also reveal that the quality of the mother-child relationship has stronger, more consistent effects on adolescent well-being than the nonresident father-child relationship. This finding does not negate the importance of nonresident fathers, but it does highlight the crucial role that the mother-child relationship plays in children's well-being..."

Valarie King, Juliana M Sobolewski (2006) Nonresident Fathers' Contributions to Adolescent Well-Being Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (3), 537-557.

Fact: "[P]aternal involvement is likely to have predominantly positive consequences only when it is the arrangement of choice for the particular family."

Lamb, M. E., Pleck, J. H., & Levine, J. A. (1987). Effects of increased paternal involvement on fathers and mothers. In C. Lewis & M. O'Brien (Eds.), Reassessing fatherhood: New observations on fathers and the modern family (pp. 109-125). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Fact: "Research on the impact of father involvement on children provides evidence that high levels of paternal participation tends to increase children's cognitive competence, empathy, and internal locus of control. These children are also characterized by reduced sex-stereotyped beliefs. However, these positive outcomes may result because of the fact that the fathers sampled wanted to be and enjoyed being involved in childcare, not just because they were involved per se."

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

Fact: "[I[nfants with less involved fathers were significantly more attached to their mothers than were infants with highly involved fathers."

Keith, H. (1993). Paternal involvement in relation to quality of infant-mother attachment, paternal role and frequency of infant contact with their children. Dissertation Abstracts International, 53, 3807.

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: "Public attention and social policies have focused on fathers living apart from their children because of rising concerns about the consequences of this arrangement for child well-being (Cabrera & Peters, 2000). A father's absence from the household, however, does not necessarily mean that he is absent from his child's life (King, 1994). A significant number of nonresident fathers still maintain ties with their children (Amato & Sobolewski, 2004), and recent evidence indicates that when fathers maintain an active presence in their children's lives and foster close bonds with them, their children appear to benefit (Amato & Gilbreth, 1999)."

Juliana M. Sobolewski, Valarie King (2005) The Importance of the Coparental Relationship for Nonresident Fathers' Ties to Children Journal of Marriage and Family 67 (5), 1196-1212.

Myth -- Fathers do a lot more child care than they used to.

Fact: "It appears, from a variety of data sources, that most fathers still do very little child care, especially when the children are very young. To be sure, there has been a change in the meaning of fatherhood, as reflected in both the attitude and the behavior of fathers, largely as a result of a general shift in less gender-specific family roles (Thornton and Freedman, 1983; Stein, 1984). But, Pleck (1985) and others, who have done extensive research on this question, have concluded that most of these changes have been relatively modest."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: "[W]hen husbands care for children while their wives work, a majority of men resist the arrangement, and in the face of such resistance, these women are more likely to quit work than are women who use other modes of childcare."

Maume, D. J. & Mullin, K. R. (1993). Men's participation in childcare and women's work attachment. Social Problems, 40, 533-546

Fact: "One review of various studies of intact, two-parent families found the ratio of mothers' to fathers' contribution to be 10:1 in responsibility for a child's daily activities, 2:1 in availability, and 3:1 in parent-child interactions."

Maccoby 1998, new-societies 256-58, review 259-65; Whiting and Whiting 1975, 45., quoted in War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System and Vice Versa Joshua S. Goldstein (Cambridge University Press, September 2001)

Myth -- Now that so many women are in the work force, fathers and mothers share domestic work more equally.

Fact: "Comparative studies have consistently found that women perform the lion's share of housework... Despite the huge imbalances... scholars have been surprised by the relatively low prevalence of perceptions of injustice on the part of women... The interplay of the three legitimizing principles (time availability, resource dependence, and gender ideology) and the inequality of household division of labor is decisive. Inequality leads to perceptions of inequity when the woman encounters low time availability (i.e., is strongly involved in the labor market), when resource dependence is low, and when the woman adheres to a nontraditional gender ideology."

      Michael Braun, Noah Lewin-Epstein 2, Haya Stier 3* Miriam K. Baumgärtner. Perceived Equity in the Gendered Division of Household Labor. Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 5, Pages 1145 - 1156 (2008).

Fact: "In egalitarian families, we might expect that men and women similarly prioritize work and family obligations. Yet, prior research examining gender differences in work-family priorities often use measures that imperfectly reflect those priorities. Drawing two samples of full-time married workers from the 1992 National Study of the Changing Workforce, this article analyzed the determinants of placing restrictions on work efforts (reducing work hours, refusing to travel, etc.) for the sake of family life. Results showed that women imposed more job tradeoffs in response to husband's work efforts, whereas men's work restrictions were largely unresponsive to familial characteristics. In conclusion, prioritizing work and family obligations is governed more by gender traditionalism than by egalitarianism."

David J. Maume (2006) Gender Differences in Restricting Work Efforts Because of Family Responsibilities Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (4), 859-869.

Fact: "Physical and emotional care for young children at night was largely provided by women, with a lack of explicit negotiation between partners about who provides this care, even when women return to employment... Fathers did not, in general, undertake this fourth night-time shift. Those that did were more likely to be the fathers of young adult children who were staying out late at night, with the focus of their concerns being the safety of their children."

Susan Venn, Sara Arber, Robert Meadows, Jenny Hislop (2008) The fourth shift: exploring the gendered nature of sleep disruption among couples with children The British Journal of Sociology 59 (1) , 79-97

Fact: "Despite the presence of some "equal sharer" couples, Deutsch's study echoes others in finding that most husbands do relatively little domestic labor of any kind compared with their wives.  Scholars estimate that no more than 20 percent of dual-income couples share domestic work equally. "

The College Street Journal, Mount Holyoke College, citing Francine M. Deutsch, "Husbands At Home," (1993)

Also see W. Jean Yeung et al., Children's Time With Fathers in Intact Families, 63 J. Marriage & Fam. 136 (2001), finding that fathers in intact families spend 67% as much time on weekdays, and 87% as much time on weekends as mothers doing childcare.(notwithstanding flawed methodology unfortunately skewed to favor what fathers do.)

Fact: "Mothers with one or more children age 5 or older spend, on average, 6 hours a week on child care.  Fathers average 2 hours per week.  Mothers with one or more children under age 5 spend, on average, 17 hours a week on child care.  Fathers average 5 hours per week. [BUT] 24 percent of married females and 51 percent of married males say they and their spouses take care of the children an equal amount."

Weiss, Daniel Evan, The Great Divide: How Females and Males Really Differ (Poseidon Press),

Fact: Fathers in intact U.S. households spend, on average, less than thirty minutes per day in one-on-one time with their children.

Biller, "The Father Factor and the Two Parent Advantage: Reducing the Paternal Deficit," unpublished paper, 1994.

Fact: "Although we had suspected that maternal employment might be a pervasive moderator of fathers' caregiving activities and sensitivity, we did not find this to be the case. In the case of the current analyses, it did not appear that the factors associated with fathers' involvement were fundamentally altered by mothers' employment."

Factors Associated With Fathers' Caregiving Activities and Sensitivity With Young Children, NICHD Early Child Care Research Network Rockville, Maryland, Journal of Family Psychology, June 2000 Vol. 14, No. 2, 200-219;

Myth -- There has been a cultural reversal in recent decades in which both women and men now find their primary fulfillment in outside work, rather than in the home.

Fact: "[P]ooled data from the 1973-1994 General Social Surveys indicate that in working families, women have shifted away from finding work more satisfying than home toward finding home a haven. Moreover, were it not for women's growing labor force participation and the changing distribution of marital status, the shift would have been even larger. Men's relative work-home satisfaction has been stable. Finally, finding work a haven is unrelated to weekly working hours, and it has not contributed to any increases in working hours over time."

K. Jill Kiecolt (2003) Satisfaction With Work and Family Life: No Evidence of a Cultural Reversal Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (1), 23-35.

Myth -- Fathers do more housework in households in which their wives earn more than they do.

Fact: When wives out-earn husbands, the women not infrequently take on even more of traditional "women's work" when they are at home, serving the men in an attempt to ward off the men's resentment, and to compensate for their higher economic power with conciliatory behavior, while the men not infrequently compensate with more macho attitudes.

See generally, Risman, B.J., & Johnson-Sumerford, D. (1998). Doing it fairly: A study of postgender marriages. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 23?40; Willott, S., & Griffin, C. (1997). Wham, bam, am I a man? Unemployed men talk about masculinities. Feminism and Psychology, 7, 107?128.

Myth -- Fathers do more housework in households with children.

Fact: "[F]athers spend substantially more time in domestic and child care activities in households when mothers are employed, but men still fall far short of assuming an equal load. More interestingly, men in families with young children do less than those in households with no children or with older children."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: "[M]en who are least committed to their relationships spend the least time on housework, whereas women's housework time is not affected by marital intentions."

Teresa Ciabattari (2004) Cohabitation and Housework: The Effects of Marital Intentions Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 118-125.

Myth -- If men do less childcare, it is because they are busy working.

Fact: "Men spend more time volunteering and providing informal support [to others, and the community] than they do caring for children."

Jennifer L. Hook (2004) Reconsidering the Division of Household Labor: Incorporating Volunteer Work and Informal Support Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (1), 101-117.

Fact: Working women first shave time from their own personal activities when there is a deficit because of employment or other factors, not from the children.

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 -- Fathers living with children tend to work fewer hours than other men.

Fact: "Contradicting our expectations... we find that presence of coresident children is not associated with fewer hours worked per week... In fact, it appears that men who are fathers of dependent children, regardless of their living arrangements, averaged more hours per week than fathers of older children and men who were not fathers. The good provider role appears to be most salient for coresident fathers."

Eggebeen, David J. and Chris Knoester, DOES FATHERHOOD MATTER FOR MEN, Presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Los Angeles, CA, March, 2000.

Fact: Fathers work more outside the home upon the birth of a child, and almost twice as much more upon the birth of a son than upon the birth of a daughter.

Lundberg, Shelly et al., study on attitudes twoard children of different genders, data taken from U.S. Panel Study of Income Dynamics on more than 1,200 men, from 1968 through 1993. The authors found that the birth of a first son generated an average increase in a man's work time of 84 hours every year after the boy's birth but only 31 hours of work after having a daughter. Press release, University of Washington, June 8, 2002.

Fact: New research confirms that the pattern continues in 2006: "Being a father has little effect on men's working patterns, in spite of the fact that they cut back their working hours for a short time after a new child is born, according to Economic and Social Research Council funded research at the University of Bristol."There is no evidence that 'new,' involved fathers are adopting a 'female model' of parenthood, with part-time work and high levels of child care..."

McDermott, Esther, "The Effect of Fatherhood on Men's Patterns of Employment" Economic and Social Research Council, University of Bristol. (2006).

Myth -- Fathers spend much more time with their children than they used to.

Fact: "Lamb et al. (1987) distinguish three different aspects of paternal involvement in child rearing: availability, representing the lowest level of involvement; interaction, an intermediate level of involvement, and responsibility, the highest level of involvement. National level data indicate that while there has been a slight increase in the level of involvement, as late as at the end of the 1980s, paternal involvement in childrearing has remained dismally low (Lye, 1991).  Fathers are available only a few hours a day, and certainly much less (roughly one-third to one-half as long) than are mothers; fathers rarely assume responsibility; and, fathers spend very little time interacting with their children, especially if they are girls."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: "75% of married resident mothers went shopping with their adolescents in the past 4 weeks compared to 26% of married resident fathers. In other words, married resident mothers were three times as likely as married resident fathers to engage in this form of parental involvement, a large effect size."

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: There has been a push over the past decade to prove that a new fatherhood is emerging. The research remains in accord, albeit finding that fathers are now spending somewhat more time than previously. The research finding this increase is invariably flawed. For discussion, see article here.

Myth -- Mothers spend less time with their children than they used to.

Fact: "Modern women spend about the same amount of time per day in primary care of all their children compared with their counterparts in the 1920s.  Modern women, however, spend twice as much time per child on primary child care, primarily because they have fewer children and are better educated than mothers in the 1920s.  Looking at fathers, the researchers found that in 1985 dads spent about 26 minutes a day in primary child care, up from 21 minutes in 1975, or an increase of about one-fourth. (Information on fathers is not available from the 1920s.)"

Lang, Susan, Cornell University, citing Bryant and Zick, "CHILD REARING TIME BY PARENTS: A REPORT OF RESEARCH IN PROGRESS," Journal of Family & Economic Issues, Vol. 17, pp. 385-392, (1996),

Myth -- Fathers may be around their children fewer hours, but when they are, they spend more one-on-one and quality time with them.

Fact: "Baydar and Brooks-Gunn (1991) argue that even when men do spend a substantial amount of time with their children, the quality of involvement is not high, and therefore fathers' involvement is not an important or necessary element of children's development."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: "Findings revealed that mothers were more knowledgeable about adolescents' peer relationships than were fathers, that mothers with daughters reported the most peer-oriented activities, and that both mothers and fathers spent more time with same-sex adolescents and their peers."

Kimberly A Updegraff, Susan M McHale, Ann C Crouter, Kristina Kupanoff (2001) Parents' Involvement in Adolescents' Peer Relationships: A Comparison of Mothers' and Fathers' Roles Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (3), 655-668.

Myth -- A significant portion of fathers improve in their parenting, and become more involved and interested in their children as a result of divorce. They are known as "divorce-activated dads".

Fact: This is a myth promulgated by the custody evaluator industry, who also like to assert that by contrast, mothers' parenting capacity diminishes upon divorce. It's a specious claim, designed to facilitate pro-father joint custody recommendations. Parenting practices are unrelated to divorce. "[T]here 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:

Myth -- Improved father-child relationships post-divorce are associated with long-term improved child outcomes post-divorce.

Fact: "Although not common, 14% of the adolescents studied experienced improved father-offspring relationship quality following divorce. Analyses revealed that compared to offspring who maintained a poor relationship with their father, those experiencing an increase in closeness were less likely to have pursued post-high school education, more likely to become a parent, and more likely to be cohabiting."

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

Myth -- Children are faring much worse now than in past decades. 

Fact: "In recent years, the lives of America's children have improved in measurable ways, according to a new collaborative report from federal agencies.  America's Children 1999 shows that youth are less likely to smoke, die and or be victimized by crime, but they have made fewer gains in areas that predict their economic futures...  Among the report's most positive results is a 40 percent drop in serious violent crime involving juvenile offenders since 1993."  Some indicators of child wellbeing have gone down; but others have gone up.

Pascual, Patrice, "America's Children 1999," Connect for Kids, Benton Foundation 1999,; ChildStats,

Myth -- Mothers frequently make false allegations of sexual abuse in order to gain advantage in custody litigation. 

Fact: "[N]eglect is the most common form of intentionally fabricated maltreatment [and] anonymous reporters and noncustodial parents (usually fathers) most frequently make intentionally false reports. Of the intentionally false allegations of maltreatment... custodial parents (usually mothers) and children [are] least likely to fabricate reports of abuse or neglect."

False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate Nico Trocméa & Nicholas Bala Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 29, Issue 12 December 2005, Pages 1333-1345

Fact: "On the basis of research that has been conducted so far, it is difficult to support an assertion that there are high rates of false allegations of sexual abuse consciously made by mothers in divorce situations."

Faller, Kathleen Coulborn, David L. Corwin, and Erna Olafson, "RESEARCH ON FALSE 
ALLEGATIONS OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN DIVORCE," 6 The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children Advisor 1 (Fall 192) p.9.

Fact: "[F]alse charges are infrequent, and every allegation must be taken seriously."

Assocation of Family and Conciliation Courts, "THE SEXUAL ABUSE ALLEGATION PROJECT:

Fact: "[W]hile allegations might be increasing, they are hardly rampant... [and] these cases are not limited to accusations against fathers.  Indeed, mothers accused the child's father in only half the cases.  The rest involved third parties, mothers' new partners, stepfathers, and others.  Nor did we find that sexual abuse allegations in contested cases were more likely to be unfounded than in cases in the general population.  In half the cases with allegations, abuse was believed to have occurred, and in 17 percent no determination was reached by either a court evaluator or CPS worker.  Even when the allegation was unfounded, most of the experts we interviewed believed the reports were made in good faith."

Pearson, Jessica, citing AFCC/Research Unit, Allegations of Sexual Abuse in Custody and Visitation Cases: An Empiracal Study, Report for National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (1988); Nancy Thoennes & Patricia Tjaden, The Extent, Nature, and Validity of Sexual Abuse Allegations in Custody/Visitation Disputes, 14 Child Abuse & Neglect 151 (1987).

Also see: "CHILD CUSTODY DECISIONS IN FAMILIES EXPERIENCING WOMAN ABUSE", in Social Work, Vol. 39, Number 1, January 1994


Fact: "Large scale studies show that sexual abuse allegations occur in only 2 percent of all disputed custody and access cases. Of those 2 percent, only 8 percent were found to be false, and furthermore, mothers were no more likely than fathers to make false allegations."

Susan Penfold, "Questionable Beliefs About Child Sexual Abuse Allegations During Custody Disputes," Canadian Journal of Family Law, 14(1), 1997, quoted at

Fact: When allegations of neglect are included in the statistics, the rate of intentionally fabricated claims in the context of custody cases rises to 12%. "[F]athers most frequently make intentionally false reports [while] mothers and children [are the] least likely to fabricate reports of abuse or neglect... [D]eliberate fabrication of abuse by custodial parents is relatively low, alleviating the concerns that there is a widespread problem of custodial parents trying to manipulate the legal system or seek vengeance against their former partners...diverting attention from the more prevalent problems of unsubstantiated allegations made in good faith and unresolved investigations where suspicions of abuse or neglect remain but cannot be confirmed.

Bala, N., & Trocme, N. (2005). False allegations of abuse and neglect when parents separate. Child Abuse & Neglect 29 1333-1345.

Fact: Fathers are 16 times more likely to make false allegations than are mothers..

Bala, N., & Schuman, J. (2000). Allegations of sexual abuse when parents have separated. Canadian Family Law Quarterly, 17,191-241.

Myth -- Mothers frequently make false allegations of domestic violence in order to gain advantage in custody litigation. 

Fact: Research does not substantiate this popular myth. However, research does substantiate that there is no tactical advantage to making domestic violence claims. Fathers are more likely to get visitation when domestic violence is alleged, even in states with custody presumptions enacted to protect battered women. Abusive athers are more likely to obtain primary custody when domestic violence is present, alleged or not. Mothers who have suffered domestic violence fare even worse in custody disputes when the state has friendly parent provisions.

See generally, Zorza, Joan and Leora Rosen, Violence Against Women, Vol. 11, No. 8 (Aug. 2005); and Dore, Margaret, The Friendly Parent Concept: A Flawed Factor for Child Custody,

Fact: "[O]ur central finding was that child custody and access processes provide opportunities for abusive partners to exert power and control over their partners and children, and that these opportunities were often supported by policies and practices of service providers."

Colleen Varcoe1 and Lori G. Irwin, "If I Killed You, I'd Get the Kids": Women's Survival and Protection Work with Child Custody and Access in the Context of Woman Abuse, 27 Qualitative Sociology 77 (2004),

Myth -- Family courts are biased against fathers in custody disputes.

Fact: "Despite the powerful stereotypes working against fathers, they are significantly more successful than is commonly believed. The Massachusetts [gender bias] task force, for example, reported that fathers receive primary or joint custody in more than 70 percent of contested cases."

Schafran, Lynn Hecht, "Gender Bias in Family Courts," American Bar Association Family Advocate, Vol. 17, No. 1, p. 26

Ruth I. Abrams & John M. Greaney, Report of the Gender Bias Study of the Supreme Judicial Court [of Massachusetts] 62-63 (1983), also citing similar finding from California and other parts of the nation.

Fact: "The various gender bias commissions found that at the trial court level in contested custody cases, fathers won more than half the time.  This is especially significant in light of the fact that not only do fathers win more often in court when they take these cases to trial, but also that an overwhelmingly higher percentage of fathers gain primary custody -- by any means -- than were ever the primary caregiver of their children during marriage.  Statistically, this dashes the argument that 'only the strongest cases are taken to trial,' and in fact indicates an extraordinary bias against mothers and the value of mothering and mothers' work."

liznote re the more than 40 state gender bias task force reports. Available from the National Judicial Education Program, 9 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10013.

Also see: AZ Battered Mothers Testimony Project Report

Myth -- Fathers who fight for custody of their children are likely doing so because they are their children's primary caregivers. 

Fact: "Abusive fathers are far more likely than nonabusive parents to fight for child custody, not pay child support, and kidnap children."

White, Ann C., The Florida Bar Journal, Vol LXVIII, No. 9, citing Hansen, Marsali, and Michele Harway, Battering and Family Therapy 175 (1993); Grieg, Geoffrey L. and Rebecca Hegar, "Parents Whose Children Are Abducted by the Other Parent: Implications for Treatment," 19 American Journal of Family Therapy 215, 221 (1991); Zorza Joan, "Protection for Battered Women and Children," 27 Clearing House Rev. 1437 (1994).

Fact: "Since batterers know that nothing will devastate the victim more than seeing her children endangered, they frequently use the threat of obtaining custody to exact agreements to their liking. Custody litigation becomes yet another weapon for the abuser, heightening his power and control tactics to further terrify the victim."

See Hart, "Family Violence and Custody Orders," 43(4) Juv. & Fam. Ct. J. 29, 33-34 (1992); Saunders, "Child Custody Decisions in Families Experiencing Woman Abuse," 39 Social Work 51, 53 (1994), as cited in Hart and Hofford, "Child Custody," in A Lawyer's Handbook, supra, note 12 at 5-1; Cahn, "Civil Images of Battered Women: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Child Custody Decisions," 44 Vanderbilt L.Rev. 1041 (1991).

genes make the manFact: "[C]ontrary to popular belief, fathers who gain custody were not necessarily interested or involved in taking care of children prior to marriage... no evidence was found to suggest that fathers with custody were very involved with their children during the early stages of the child's life. For the group of single fathers interviewed, the level of involvement during their children's early years was not extraordinary. Some support or mixed support was found for the myth that single fathers were very involved with their children near the end of the marriage, which is why they gain custody, and for the myth that these marriages end on more unusual notes than most marriages. Finally, the idea that the father gained custody because the mother was emotionally incompetent is simply not true."

Greif, G. L. (1990). Ten myths about the fathers' childhoods, marriages, and custody arrangements. In The daddy track and the single father (pp. 23-43). Lexington, MA: Lexington Books.

Fact: "[M]any men who initiate custody and access challenges through the family law court system do so in order to harass or maintain control over their ex-spouses."

The National Association of Women and the Law, "Custody and Access: A NAWL Brief to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access," March 1998. Also see Terry Arendell, Fathers and Divorce, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1995. Also see Mildred Daley Pagelow, "Effects of Domestic Violence on Children and their Consequences for Custody and Visitation Agreements," Mediation Quarterly, 7(4), 1990 [Battered women are intensely fearful of losing custody, while men who batter feel they have nothing to lose by using custody as a bargaining tactic.]

Myth -- Mothers who fight for custody of their children are likely doing so because they want to live off the child support payments. 

Fact: As of 1994, noncustodial fathers contributed only 19 percent, on average, of their children's household income."

America's Fathers and Public Policy (1994), Board on Children, Youth, and Families, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education, National Research Council, 2101 Constitution Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20418. (202) 334-3965

Myth -- Mothers who fight for custody of their children are likely doing so because they are controlling and vindictive. 

Fact: Mothers are more likely to prefer joint custody when they perceive their ex-husband to be more competent as a parent.  Control and guilt over divorce does not correlate with custody preferences.

Wilcox, K. L., Wolchik, S. A., & Braver, S. L. (1998). Predictors of maternal preference for joint or sole legal custody. Family Relations, 47(1), 93-101

Myth -- Fathers who fight for custody are likely doing so because they want to participate more after the divorce in their child's primary care.

Fact: "Most men who fight for custody or access do not want a larger role in the day-to-day caregiving, but rather a larger role in decision-making related to their children and ex-spouses' lives. A Canadian study of fathers' rights groups found that members of these groups expected mothers to assume primary responsibility for children, whereas fathers spoke of 'helping.' Not one father in the study talked about wanting to have the responsibility of the everyday care of his children.'

Carl Bertoia and Janice Drakich, "The Fathers' Rights Movement: Contradictions in Rhetoric and Practice," Journal of Family Issues, 14, 1993, cited in The National Association of Women and the Law, "Custody and Access: A NAWL Brief to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access," March 1998.

Fact: "The author concludes that men's perceptions of the divorcing procedure and postdivorce familial arrangement leaves them feeling hurt, confused, vulnerable, and insecure. The men then turn to established constructions of masculinity to subdue these feelings and to redefine their position as one of lost legal rights rather than emotional trauma. In general, these efforts centered around the relationship with the former wife, suggesting that the thrust of divorced men's identity establishment is focused on resistance and revenge."

Arendell, T. (1995). Former spousal relations: "War without end." In Fathers and divorce (pp. 111-140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Myth -- Fathers withdraw from involvement post-divorce because of conflict in the relationship with mothers.

Fact: "In contrast to the hypothesis that parental conflict might negatively interfere with nonresident father involvement, we found conflict over childrearing to be unrelated to father involvement (and the association was in the positive direction)." (In other words, more father involvement = more conflict.)

Juliana M. Sobolewski, Valarie King (2005) The Importance of the Coparental Relationship for Nonresident Fathers' Ties to Children Journal of Marriage and Family 67 (5), 1196-1212.

Myth -- A father can engage in domestic violence against his spouse but nevertheless be a good father and role model for his children.

Fact: "[N]ot only is violence in families pervasive but that both the children who are victims of violence and those that witness violence that occurs between their parents suffer a great deal and are themselves at risk of using violence as adults (Jaffe, Wolfe & Wilson, 1990; O'Keefe, 1995; Pagelow, 1993; Saunders, 1994; Johnson ,1996)...infants suffer from having their basic needs for attachment to their mother disrupted or from having the normal routines around sleeping and feeding disrupted... Older children come to see violence as an appropriate way of dealing with conflict... These children can suffer from serious emotional difficulties..."

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,

Fact: "The sheer prevalence of the problem of violence and the dynamics surrounding it make it clear any assumptions about equal partnership in these cases are out of the question... the majority of women never report the assaults or in fact ever tell anyone about it (Johnson, 1996) and thus may not be believed if the first time the issue is raised is at the point of separation... may avoid going to court out of fear of retaliation, a fear which is not unfounded given the data on the escalation of violence at separation... agree to whatever the husband wants in an attempt to pacify him... as an exchange for custody... may appear unstable or emotional while their batterers are perceived as confident, rational and economically secure (Rosnes, 1997)... all the research flies in the face of what Rosnes argues is presently happening in the courts: '...judges assume that wife abuse is not necessarily damaging to a child, and that being violent does not necessarily affect a father's parenting ability.... Similarly, research showing how battered women give up legal rights, and how women and children are at risk during unsupervised access visits and transfer is also upheld.' (Rosnes, 1997 at 33). "


Myth -- Men and Women are equal perpetrators of "domestic violence."

Fact: They may be "equal perpetrators" of "domestic violence" as that term is from time to time defined, but they aren't equally battered spouses. "That there are as many male victims of violence as female... is a significant distortion of well-grounded research data. Indeed, men are hit by their wives, they are injured, and some are killed. But, are all men hit by women battered? No... it is misogynistic to paint the entire issue of domestic violence with a broad brush and make it appear as though men are victimized by their partners as much as women. It is not a simple case of simple numbers. The media, policy makers, and the public cannot simply ignore -- or reduce to a parenthetical status the outcomes of violence..."



Myth -- Custody evaluations help prevent relitigation of parental disputes about "parenting timeshare" and related issues.

Fact: Studies indicate that parents who are subjected to the forced and artificial arrangement of their families by third party evaluators have two to two and a half times the rate of relitigation of parents who do not undergo the custody evaluation process.

Ash, P. and Guyer, J.J. (1986b). Relitigation after contested custody and visitation evaluations. Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, 14, 323-330.

Johnston, J.R. (1999) Developing and testing group interventions for families at impasse. Final Report submitted to the Statewide Office of Family Court Services, Administrative Office of the Courts, Judicial Council of the State of California, San Francisco.

Myth -- Fathers' relationships with their children post-divorce are dependent upon continuing substantial contact; thus shared parenting arrangements are mandatory for preserving existing father-child bonds. 

Fact: "In the state of paranoia that comes with marital separation, it is difficult for parents to realize that no one (including their spouse or a new step-parent) can take their relationships with children away from them.  The hallmark of attachment relationships is their durability.  Neither physical separation nor death terminates attachments."

Sroufe, L. Alan, Ph.D., "Attachment Theory and the Aftermath of Divorce," Center for Early Education, Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota 226 Child Development, 51 E. River Road Minneapolis, MN 55455 (1989)

Fact: "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. Regardless of the explanation, and despite changing attitudes about the role of fathers, our study indicates that parent gender continues to be the key factor shaping parent-adolescent involvement patterns."

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.

Myth -- Fathers are equal parents.

Fact: "[T]here seems to be compelling evidence of a change in the contemporary meaning of fatherhood for men, but not so much that men have become equal partners in parenthood."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: "Often during the marriage both spouses work to maintain the fiction that power is shared or, more palatably, that power is simply not an issue. However, gender is very much about power. In our society, gender serves as the basis of a hierarchical system of male dominance and female subordination... Marital power differences are obscured by the dominant ideology of the companionate marriage."

Arendell, Terry, "Divorce: It's a Gender Issue," American Bar Association Family Advocate, Vol. 17, No. 1, p. 30

Fact: Men believe women do less childcare than women actually do, and men believe they are more involved in childcare than they are in reality.

Komter, A. (1987). Why bad mothers are worse than bad fathers: Power mechanisms in the family. In T. Knijn & A. Mulder (Eds.), Unraveling fatherhood (pp. 27-36). Providence, RI: Foris Publications

Fact: "[W]hile most fathers report the intention to increase the levels of involvement with their children over those of previous generations, actual behavior does not generally match expectations."

Wayte, David. Fatherhood and family roles: an examination of evidence of change. Progress: Family Systems Resarch and Therapy, 1994, Volume 3, (pp. 137-150). Encino, CA : Phillips Graduate Institute.

Fact: "Relative to differences in parent-child interaction by family type, there are much larger differences by parents' gender, with many fathers minimally involved in their children's lives, regardless of the father's residential status (Parke & Sterns, 1993). In postdivorce families, although there is wide variation in fathers' involvement, contact tends to be infrequent, diminishes over time (King, 1994; Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992), and decreases further as a stepfather enters the children's lives (Seltzer, 1991)."

David H Demo, Martha J Cox (2000) Families With Young Children: A Review of Research in the 1990s Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 876-895.

Myth -- The role of fatherhood has substantially changed in recent decades.

Fact: "Despite exceptions we all know, most husbands 'help out' at home, leaving employed wives to perform between 70-80 percent of the housework."

Arendell, "Divorce: It's a Gender Issue," citing Thompson, Linda and Alexis Walker, "Gender in Families: Women and Men in Marriage, Work, and Parenthood," Journal of Marriage and the Family 51:845-71 (1989); Spitze, Glenna, "Women's Employment and Family Relations: A Review," Journal of Marriage and the Family 50:595-618 (1988).

Fact: "Resident mothers, especially those of adolescents with nonresident fathers, remain the most involved. In contrast, nonresident fathers are the least involved parents, particularly when adolescents also have a nonresident mother. Among fathers, unpartnered resident fathers are rated highest by adolescents on parental involvement, especially in the more traditionally female-oriented items such as shopping and talking about social events and problems, although they were no more involved overall than nonresident mothers."

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 'new father' remains more fiction than fact.  Apparently the culture of fatherhood has changed but not the practice.  Only a few studies report increases in paternal involvement in recent decades. The few men who do increase their parental activity do so mostly in the area of play -- not assuming a full range of parenting responsibilities.  Men and women in middle-class famillies use different standards to measure and explain away fathers' limited involvement in parenting, thus sustaining the myth of egalitarianism.  As they do with household labor, wives tend to underestimate their parenting activity, and husbands tend to overestimate theirs."

Ibid, citing Marsiglio, William, Paternal Engagement Activities with Minor Children," Journal of Marriage and the Family 53:973-86 (1991); and Backett, Kathryn, "The Negotiation of Fatherhood," in Charles Lewis and Margaret O'Brien (eds.)Reassessing Fatherhood, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1987.

Fact: In 45% of two-parent households, women provide half or more than half of the household income; in single parent households, women provide more than half to all of the income 82% of the time.  In 88% of households, women are charged with the responsibility for family care.

WOMEN: THE NEW PROVIDERS, study released May 10, l995 by Louis Harris and Associates, Families and Work Institute, Whirlpool Foundation.

Myth -- Mothers cannot substitute as a role model for boys.

Fact: "[I]t appears from the research findings that children do not appear to imitate people of their own gender any more than the opposite gender, nor do they typically end up resembling the same-sex parent more than the other.  It seems, therefore, that men are unlikely to construct their fatherhood identity on the basis of male role models, only."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: Mothers and fathers influence their children in similar ways with regard to the development of morality, competence in social interactions, academic achievement, and mental health.

Lamb, M. E., Pleck, J. H., & Levine, J. A. (1986). Effects of increased paternal involvement on children in two-parent families. In R. A. Lewis & R. E. Salt (Eds.), Men in families (pp. 141-158). Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Myth -- Boys need fathers in order to learn how to be good husbands and fathers.

Fact: "Most boys who grew up with single mothers have positive opinions of them.  They are likely to have 'experienced' the process of disassociation from women much less strongly than boys from father-mother households.  An overwhelming number of boys and men under thirty who like and admire their mother are those who grew up, for most of their childhood years, with their mother as the sole head of the household...  It is increasingly clear that the great majority of these boys also grow up to have better relationships with women, a different sexual persona, from boys/men from most mother-father families.  They are usually more free in conversational style, listen with more interest to what women say, and see women as individuals first rather than 'women' first.  In short, they are more comfortable with women, and identify much more.  They are not afraid of solidarity with a woman, or of trusting her.  This is not because there is something wrong with 'men,' or heterosexual reproduction, but because we live in a society which still has feudalistic ideas of 'family.' "

Hite, Shere, The Hite Report on the Family: Growing Up Under Patriarchy, Grove Press (1994), citing to her research findings.

Fact: "The essentialist perspective assumes that boys need a heterosexual male parent to establish a masculine gender identity. Pleck (1995) has demonstrated that empirical gender research does not support this assumption... Lytton and Tomney (1991) concluded that 'very little about the gender of the parent seems to be distinctly important'. "

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

Myth -- Fathers tend to copy their own father's parenting styles.

Fact: "Those who adopt a nontraditional model of fatherhood are equally likely to have had fathers who were relatively unavailable, unloving, and powerless or have modeled themselves after fathers who were also highly participant in their own upbringing (Radin, 1981; Sagi, 1982)."

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Myth -- Fathers are the parent more likely to be the primary disciplinarian of the children. 

Fact: Contrary to popular belief, fathers are not the main disciplinarians of their children; mothers are, particularly in the early years. 

Yogman, M. W., Cooley, J., & Kindlon, D. (1988). Fathers, infants, and toddlers. In P. Bronstein & C. P. Cowan (Eds.),Fatherhood Today: Mens Changing Role In the Family. (pp. 53-65). New York: John Wiley & Sons

Myth -- Just because a father has had an abusive relationship with his wife doesn't mean that his behavior is harmful to the children or that he isn't a good father to his children. 

Fact: "A child who witnesses domestic violence is more likely to grow into a perpetrator or victim of domestic violence than a child who was himself or herself abused."

Hotaling, G.T., and D. B. Sugarman, "An Analysis of Risk Markers in Husband to Wife Violence: The Current State of Knowledge, 1 Violence and Victims 101-124 (1986).  Also see Margaret Pagely, "Justice for Victims of Spouse Abuse in Divorce and Child Custody Cases," Ch 8 Violence & Victims 1, 69 (1993); Daniel G. Saunders, "Child Custody Decisions in Families Experiencing Woman Abuse," 39 Social Work 1, 51 (1994) (subjecting children to the victimization of their mothers is a sever form of psychological maltreatment, even a single episode of violence can produce post-traumatic stress disorder in children.

CAUTIONARY COMMENT FROM EVAN STARK (by email August 29, 2007): "I would be cautious in presenting the intergenerational transmission hypothesis as 'fact.' The study data drawn from the NFVS [Hotaling & Sugarman, Calmus] flawed both in its base (the identification of who was exposed to abuse as a child) and in its longitudinal outcome measure (who is currently defined as "abused"). What the NFVS show is that if a child is exposed to the severest forms of violence by parents (e.g. use of knives or guns, kicking, fists), they are l0x more likely to become abusive adults (on their very flawed measure of abusive adult) and if they were merely exposed to "normal" abuse, they are 3 to 6x as likely to be abusive as adults (in their classification).  But because only l% of the children are exposed to the severest form of violence and 5% to less severe forms, the vast majority of men they identify as current batterers were not exposed to violence as children. If you consider any exposure to violence as a child, current batterers are a little more than 2x as likely to come from nonviolent as violent homes (7:3); if you consider only children from the most violent homes, the ratio for current abusers is 7:1 (because there are so few from the most violent homes). Put another way, 90% of the [now-grown] children exposed to violence as children are not now abusive and even 80% of the children from the most violent homes are not now abusive."
      [In other words, Dr. Stark is saying that the perception of role modeling influence by fathers could be exaggerated both ways, not only as to positive influence, but also as to negative influence. Most batterers do not come from violent homes, and most children subjected to violence do not become batterers as adults. -- liz]

Fact: "A study by Kalmuss (1984) contributes to this conventional wisdom and research. Using data from a "nationally representative sample" to explore whether there is a relationship between experiencing or witnessing violence in the family of origin on the one hand and perpetrating violence against one's spouse on the other, Kalmuss' results indicate that those who observed violence between their parents were more likely to perpetrate violence against their spouse than those experiencing violence as a teenager.  Sons and daughters were equally as likely to be victims as perpetrators after witnessing their fathers hitting their mothers.  The intergenerational transmission of this behavior appears to be role-specific, i.e., children who observe violence between parents may come to see it as acceptable behavior between spouses but not against kids.  Frey-Angel (1989) suggests that observation of violence perpetuates the cycle in the next generation."

Gadsden, Vivian L. and Marcia Hall, National Center on Fathers and Families. Intergenerational Learning: A Review of the Literature

Fact: "[B]iological fathers were more likely to physically abuse their partners than were stepfathers or other men, and... children were more likely to witness IPV if it was perpetrated by their biological father instead of a stepfather (Sullivan et al., 2000)...
      "We found some support for our first hypothesis that biological fathers would be more likely than social fathers to report that they observed negative effects of IPV [on their children]... We also found support for our second hypothesis that biological fathers would be more likely to express worry about the long-term effect of their abuse on their children, particularly on female children. In response to our third hypothesis regarding parenting, co-parenting, and partner's ability to parent, we found that biological fathers were more likely than social fathers to report that abuse negatively affected their partners' ability to parent but not more likely to report that IPV made it more difficult to co-parent or that this abuse negatively affected their feelings about themselves as fathers.
      "Finally, we found no support for our hypothesis that biological fathers would be more likely than social fathers to report that they would take action to stop their violence, seek professional help, or take other protective actions if they saw that their abuse was harming their children.
      "Our findings suggest a disconnect between biological fathers' professed concern for their children who are exposed to IPV and their intentions of changing their abusive behavior. If this finding is replicated in future investigations, the consequences for child custody decisions could be significant."

Emily F. Rothman, David G. Mandel and Jay G. Silverman. Abusers' Perceptions of the Effect of Their Intimate Partner Violence on Children, 1179 VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN 2007; 13; 1179, available at

Also see Hetherington, E., & Clingempeel, W. (1992). Coping with marital transitions: A family systems perspective. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 57(2-3, Serial No. 227), and Hetherington, E., & Jodl, K. (1994). Stepfamilies as settings for child development. In A. Booth & J. Dunn (Eds.), Stepfamilies: Who benefits? Who does not? (pp. 55-80). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Myth -- Children are at greater risk of physical abuse in single mother households than in single father households. 

Fact: Children are at greatest risk of physical abuse in a household with a biological parent who is cohabitating with a paramour.  However, "[a]mong children in single-parent households, those living with onlytheir fathers were approximately one and two-thirds times more likely to be physically abused than those living with only their mothers."

Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information P.O.Box1182 Washington, DC 20013-1182 Telephone: (703) 385-7565, (800) FYI-3366 FAX: (703) 385-3206;

Myth -- Children are more likely to be physically abused by their mothers than by their fathers.

Comment: The above calculation by the National Clearinghouse, which reflect "household" rather than "perpetrator" are overly generous in impression as far as physical abuse perpetrated by mothers and 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 -- as they have to be to speak in terms of "likelihoods" 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 fathers than mothers, and at astronomically more risk for serious physical abuse and sexual abuse.

See here for the statistical analysis. Also see Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters. "Dads Break Bones Of Children More Often Than Moms." ScienceDaily 6 December 2007.

Myth -- Youth from "fatherless homes" are at higher risk for substance abuse. 

Fact: Youth living with two biological or adoptive parents are significantly less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, or to report problems with their use, than youth not living with two parents. "[However] the highest risks of youth substance use, dependence, and need for illegal drug abuse treatment are found in families with a father and stepmother.  Risks of youth substance use, dependence, and need for illegal drug abuse treatment are generally higher among youth who live with a biological father and a stepmother than among youth who live with a biological mother and a stepfather.  Youths who live with a biological father and no mother or stepmother are more likely to use substances, to be dependent on substances, and to need illegal drug abuse treatment than youths who live with a biological mother and no father or stepfather."

Johnson, Hoffman, and Gerstein (1986), on the effects of family structure on adolescent substance abuse, data from 1995 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse.

Myth -- "Fatherlessness" places children at risk of numerous developmental problems.

Fact: "Likewise, the controversial family structure studies that Hart cites which suggest differences in fathers' and mothers' contributions to child development are irrelevant and flawed. For example... data that finds that delinquency is twice as high in cases where the father is absent than when he is present... no such problem has been found in studies of lesbian two-parent families. Thus, we can safely deduce that the elevated rate of delinquency does not result from 'fatherlessness'... recent evidence suggests that delinquency rates are lower when the mother is alone with her son than when she has invited another man to live with her... such negative outcomes are even less common when she has invited a woman to live with her (Tasker and Golombok 1997; Brewaeys et al. 1997). The clear implication is that what places children at risk is not fatherlessness but the absence of the resources that a qualified second parent can provide...
        This is supported by numerous large-scale studies showing that with adequate socioeconomic resources, children who grow up in single-parent and other 'non-traditional' family arrangements do well on average. McLanahan's (1985) analysis of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics showed that father absence had no significant effect on children's education once income is taken into account. Bogess (1998), also using the PSID, finds no effect of living with a single mother on children's likelihood of graduating from high school independent of the family's socioeconomic standing.
        McLanahan (1985:898) concluded that her results 'do not support the notion that the long term absence of a male role model itself is the major factor underlying family structure effects.' In the Census-administered National Educational Longitudinal Survey, holding constant other factors, there are no differences between children from two-biological-parent homes and those from female-headed families in the odds of dropping out of high school or attending college (Painter 1998). Among the six family types included in Teachman, Paasch and Carver (1997), 'divorced mother' did not directly increase children's odds of dropping out of high school, holding other factors constant."

See Affidavit of Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz on the research on lesbian and single mother, i.e. "fatherless" parenting.

Myth -- The original common law solution of granting custody to fathers showed that society used to understand that fathers were equal child caregivers. 

Fact: "Prior to the twentieth century, the legal status of women and children was tantamount to that of chattel. Married women could not enter into contracts, own or manage their own property, work in many professions, or even vote.  That fathers got to keep what they 'owned' on divorce indicates nothing about actual caregiving, and tells us only that the power and status imbalance between men and women was extreme.  In fact, after the relatively rare divorce, just as after the relatively common death of mothers in childbirth, the children actually were cared for and nurtured by older female siblings, aunts, grandmothers and other relatives, stepmothers, and household help."

[liznotes email if you want detailed cites.]

Fact: "Direct paternal involvement in childrearing is a radical departure from almost all historical patterns of family structure."

Bloom-Feshbach, J. (1981). Historical perspectives on the father's role. In M. Lamb (Ed.) The role of the father in child development (2nd ed., pp. 71-112). New York: Wiley.

Also see: Robert B. Shoemaker. Gender in English Society 1650-1850: The Emergence of Separate Spheres? Themes in British Social History Series. London and New York: Longman, 1998.ISBN 0-582-10315-0.

Fact: [O]nly 100 years ago, 20% of women were killed by childbirth (or some related complication) and 20% to 50% of infants died during the first year of life... Until the 19th century... children were often considered worthless possessions --'just another mouth to feed'... often unwanted (no birth control), treated coldly (no cuddling and bonding), swaddled, and even beaten regularly and terrorized (some religious folks thought they had to drive out Satan and 'the stains of original sin') ...there have always been lots of single-parent families (caused by death); women have always worked outside the home (as servants and in the fields).

Kain, E. L. (1990). The myth of the family decline. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. cited in RELATIONSHIPS WITHIN THE FAMILY, ISBN 1-890873-00-4 Copyright © 1996-2000 Clayton Tucker-Ladd & Mental Health Net

Fact: "[I]t would be a mistake to exaggerate or romanticize colonial men's involvement in family life. Although men could be attached to and indulgent of very young children, there is no evidence to suggest that they engaged in the daily care of infants or toddlers. Diapering, feeding, bathing, cooking, and other everyday tasks of childcare were left to wives, older daughters, or servants."

Mintz, Steven & Kellogg, Susan (1988). Domestic Revolutions: A Social History of American Family Life. New York: Free Press.

Myth -- The Industrial Revolution changed fathers' parenting roles. 

Fact: Fathers' parenting roles did not change during this period any more than they varied in prior centuries from time to time and place to place and with the family circumstances of different kinds of families.  What shifted in the late 19th century, along with the rise of the suffrage movement, was a social focus that began to consider child well-being to have priority over father's traditional rights to and ownership of child labor.  "Fathers in nonindustrial subsistence economies generally play a relatively small role in the care of young children."

See, e.g. Katz, M. M., & Konner, M. J. (1981). The role of the father: An anthropological perspective. In M. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development (2nd ed., pp. 155-186). New York: Wiley

Also see: Mason, Mary Ann, From Father's Property to Children's Rights: A History of Child Custody in the United States, New York: Columbia University Press.

Also see: Mothers and Fathers in America: Looking Backward, Looking Forward By Steven Mintz,

Myth -- Research shows that children do better the more contact they have post-divorce with nonresidential fathers. 

Fact: "Limited research has been conducted on the relationship between child outcomes and involvement of fathers who do not live with their children.  Most of this research has focused on the provision of formal child support and the frequency of father-child contact.  Divorce and nonmarital childbearing do not preclude fathers from being actively involved in their children's lives.  [However] while the percentage of children living apart from their fathers has increased in recent decades, little national-level research has been conducted on the role that fathers living apart from their children play in their lives, and the relationship between nonresident father involvement and child outcome."

Child Trends, "What Do Fathers Contribute To Children's Well-being?" A Summary of Research Findings, Child Trends, Inc. (1997)

Fact: "Existing research is mixed about whether the continuing involvement of nonresident fathers is important to children's lives.  Several large-scale studies have found no association between the amount of contact a non-custodial father has with his children and an assortment of measures of child well-being (King, 1994; Furstenberg, Morgan, and Allison, 1987).  Other studies, however, have found continued contact to be related to improved psychological scores, fewer behavioral problems, and better peer relationships (Peterson and Zill, 1986; Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980)."

NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Statistical Analysis Report: Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools, October 1997, (NCES 98-091),

Fact: Nonresident father's involvement appears to correlate with children's increased academic performance in grades 1-12.  However, this generally holds only when resident mothers are not very involved.  "This association weakens when mothers' involvement is included in the model."

NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Statistical Analysis Report: Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools, October 1997, (NCES 98-091),

Also see Soren Svanum, Robert G. Bringle, Joan E. McLaughlin, Father Absence and Cognitive Performance in a Large Sample of Six- to Eleven-Year-Old Children, Child Development, Vol. 53, No. 1 (Feb., 1982), pp. 136-143 (The effects of father absence on educational achievement and intellectual development of 6-11-year-old children were investigated by employing a nationally representative sample of 5,493 father-present and 616 father-absent children from the Health Examination Survey of the National Center for Health Statistics... Following statistical control for SES, we associated no decrements with the father's absence/presence, and in some instances, small but significant increments were found to be associated with children from fatherless families.)

Fact: "The physically close but psychologically distant parent-child interaction seemed to affect the child's behavior detrimentally, whereas children with physically and psychologically close interaction with their parents showed less behavioral problems... " Children did better where the family boundaries were clear. "In the families where there was a lot of confusion in the family boundaries both the physical and psychological involvement of the father with the family and the children was occasional and often caused problems. The parents interacted with each other only because of the children, but they had nothing else in common... In the well-functioning families where, according to mothers' reports, both the mother and the children had accepted the physically absent father inside the family boundaries the children had fewer behavioral problems."

Anja Taanila et al. Effects of Family Interaction on the Child's Behavior In Single-Parent or Reconstructed Families, Family Process (2002) -Vol. 41 Issue 4 557-736

Fact: "While public sentiment has been in favor of nonresident father's involvement in family life, there is limited research evidence of whether their involvement yields positive benefits for children (King, 1994) and for the functioning of the biological family unit... most studies, particularly those based on large national databases, have not been able to detect a significant connection between the nonresident father's contact with his child and the child's well-being (Furstenberg et al., 1987; King, 1994).  In a study which did find an association between absent-father involvement and child well-being, it was found also that father contact was beneficial only to the degree that both parents got along fairly well (Hetherington et al., 1978)."

Jordan. Will J., NATIONAL CENTER ON FATHERS AND FAMILIES, Role Transitions: A Review of the Literature, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Box 58 Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216, 8/25/97

Fact: "Research findings on the association between frequency of father-child contact and child outcomes are mixed.  In general, large-scale studies find no relationship between father-child contact and child outcomes, such as cognitive development, academic achievement, behavior, and perceptions of academic competence and self-worth."

CHILD TRENDS: SUMMARY OF KEY RESEARCH FINDINGS, citing Baydar, N. & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1994). The dynamics of child support and its consequences for children. In I. Garfinkel, S. S. McLanahan, P. K. Robins, (Eds.), Child Support and Child Well-Being (pp. 257-279). Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press; Furstenberg, F. F., Morgan, S. P. & Allison, P.A. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701; King, V. (1994). Nonresident father involvement and child well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 78-96; McLanahan, S.S., Seltzer, J.A., Hanson, T.L., & Thomson, E. (1994). Child support enforcement and child well-being: Greater security or greater conflict? In I. Garfinkel, S. McLanahan, & P.K. Robbins (Eds.), Child Support and Child Well-being. (pp.239-254). Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute Press.

Fact: "[C]hildren who have had no contact with their fathers in more than a year are more likely to be involved in extracurricular activities than children who have seen their fathers in the past year but whose fathers participated in none of the school activities.  Part of the explanation for this pattern may be that children are spending time with their nonresident fathers instead of participating in extracurricular activities."

NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS, Statistical Analysis Report: Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Schools, October 1997, (NCES 98-091),

Fact: "The weight of evidence does not support the view that higher levels of child-nonresidential father contact are automatically or always beneficial to children."

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,

Fact: "Some research suggests that contact between children and fathers who do not live together is associated with fewer behavior problems and improved psychological well-being. However, other studies have found that father contact has a detrimental effect on children's math scores, delinquency, and behavior problems.  This suggest that frequency of contact may be less important to child well-being than the quality of the father-child relationship."

Ibid, citing, Furstenberg, F. F., Morgan, S. P. & Allison, P.A. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701; King V. (1994). Variation in the consequences of nonresident father involvement for children's well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56, 963-972; King, V. (1994). Nonresident father involvement and child well-being. Journal of Family Issues, 15, 78-96.

Children in shared care were found to be least well-off emotionally at the end of a year.Fact:  "Among the highest-quality studies reviewed here (Argys et al. 1998; Baydar 1988; Furstenberg et al. 1987; Guidabaldi et al. 1987; King 1994a,b), only one [Guidabaldi] finds higher child well-being among children who have more contact with their nonresidential father; four find no impact of the level of contact with the nonresidential father; and one finds reduced well-being among children who have more contact with their nonresidential father."  (In 1988, Baydar reported reduced emotional well-being among children who had frequent contact with nonresidential fathers.  This was a large, national longitudinal study that included appropriate controls.)

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,

Fact: "The cumulative body of social science research does not support the presumption that frequent and continuing access by both parents lies at the core of the child's best interest. What counts is not the quantity of time, but the extent to which the access parent and child have a relationship in which the child feels valued. The regularity and predictability of visits is more important than frequency of visits."

M.B. Isaacs, B. Montalvo and D. Abelsohn, The Difficult Divorce: Therapy for Children and Families, New York: Basic Books, 1986.

Fact:  "Divorced fathers help their children more by consistent payment of their child support than by the number of visits made to their children."

King, Valarie, "Divorced Fathers Make Strongest Impact With Child Support," Penn State,

Fact: "[P]aternal contact was unrelated to several measures of well-being, including the presence of delinquency, academic difficulty, distress (including feelings of loneliness, depression, or anxiety), and dissatisfaction (with self, family, friends, etc.)."

Furstenberg, F. F., Jr., Morgan, S. P., & Allison, P. D. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701.

Fact: In families formed by black adolescent mothers, "[t]he presence of a father inside the home provide[d] only a modest advantage for children's well-being. Contact, even regular contact, with fathers outside the home had little effect on positive youth outcomes."

Furstenberg, Jr., F. F. & Harris, K. M. (1993). When fathers matter/why fathers matter: The impact of paternal involvement on the offspring of adolescent mothers. In A. Lawson & D. L. Rhode (Eds.), The politics of pregnancy: Adolescent sexuality and public policy (pp. 189-215). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Fatherless Children History SeriesFact: "The amount of contact that children had with their fathers seemed to make little difference for their well-being. Teen-agers who saw their fathers regularly were just as likely as were those with infrequent contact to have problems in school or engage in delinquent acts and precocious sexual behavior. Furthermore, the children's behavioral adjustment was also unrelated to the level of intimacy and identification with the nonresidential father. No differences were observed even among the children who had both regular contact and close relations with their father outside the home. Moreover, when the children in the NSC were reinterviewed in 1987 at ages 18 to 23, those who had retained stable, close ties to their fathers were neither more or less successful than those who had low or inconsistent levels of contact and intimacy with their fathers."

Furstenberg, F., & Cherlin, A. (1991). Divided families: What happens to children when parents part. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.; Furstenberg, F., Morgan, S., & Allison, P. (1987). Parental participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review, 52, 695-701.

Myth -- Joint custody, or otherwise Involved nonresident fathers help buffer children from the negative effects of depressed or unhealthy mothers.

Fact: "Consistent with existing literature, we find that maternal depression and anxiety are associated with greater risk of child behavior problems. The results also suggest that the presence of two unhealthy parents is associated with more child behavior problems, but only among resident father families. Unhealthy fathers who live apart from their children do not directly influence children's behavior problems. Nor do these men, when healthy, buffer their children from the deleterious effects of an unhealthy mother."

Sarah O. Meadows, Sara S. McLanahan, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn (2007) Parental Depression and Anxiety and Early Childhood Behavior Problems Across Family Types Journal of Marriage and Family 69 (5), 1162-1177.

Myth -- Increasing fathers' visitation time and custody rights makes them more amenable to paying child support.

Fact: "As researchers began to stop collecting their data mainly from fathers and began to explore the relationship between visiting and paying child support in longitudinal studies, the theory that increased visitation would result in increased child support compliance began to wane. In 1993, the Office of Economic Research, U.S. Bureau of Labor undertook a study based on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY). The NLSY is a survey of more than 12,000 men and women who are interviewed annually since 1979. The authors of this study found contrary to previous studies, increases in visitation have no effect on changes in child support."

THE LINK BETWEEN VISITATION AND SUPPORT COMPLIANCE, Laura Wish Morgan with Chuck Shively of the Department of Social & Health Services, Washington State.

Myth -- Research on single mother households proves that divorce harms children.

Fact: "[W]e find that family structure does operate through economic status because, once income is controlled, the family structure effects primarily disappear for both behavioral and cognitive outcomes... Children with higher quality home environments (with respect to emotional support and cognitive stimulation) have fewer behavioral problems and higher cognitive test scores. The stress hypothesis receives virtually no support from our results. Children raised in families that experience multiple transitions do not consistently have higher levels of behavioral problems or lower test scores than do children in family types with one or fewer transitions, even when only child characteristics are controlled... Finally, maternal psychological well-being is shown to be an important mechanism by which family structure affects behavioral outcomes, but not cognitive ones."

Marcia J Carlson, Mary E Corcoran (2001) Family Structure and Children's Behavioral and Cognitive Outcomes Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (3), 779-792.

Fact: "[T]he effects of marital disruption are often collapsed with single parenting or female-headed households.  Distinctions are not made between the homes of never-married women and divorced and separated women.... More basic studies and secondary analyses are needed... to support the sweeping generalizations that are made about the impact of father absence from a relatively small core of data. "

Gadsden, Vivian L. and Marcia Hall, National Center on Fathers and Families. Intergenerational Learning: A Review of the Literature

Fact: "[T]the absence of a male role model following divorce is much less significant than the economic, emotional, and psychosocial consequences of family disruption in explaining the negative effects of divorce on children."

Lamb, M. (1994). Paternal influences on child development. In Changing fatherhood (pp. 25). Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Fact: Parents' history of adolescent delinquency not only predicts their later divorces, but also "parents' personal behavior and personality characteristics have a greater impact on their children's behavior than does their married, never-married, or divorced status."

Emery, Waldron and Aaron, "Delinquent behavior, future divorce or nonmarital childbearing, and externalizing behavior among offspring: A 14-year prospective study," Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 13, No. 4, Dec. 1999.

Myth -- Research on single mother households proves that "fatherlessness" harms children.

Fact: "The relative well-being of children in bereaved families and the poorer outcomes identified among children in step-families suggest that the absence of a parent figure is not the most influential feature of separation for children's development."

Rodgers, Bryan and Jan Pryor. Divorce and separation: the outcomes for children, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (ISBN 1 85935 043 7 (June 1998).

Fact: "[F]ather absence does not significantly influence the level of well-being of either daughters or sons. Rather... children's perceptions of their relationships with both parents have a more direct influence on their psychological well-being than does the physical presence or absence of their father."

Wenk, D., Hardesty, C. L., Morgan, C. S., & Blair, S. L. (1994). The influence of parental involvement on the well-being of sons and daughters. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56 (1), 229-234.

Fact: "T]here is little evidence to support the hypothesis that nonresident father involvement has positive benefits for children."

King, V. (1994). Variation in the consequences of nonresident father involvement for children's well-being. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 56(4), 963-972.

Fact: "Using data from subsets ranging in size from 777 to 1,501 children from the child supplement to the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), a series of multivariate regression models were tested to determine whether the effects of nonresident father involvement on child well-being vary by race, mother's education, or whether the child was born within or outside of marriage. The results show few interactive effects, and no identifiable set of conditions emerged that increased or reduced the importance of father involvement for child well-being."

King, Valarie, Carolina Population Center, CB# 8120, University Square, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-3997 (U.S.A.)

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.

Fact: Serious design errors and methodological problems make many studies ostensibly showing harm from father absence inconclusive, e.g. the impact of family-related variables (number of children, sex of parent, cause of parental absence, etc.)

Blechman, E. A. (1982). Are children with one parent at psychological risk? A methodological review. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 44, 179-195.

Fact: "A growing body of scientific literature demonstrates that children who grow up with 1 or 2 gay and/or lesbian parents fare as well in emotional, cognitive, social, and sexual functioning as do children whose parents are heterosexual. Children's optimal development seems to be influenced more by the nature of the relationships and interactions within the family unit than by the particular structural form it takes."

Technical Report: Coparent or Second-Parent Adoption by Same-Sex Parents AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS Ellen C. Perrin, MD, and the Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health

Fact: "Literature reviewed in this report overwhelmingly supported the notion that father absence has a detrimental effect on children. However, the results of this study did not support the conclusions..."

Fatherless Children History SeriesGrant, T. M. (1988). Impact of father absence on psychopathology of military dependent children.Doctoral thesis, Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH. ADA208606. (Father absence was not found to be related to the childhood pathology of military dependent children. Father absence was not found to be related to the severity of diagnosed childhood pathology.

Also see: Applewhite, L. W., & Mays, R. A., Jr. (1996). Parent-child separation: A comparison of maternally and paternally separated children in military families. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 13, 23-39. (However, children of active-duty mothers had more problems with peer-relationships, handling learning demands, expressing feelings and poorer indicators of physical health than children of active-duty fathers.)

Also see: Jensen, P. S., Grogan, D., Xenakis, S. N., & Bain, M. W. (1989). Father absence: Effects on child and maternal psychopathology. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 171-175. (Once maternal symptoms and stress levels were controlled, no significant effects of father absence were noted.)

Also see: Nice, D. S. (1978). The androgynous wife and the military child. In E.J. Hunter & D.S. Nice (Eds.), Children of military families: A part and yet apart (pp. 25-37). Washington, DC: Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office. (Children manifested significant gains in their overall personality adjustment during the period of father absence, lending support to the growing amount of evidence suggesting that father absence may be associated with some positive effects.)

Pierce, P. F., Vinokur, A. D., & Buck, C. L. (1998). Effects of war-induced maternal separation on children's adjustment during the gulf war and two years later. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 28, 1286-1311.

Myth -- Boys are especially harmed by divorce.

Fact: "[The] absence of a parent figure is not the most influential feature of separation on children's development; the age at which children experience separation is not, in itself, important; [and] there is no consistent evidence that boys are more affected by divorce than girls."

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,

Myth -- Research on single mother households proves that they are bad for children.

Fact: "[D]espite our efforts to identify the strongest possible measures of living arrangements and family change, in only one instance -- the relationship between having lived in a solo single-parent family during adolescence and the risk of premarital pregnancy -- was there even weak evidence that family structure had a direct effect that persisted above and beyond that associated with neighborhood disadvantage and residential mobility."

Kyle Crowder, Jay Teachman (2004) Do Residential Conditions Explain the Relationship Between Living Arrangements and Adolescent Behavior? Journal of Marriage and Family 66 (3), 721-738.

Fact: "Researchers have been energetic in studying family structure and attempting to identify family environments that facilitate or inhibit children's development and well-being. The consistent pattern, however, is that family structure per se tells us little about children's adjustment. Amato and Keith's (1991) meta-analysis of 92 (mostly North American) studies found a small advantage favoring children in two-parent families over their peers in divorced single-parent families, with a median effect size of .14 of a standard deviation."

David H Demo, Martha J Cox (2000) Families With Young Children: A Review of Research in the 1990s Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (4), 876-895.

Myth -- Children [may] do better in joint custody arrangements post-divorce (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980). 

Fact: Whoops, no... this hypothesis hasn't held. (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989).

Myth -- Children do better in joint custody arrangements post-divorce!

Fact:  "Research indicates that joint physical custody and frequent child-nonresidential parent contact have adverse consequences for children in high-conflict situations.  Joint physical custody and frequent child-nonresidential parent contact do not promote parental cooperation."

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,

Also see: JOINT CUSTODY: The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions, liznotes

Fact: "There are two key rationales which underlie and promote the concept of joint physical custody: one comes from a concern for the child, and it holds that equal or frequent access to both parents is in the best interest of the child (Wallerstein & Kelly, 1980).  The surprising result, however, from studies of voluntary joint custody arrangements undertaken in the 1970's is that this rationale was disproved: 'Two years after divorce, children are no better adjusted than children raised in sole custody households.  Despite more access to both parents, joint custody children show neither less disturbance nor better social adjustment than sole custody children' (Wallerstein & Blakeslee, 1989, p. 271)."

Leff, Renee. Joint Custody: Implications For Women Progress: Family Systems Resarch and Therapy, 1995, Volume 4, (pp. 29-40). Encino, CA : Phillips Graduate Institute

Fact: "[A]lmost no studies have examined paternal adjustment on children and no studies have examined the 'effect and interaction between both parents' adjustment, conflict, time with both parents, and residence' on children (p.37).  With respect to access and closeness to the noncustodial parent on children's adjustment, the evidence is mixed or inconclusive. Finally, custody status by itself does not affect children's adjustment following a divorce."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Kelly, Joan B. 1993. "Current Research on Children's Postdivorce Adjustment: No Simple Answers." Family and Conciliation Courts Review 31(1): 29-49.

Fact: "Enthusiasm for joint custody in the early 1980's was fueled by studies of couples who were highly motivated to 'make it work' (Johnston, 1995).  This enthusiasm has waned in recent years, in part because of social science findings.  For example, Johnston (1995) concluded from her most recent review that 'highly conflictual parents' (not necessarily violent) had a poor prognosis for becoming cooperative parents and there is increasing evidence that children of divorce have more problems because of the conflict between the parents before the divorce and not because of the divorce itself (Kelly, 1993).  'High conflict' parents should be allowed to develop separate parenting relationships with their children.  Frequent visits and joint custody schedules led to more verbal and physical abuse.  More frequent transitions between high-conflict parents were related to more emotional and behavioral problems of the children.

Saunders, Daniel G., Ph.D., Child Custody and Visitation Decisions in Domestic Violence Cases: Legal Trends, Research Findings, and Recommendations, University of Michigan School of Social Work August 1998

Fact: "While there was no clear evidence that either joint or sole custody promotes better child adjustment (and there were no differences found between effects of mother-only and father-only custody), a link was consistently found between frequency of visitation/transitions between parents and maladjustment. Children shuffled more frequently between parents were more exposed to and involved in parental conflict and aggression and were more often perceived by both parents as being depressed, withdrawn, uncommunicative, and/or aggressive. These findings, the authors note, are consistent with the findings of other studies."

Johnston, J. R., Kline, M., & Tschann, J. M. (1989). Ongoing postdivorce conflict in families contesting custody: Do joint custody and frequent access help? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 59, 576-592.

Fact: "The majority of studies based on large national surveys in the United States, found little association between father visitation and children's well-being."

CUSTODY AND ACCESS: AN N.A.W.L. BRIEF to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, March 1998, citing to Valerie King, "Variation in the Consequences of Non-Resident Father Involvement for Child's Well-being," (1994), 56 Journal of Marriage and the Family: 963-972; Denise Donnelly and David Finkelhorn, "Does Equality in Custody Arrangement Improve the Parent-Child Relationship?" (1992), 54 Journal of Marriage and the Family: 837, 842-844; C. James Richardson, Divorce and Family Mediation Research Study in Three Canadian Cities, supra., 31-32; Federal/Provincial/Territorial Family Law Committee, supra., 29-31. Also see: Carol Smart and Bren Neale, "Arguments Against Virtue: Must Contact Be Enforced?" [1997] 27 Family Law: 332.

Fact: A study done in 1987 by Furstenberg, Morgan, and Allison, found that children who had not seen their father in 5 years did significantly better than those who had spent 1 through 13 days with their father in the previous year.

Furstenberg, F.F., Jr., Morgan, S.P., and Allison, P.D. (1987). Paternal participation and children's well-being after marital dissolution. American Sociological Review 52, 695-701.

Fact: "The regularity and predictability of visits is more important than frequency of visits."

CUSTODY AND ACCESS: AN N.A.W.L. BRIEF to the Special Joint Committee on Child Custody and Access, March 1998, citing to M.B. Isaacs, B. Montalvo, and D. Abelsohn, The Difficult Divorce: Therapy for Children and Families. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1986, p. 273; Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children A Decade after Divorce. New York, NY: Ticknor and Fields, 1989, p. 238.

Fact: The well-being of children following divorce is not related to contact between the child and a nonresidential parent who also was not the historical primary caregiver ("father").

Nicholas Zill, in The Impact of Divorce, Single-parenting, and Stepparenting on Children, E. M. Hetherington and J. Arasteh (eds.) (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Hillsdale, NJ, 1988).

"I must qualify this assertion by noting that if ever there were a father rather than a mother who was the primary caregiver for the children, there would likely be severe consequences to terminating the relationship." Peter G. Jaffe, David A. Wolf, and Susan K. Wilson, Children of Battered Women (Sage, 1990), p. 21.

Fact: "Contrary to the researchers' hypotheses, the study results indicate that children in joint custody arrangements exhibit less support and affection toward their parents than children in sole custody.  Also, custody type had no significant effect on parent-to-child support and affection.  Consistent with the researchers' hypotheses, the results also suggested that when parents have frequent disagreements, the parent-child relationship also experiences high levels of disagreement.  The authors discuss the unexpected findings and conclude that more research is needed before joint custody arrangements are definitively deemed beneficial for children."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Donnelly, Denise and David Finkelhor. 1992. "Does Equality in Custody Arrangement Improve the Parent-Child Relationship?" Journal of Marriage and the Family 54(4): 837-845.

Fact: "[W]e found that children's contact with non-custodial fathers was higher when parents were well educated, older, and earned a high income.  We also found that the marriage of the mother was related to lower contact.  Furthermore, contact was positively related to interparental conflict, which suggests that contact provides opportunities for conflict to occur...Policy makers and practitioners who work with divorced families should consider the possibility that maintaining or increasing the level of contact between non-resident parents and children may not always be in children's best interest."

Amato, Paul R., Contact With Non-custodial Fathers and Children's Wellbeing, "Family Matters", No. 36, Dec, pp. 32-34, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne, Australia

Myth -- Joint custody arrangements are beneficial to parents. 

Fact: "[J]oint custody parents... reported the lowest satisfaction with the legal agreement one year after the child custody order."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Pearson, J., and N. Thoennes. 1990. "Custody After Divorce: Demographic and Attitudinal Patterns." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60(2): 233-249.

Fact: "[F]amilies with joint custody-joint residential arrangements had parents with the highest education and household income levels at the time of separation compared to families with other custody types... these findings reflect the higher financial cost of maintaining two residences for children and the more flexible work schedules of high-earning parents.  Most parents with joint custody-joint residential arrangements (70 percent) also had only one child, compared to about one-third to one-half of parents with other custody arrangements.  As far as the effect of custody type on parental cooperation after divorce, the authors found that most parents opting for joint custody, and particularly joint residential arrangements, were relatively friendly and cooperative before and after divorce and thus concluded that postdivorce relationships were a reflection of predivorce characteristics, not the type of custody arrangement."

Ibid., citing Pearson, J., and N. Thoennes. 1990. "Custody After Divorce: Demographic and Attitudinal Patterns." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 60(2): 233-249.

Myth -- Joint custody forces parents to learn to cooperate.

Fact: "In a large California study, Maccoby and Mnookin (1992) found that joint custody is sometimes used to resolve custody disputes.  They found that joint custody was awarded in about one-third of cases in which mothers and fathers had each sought sole custody.  And the more legal conflict that occurred between parents, the more likely joint custody was to be awarded.  Three and one-half years after separation, these couples were experiencing considerably more conflict and less co-operative parenting than were couples for whom joint custody was the first choice of each parent."

Amato, Paul R., Contact With Non-custodial Fathers and Children's Wellbeing, "Family Matters", No. 36, Dec, pp. 32-34, Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne, Australia

[liznote: and it wasn't any bed of roses for the parents who freely chose it, either.]

Fact: "Abusive men typically attempt to continue controlling their ex-partners after separation and often use their children as pawns to maintain that power and control."

Jane Vock, Petra Elliot and Valeria Sprionello, "From Child Witnesses to Pawns: Post Separation Tactics of Abusive Ex-Partners," June 1997.

Myth -- Children of unwed teenage mothers do better when they have more involved fathers. 

Fact: "Also examined was whether the history of father involvement up to 1984 had any effect on youths' well-being in 1987.  Indicators of well-being include measures of educational and employment attainment, whether or not the adolescent had a child before age 19, whether the adolescent had spent time in jail, and signs of depression.  The presence of fathers at home and regular contact with fathers was found to have little to no effect on these well-being outcome measures in the bivariate analyses."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Furstenberg, F.F. and K.M. Harris. 1993. "When and why Fathers Matter: Impacts of Father Involvement on the Children of Adolescent Mothers." in Young Unwed Fathers: Changing Roles and Emerging Policies, R.I. Lerman and T.J. Ooms (Eds.) pp.117-138.

Fact: "[T]he mere presence of a father in one's life, here operationalized by adolescents' own identification of someone who fulfilled a father role, was not linked to girls' well-being. This finding replicates past research and reinforces numerous calls in the literature (Coley, 2001; Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000) to move the study of father involvement past the basic level of presence/absence into more detailed investigations."

Rebekah Levine Coley (2003) Daughter-Father Relationships and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income African American Families Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (4), 867-875.

Myth -- Children do better when their biological fathers are involved with them, rather than another kind of "father figure." 

Fact: "In contrast with theoretical arguments suggesting that biological father involvement is better for children than social father involvement, the results from this analysis suggest that both are equally beneficial for the well-being of young children... [but] it is difficult to determine the direction of causality... rather than father involvement improving child well-being, fathers may simply prefer to be more involved with children who are already well-behaved and healthy."

      Sharon H. Bzostek, Social Fathers and Child Well-Being, Journal of Marriage and Family, Volume 70, Issue 4 (p 950-961) (2008)

Fact: "Contrary to the additive hypothesis that adolescents would be best off when they enjoyed close ties to both stepfathers and nonresident fathers, results show that having a close tie to one's stepfather only is nearly as beneficial as having close ties to both fathers... Having close ties only to a nonresident father is not as beneficial as having close ties to both fathers in terms of externalizing and internalizing problems, although it is for avoiding failing grades. Of the five competing hypotheses considered, the evidence most strongly supports the primacy of residence hypothesis... [A]lthough it is certainly possible to have close bonds with two fathers, the majority of U.S. adolescents are not in this situation. Further, when adolescents have two fathers, they are more likely to be closer to their stepfathers than to their nonresident fathers... In terms of the adolescent outcomes examined, having a close tie only to a stepfather is nearly as beneficial as having close ties to both fathers... The advantages of a close tie only to the nonresident father are less apparent."

Valarie King (2006) The Antecedents and Consequences of Adolescents' Relationships With Stepfathers and Nonresident Fathers Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (4), 910-928.

Fact: "We expected that biological fathers would demonstrate higher quality parenting practices than social fathers. For the most part, however, we do not find this to be the case... Most notably, social fathers (overall) engage in higher levels of cooperation in parenting than biological fathers... findings provide little support for theoretical perspectives linking biology to father involvement."

      Lawrence M. Berger, Marcia J. Carlson, Sharon H. Bzostek, Cynthia Osborne, Parenting Practices of Resident Fathers: The Role of Marital and Biological Ties, Journal of Marriage and Family Volume 70 Issue 3, Pages 625 - 639 (2008)

Fact: "[T]he various patterns of coresidence did not differ from the children in intact families on the outcome measures, suggesting that during the initial adjustment period after marital dissolution, the absence of a father-figure or the presence of biological-father-substitutes appear to have no influence on most children's intellectual or psychosocial functioning."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Hawkins, Alan J. and David J. Eggebeen. 1991. "Are Fathers Fungible? Patterns of Coresident Adult Men in Maritally Disrupted Families and Young Children's Well-being." Journal of Marriage and the Family 53(4): 958-972.

Fact: "[S]tudy attempted to determine whether biological father presence made a difference in children's cognitive ability or behavioral adjustment and sought to find how many of the effects of father presence were explicable by referring to background or indirect effects such as economic provision... when maternal characteristics and family resources were controlled for, almost all of the impacts of father presence disappeared... almost all of the father's impact on the family is related to economic support."

Crockett, L. J., Eggebeen, D. J., & Hawkins, A. J. (1993). Father's presence and young children's behavioral and cognitive adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 14 (3), 355-377.

Fact: "The data come from 2,531 children and their parents who were interviewed during the 1997 wave of the Child Development Supplement to the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Biology explains less of father involvement than anticipated once differences between fathers are controlled. Marriage continues to differentiate paternal investment levels, as do age of child and financial responsibility to nonresidential children."

Sandra L. Hofferth, Kermyt G. Anderson (2003) Are All Dads Equal? Biology Versus Marriage as a Basis for Paternal Investment Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (1), 213-232.

Also see: Wendy D Manning, Pamela J Smock (2000) "Swapping" Families: Serial Parenting and Economic Support for Children Journal of Marriage and Family 62 (1), 111-122. ("...our findings indicate that fathers do swap families but only when the trade-off is between new biological children living inside fathers' households and existing biological children living outside fathers' households. Even though our analytic sample is small, our findings have important implications for child well-being, child-support policy, and the meaning of fatherhood.")

Myth --  Who is "family" is based on biological ties.

Fact: "Family membership and parentage appear to be at least partially socially constructed, not based solely on biology or law, as structuralists would suggest... adult children did not perceive their stepmothers to be more fully family and parents than stepfathers... When current and former stepparents had coresided with adult children, they were perceived more fully as family and parent... No other study that we know of has examined this relationship before; it is generally assumed that once stepparents and biological parents divorce, relationships with stepchildren are dissolved. This research shows that this is not necessarily the case. This finding has important theoretical and policy implications. It is inconsistent with the argument that family structure is the driving force behind family function (Popenoe, 1999). Although structural factors were significant, associational factors were also important... "

Maria Schmeeckle, Roseann Giarrusso, Du Feng, Vern L Bengtson (2006) What Makes Someone Family? Adult Children's Perceptions of Current and Former Stepparents Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (3), 595?610.

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

Fact: The marriage of unwed teenage parents "increases the chances that additional pregnancies will occur; as a result, educational attainment and employment earnings suffer, and marital conflict and dissatisfaction are probable."

Jordan. Will J., NATIONAL CENTER ON FATHERS AND FAMILIES, Role Transitions: A Review of the Literature, University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, 3700 Walnut Street, Box 58 Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216, 8/25/97

Myth -- Getting unwed fathers involved with their children will increase marriages to their children's mothers.

Fact: Nonresident fathers who are involved with their children are more likely to marry other women. "The positive association between nonresident children and men's union formation is not uniform; instead, we find that it is involvement with nonresident children, specifically visitation, that enhances men's chances of forming new unions. Whereas women's obligations to children from prior unions represent a resource drain that lowers their chances of union formation, our analysis suggests that involved nonresident fathers are more likely to enter subsequent unions than other men."

Susan D. Stewart, Wendy D. Manning, Pamela J. Smock (2003) Union Formation Among Men in the U.S.: Does Having Prior Children Matter? Journal of Marriage and Family 65 (1), 90-104.

Myth -- Joint custody awards increase the amount of child support compliance by fathers.

Fact: Fewer child support awards are ordered in joint physical custody cases; there is a greater income differential between fathers' households and mothers' households post-divorce in joint custody situations than in sole custody situations; and fathers with joint custody are more likely to have higher incomes relative to their ex-wives than fathers in situations of maternal custody.

Maccoby, E. E., & Mnookin, R. H. (1992). DIVIDING THE CHILD: SOCIAL AND LEGAL DILEMMAS OF CUSTODY. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Fact: "The authors conclude that because their sample of joint custody arrangements included relatively wealthy families with fewer children and cooperative relationships at the time of divorce, the findings cannot support increased imposition of joint custody arrangements."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Pearson, J. and N. Thoennes. 1988. "Supporting Children After Divorce: The Influence of Custody on Support Levels and Payments." Family Law Quarterly, 22(3): 319-339.

Myth -- Fathers who are are present at the births of their children and involved during infancy are more likely to be more involved in subsequent years.

Fact: "[T]here is no evidence that strongly suggests that bonding occurs as a result of a father's early history with his infant."

Palkovitz, R. (1985). Fathers' birth attendance, early contact, and extended contact with their newborns: A critical review. Child Development, 56 (2), 392-406.

Myth -- Fathers who live with their children experience greater life satisfaction, less depression, and better health, and are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol.

Fact: "[O]nce a number of controls were entered, especially marital status, these effects of fatherhood largely disappear[ed]. The two exceptions [were] that men with children living elsewhere remain[ed] somewhat more likely to have depressive symptoms than men who [were] currently living with their children, and men with older children [were] slightly more satisfied. For the most part, however, fatherhood does not appear to be independently associated with psychological and physical health."

Eggebeen, David J. and Chris Knoester, DOES FATHERHOOD MATTER FOR MEN, Presented at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, Los Angeles, CA, March, 2000.

Fact: (And correlation doesn't indicate causation anyway.)

Myth -- Adolescents (particularly girls) are significantly less likely to engage in premarital sex if they have a father living in the home. 

Fact: "Growing up in single-parent, step-, cohabiting, or lesbian families has been suggested to have negative effects on adolescent sexual behavior. However, our analysis reveals that, with the exception of girls in single-parent families, family structure does not significantly influence adolescents' sexual initiation. Rather, the family context -- more specifically the mother-child relationship, their level of interaction, and the mother's attitudes toward and discussion of sex -- is associated with adolescent sexual debut. When looking at sexually active teenagers, neither family structure nor family context have an impact on the sexual partnerships of boys, and they explain little in terms of girl's sexual partnering."

Erin Calhoun Davis, Lisa V Friel (2001) Adolescent Sexuality: Disentangling the Effects of Family Structure and Family Context Journal of Marriage and Family 63 (3), 669-681.

Fact: "Those subjects who reported unwanted sexual experiences rated their fathers' and mothers' views of women as significantly more traditional than subjects who had not reported such experiences. These data suggest that parents' attitudes about gender roles may be related to vulnerability and lead to unwanted sexual experiences."

Neal, Cynthia J. and Michael W. Mangis, "Unwanted Sexual Experiences Among Christian College Women: Saying No on the Inside," Wheaton College

Myth -- Father-absence causes children, especially girls, to start having sex at younger ages.

Fact: It's genetic. These families are nonrandomly selected for earlier sexual activity. "Children raised without a biological father in the household have earlier average ages of first sexual intercourse than children raised in father-present households. Competing theoretical perspectives have attributed this either to effects of father absence on socialization and physical maturation or to nonrandom selection of children predisposed for early sexual intercourse into father-absent households. Genetically informative analyses of the children of sister dyads (N = 1,382, aged 14-21 years) support the selection hypothesis: This association seems attributable to confounded risks, most likely genetic in origin, which correlated both with likelihood of father absence and early sexual behavior. This holds implications for environmental theories of maturation and suggests that previous research may have inadvertently overestimated the role of family structure in reproductive maturation."

Jane Mendle et al., Associations Between Father Absence and Age of First Sexual Intercourse, Child Development Volume 80 Issue 5, Pages 1463 - 1480 (2009).

Propaganda -- Girls 15-19 raised in homes with fathers are significantly less likely to engage in premarital sex. 

Fact: Girls 15-19 raised in homes with fathers are significantly more likely to become married as teenagers and to not complete college.  In 1958 more teenage girls gave birth than in 1998.  The only difference was that in 1958, most were married.  (Where they getting married so young to make up for a lack of male attention?)  The teen birth rate is now at its lowest point in half a century!

The National Center for Health Statistics, see

Fact: "Teenagers now account for 31% of all non-marital births, this number has decreased from 50% in 1970."

"Child Trends." see

Fact: "[O]ur findings indicate that the primary predictors of early intercourse among European American, predominantly rural teenagers are age, opportunity (steady dating), sexually permissive attitudes, association with delinquent peers, and alcohol use. Although other factors may have minor influences... the consequential predictors are opportunity, attitudes that fit societal views of sexuality... and other adult-like behaviors."

Les B Whitbeck; Kevin A Yoder; Dan R Hoyt; Rand D Conger; Early adolescent sexual activity: A developmental study Journal of Marriage and the Family; Minneapolis; Nov 1999

Myth -- There has been a large increase in the percentages of children now living in single father households. 

Fact: "The Current Population Survey overestimates the proportion of children living in father-only families, because it identifies many cohabitating biological parent couples as father-only. Though the precise size of the overestimate is not known, analyses of the 1993 Survey of Income and Program Participation indicates that a little over two percent of all children actually lived in father-only families in that year."

Note 6, U.S. government census statistics 1998; DHHS, "Percentage Distribution of Children in United States by Number of Parents in Household, see Family Structure,

Myth -- Divorce causes academic and behavioral problems in children.

Fact: "Andrew Cherlin and his colleagues studied random samples of over 11,000 children in Great Britain and over 2,200 children in the U.S., using information gathered on parents' and teachers' reports of behavioral problems and the children's reading and math scores. They statistically controlled for the children's social class, race, the children's early behavioral and test scores, and factors such as physical, mental, and emotional handicaps as assessed by physicians.  After controlling for those factors, boys of divorced parents scored as high as boys from intact couples on the behavioral and academic tests.  For girls , there was a small residual effect, apparently caused by the divorce itself, on their parents' and teachers' ratings of their behavioral problems.

"This work implies that most of the problems we see in children of divorced parents are due to long-standing psychological problems of the parents, the stresses of poverty and racism, disabilities the children themselves suffer, and so on."

Mahony, Rhona, Divorce, Nontraditional Families, and Its Consequences for Children,, citing to Cherlin, et al., Science, 1991, June 7, 252 (5011), pp.1386-89

Myth -- High father involvement post-divorce increases children's academic performance.

Fact: "Children of divorced homes with high grade point averages have mothers with a lower level of depression, a higher educational level, less conflict with their ex-spouse, and less intense levels of conflict between mother and child than those children with lower grade point averages."

McCombs, A., & Forehand, R. (1989). Adolescent school performance following parental divorce: Are there family factors which can enhance success? Adolescence, 24, 871-880.

Myth -- Adolescents from single father households do better academically than those from single mother households. 

Fact: There is little established long-term difference, except that adolescents from single father households are judged by teachers to be less well behaved and to show less effort in class.  They also score slightly less than their single-mother counterparts on standardized tests, both verbal and math, and are perceived to be less academically qualified for college.  Children raised by single fathers attain on average six months less education.

Downey, D. B., Ainsworth-Darnell, J. W., & Dufur, M. J. (1998). Sex of parent and children's well-being in single-parent households. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60(4), 878-893

Myth -- The damage from the rise in single mother households is reflected in lower SAT scores of U.S. students over the past decades. Danial Amneus and Father's Manifesto

Fact: "U.S. high school students who took the SAT in 1999-2000 posted the highest math scores since 1969... The fact that math scores have been regularly increasing and that verbal scores have remained constant despite the ever-broadening population taking the test suggests that those who claim that schools are in crisis in the United States are not telling the truth."

Figures from College Entrance Examination Board, Princeton, NJ. Article 08/30/2000 BOSTON GLOBE A01,

Myth -- The most important factor in child well-being is the quality of the parent-child relationship. 

Fact: "[A] seven-year study by Dallas's Timberlawn Psychiatric Institute found the one factor that was the most important in helping children become healthy, happy adults, was the quality of [the parent-parent relationship]."

liznotes, quoting from The Family Law Commentator, Vol.XX, No 3, l994, by H. Schleifler, M. A., LMHC

Fact: "The strongest single factor associated with resiliency in early years is social attachment to a primary caregiver.  There is considerable evidence linking secure attachment to social and academic competence and positive developmental outcomes, such as improved communication, problem-solving, social relationships and grades."


Fact: "The single most important determinant of child well-being after divorce is living in a household with adequate income."

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,

Myth -- Enforcing child support will increase beneficial father involvement.

Fact: "The positive effect of the amount of child support payments on conflict supports concern that strict enforcement of child support may increase children's exposure to conflict between parents... [P]olicy makers must consider the potential harm to children's well-being of increased exposure to conflict against the benefits of increasing fathers' child support contributions, and hence children's economic security."

Seltzer, Judith A., Sara McLanahan and Thomas L. Hanson, "Will Child Support Enforcement Increase Father-Child Contact and Parental Conflict after Separation?" NETWORK ON THE FAMILY AND THE ECONOMY

Fact: "Mothers' marital status and educational levels have more predictive value of fathers' role assessments after divorce than compliance with child support or direct parenting involvement."

Seltzer, J., & Bianchi, S. (1988). Children's contact with absent parents. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 663-677.

Fact: Better enforcement of child support does not appear to affect father involvement.

Tartari, Meiissa, (2005), "Divorce and the Cognitive Achievement of Children," U. Penn.,

Myth -- Increasing noncustodial father visitation and involvement will increase child support compliance.

Fact: "[There is] no causal association between payment of child support and visitation.  Rather... the positive association between visitation and child support that has been observed in cross-sectional studies is due to unmeasured characteristics of the parents."

Christine Winquist Nord and Laura Spencer Loomis Westat, Inc., ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY: SELECTED CHILD SUPPORT ARTICLES citing Veum, Jonathan R. 1993. "The Relationship between Child Support and Visitation: Evidence from Longitudinal Data." Social Science Research 22(3): 229-244.

Propaganda -- Children growing up without a father in the home are more than twice as likely to end up in jail. 

Fact: Children growing up without a father in the home are many times more likely to have had a father who spent time in prison. That's why he was "absent". 

[Statistics suck, don't they.  In addition, according to a report in the New York Times, a study among 1,000 girls in detention in Alameda, Los Angeles, San Diego and Marin counties, revealed that 54 percent of their mothers and 46 percent of their fathers had been locked up, indicating that the greatest predictor of criminality in girls is having a parent who has been incarcerated.  (Kind of bodes against all those fatherhood programs who want to inject criminals into the life of yet more kids, doesn't it.) ]

Fact: The most significant predictor of criminality is having a parent or other close relative who exhibits anti-social behavior or has been incarcerated.

DiLalla, L. F., & Gottesman, I. I. (1989). Heterogeneity of causes for delinquency and criminality: Lifespan perspectives. Development & Psychopathology, 1 (4), 339-349.

Fact: "Taking all the evidence together, marital discord has a stronger relation with delinquency and aggression than parental absence."

Loeber, R. and Stouthamer-Loeber, M. (1986) 'Family factors as correlated and predictors of juvenile conduct problems and delinquency', in: M. Tonry and N. Morris (Eds.) Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research, Vol.7, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, p. 77-78

Comment: "The single greatest predictor of who will wind up in prison is whether his father was in prison."

Ivins, Molly, column August 30, 2000, re Bureau of Justic Statistics, commenting on the astounding growth of the Texas prison population.

Myth -- Juvenile delinquency is caused by "fatherlessness."

Fact: "Studies have shown repeatedly a consistent relationship between juvenile delinquency and large family size, marital disharmony, alcohol abuse in parents and overall social deprivation.  A consistent relationship has also been shown with delayed reading age, below average scores on intelligence and achievement tests, conduct disorder of childhood and parental aggressive behaviour."

Kelly, Mary, Bernadette Mackey, and Michael Fitzgerald, A TEN-YEAR DESCRIPTIVE FOLLOW-UP STUDY OF 50 DELINQUENT BOYS, British Journal of Clinical and Social Psychiatry,April 1999, Vol. 10 (1999) , no.1

Fact: "[As of 1999] the nation's crime rates have dropped for the seventh straight year... arrests for serious and violent crimes dropped 5.4% from last year and 12% from the previous year. In addition, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports for 1998 indicates that the reduction in crime is a national phenomenon; it is lower in every region of the United States."

Myth -- Paternity fraud is rampant; between 10 and 30 percent of children are not the biological offspring of the man who thinks they are.

Fact: "The inflated figures of between 10 and 30 per cent have their origins in some very questionable research... the most recent evidence, based upon medical records, sex surveys, DNA testing laboratories and genetic studies... suggests relatively low rates of misattributed paternity in Western countries" with figures realistically between one and 3 percent, but probably closer to one percent. Laboratories that have reported higher statistics are reporting only the percentages of the skewed populations of those being tested who already are suspicious and have reason to doubt paternity.

Gilding, Michael. Australian Research Council Discovery Grant article, People and Place, vol.13, no.2, 2005. Press release at

Myth -- Children fare worse in single parent homes.

Fact: "... the great majority of children brought up in single-parent families do well.  In particular, differences in well-being between children from divorced and those from intact families, tend, on average, to be moderate to small."

U.S. government census statistics 1998; DHHS, "Percentage Distribution of Children in United States by Number of Parents in Household, see Family Structure,

and Zill, N., Morrison, D. and Coiro, M., 1993. "Long Term Effects of Parental Divorce on Parent-Child Relationships: Adjustment and Achievement in Early Adulthood," Journal of Family Psychology, 7(1):91-103.

Fact: "Whether parents are chronically stressed or depressed often more powerfully influences a child's fate than whether there are two parents in a home or whether a family is poor."

Weissbourd, Richard. The Vulnerable Child: What Really Hurts America's Children and What We Can Do About It. Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1996

Also see: Coontz, Stephanie. The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms with America's Changing Families, New York: BasicBooks, 1997.

Myth -- "The best parent is two parents."

Fact: "Children of divorce do better when the well-being of the primary residential parent is high. Primary residential parents who are experiencing psychological, emotional, social, economic, or health difficulties may transfer these difficulties to their children and are often less able to parent effectively. Primary parents tend to function best when they have strong support networks, such as kin, friends, and support groups, and when they have residential and financial security.

Washington State Parenting Act Study, Report to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and Domestic Relations Commission, Diane N. Lye, Ph.D., June, 1999,

Fact: "Exceptionally achieving individuals in virtually every human endeavor are more likely to have lost a parent... Roe (1952a) learned from her examination of notable contemporary scientists that 15% had lost a parent by death before age 10. Broken down by field, this happened to 25% of the biologists, 13% of the physical scientists, and 9% of the social scientists. To place this figure in perspective, Roe referred to data showing that only around 6% of college students lost a parent by age 10. Roe also mentioned Bell's (1937) work on illustrious mathematicians, in which around one-quarter had lost a parent before age 10 and nearl one-third before age 14... parental loss can occur by means other than orphanhood, such as alcoholism, abandonment, and divorce..."

Scientific Genius: A Psychology of Science, by Dean Keith Simonton, Cambridge University Press (1988)

Myth -- Fathers and mothers are equally involved parents, even if in different ways.

Fact: "To the extent that we operationally define the "meaning of fatherhood" in terms of actual father involvement, fathers (both present and absent) and mothers are not equal parents.  The question, then is, how large is the discrepancy between what fathers and mothers in American society feel they should both do, and actually do?  Furthermore, there appears to be a view that these possibly immutable gender differences should not be extinguished. Therefore, is it advisable for government programs or policies to encourage a completely egalitarian or identical notion of parenthood?"

THE MEANING OF FATHERHOOD Koray Tanfer, Battelle Memorial Institute; Frank Mott, Ohio State University; Prepared for NICHD Workshop "Improving Data on Male Fertility and Family Formation" at the Urban Institute, Washington, D.C., January 16-17, 1997,

Fact: " [F]or fathers, being a good parent has more to do with the quality of their interactions with their children as well as the nature of the husband-wife relationship, rather than the actual amount of time fathers spend with their children."

Parke, R. D. (1996). Fatherhood: Myths and realities. In Fatherhood (pp. 1-16). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Propaganda in action -- Seventy percent of men currently incarcerated in prison grew up in a "fatherless home." 

Fact: Seventy percent of men currently incarcerated in prison also are not "caucasion."  (Would you also be implying that there is some kind of cause-and-effect relationship between skin color and proclivity for law-breaking? Or is it only politically correct these days to to bash women?)

Bureau of Justice Statistics 1994, Corrections Compendium, and The Sentencing Project.

Myth -- The father's rights movement is about interest in caring for children; thus it favors joint custody and "shared responsibility." 

Fact: "A Canadian study of fathers' rights groups found that members of these groups expected mothers [or others] to assume primary responsibility for children, whereas fathers spoke of 'helping.'  Not one father in the study talked about wanting to have the responsibility of the everyday care of his children."

The FREDA Centre for Research on Violence against Women and Children, Myths and Realities of Custody and Access compiled by: Margaret Denike, Vancouver Association of Women and the Law Agnes Huang, Vancouver Status of Women Patricia Kachuk, FREDA Centre, June 1998, citing Bertoia, Carl and Janice Drakich, "The Fathers' Rights Movement: Contradictions in Rhetoric and Practice," Journal of Family Issues, 14, 1993.

Fact: "Shared responsibility" is a euphemism for men's rights.  While the most misogynistic branches of the father's rights movement state outright that they favor male control and father-only custody in the hopes that this will turn the clock back on women's independence (e.g. by helping to entrap women in marriages that are otherwise broken), much of the movement prefers to publicly posture in favor of the more palatable and misleading rhetoric of "shared parenting," i.e. joint custody, as a ruse to accomplish this end more indirectly, as well as to reduce or eliminate the foundations for child support payments.  Ironically, frequently-quoted father's rights ideologue David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America and an originator of the National Fatherhood Initiative, actually has said -- in agreement with liz -- "to help remove child custody as a bargaining chip for divorcing couples, legislatures should adopt the 'primary caretaker' rule: a presumption in favor of granting custody to the parent who is already providing most of the day-to-day child care."

liznotes,  See, for quote, Blankenhorn, Family Affairs, Winter 1994

Fact: "Men's perceptions of the divorcing procedure and postdivorce familial arrangement leave them feeling hurt, confused, vulnerable, and insecure. The men then turn to established constructions of masculinity to subdue these feelings and to redefine their position as one of lost legal rights rather than emotional trauma.  In general, these efforts center around the relationship with the former wife, suggesting that the thrust of divorced men's identity establishment is focused on resistance and revenge."

Arendell, T. (1995). From abstract re former spousal relations: "War without end." In Fathers and divorce (pp. 111-140). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Myth -- A father's most important role is "fathering" his children. 

Fact: A father's most important role, and the one common "father factor" in all research that indicates any correlation between father involvement or presence and positive effect on child well-being is: a father who emotionally cares for, financially supports, respects, is involved with, takes some of the work load off of, and generally makes life easier, happier and less stressful for. . . his children's mother.


"The best thing a dad can do for his children is love their mother." -- NATIONAL FATHERHOOD INITIATIVE PROGRAM -

See, e.g., Parish, Thomas S. and James R. Necessary. "Parents' Actions: Are They Related to Children's Self-Concepts, Evaluations of Parents, and to Each Other?" Adolescence 29.116 (Winter 1994): 943-947. "[A] seven-year study by Dallas's Timberlawn Psychiatric Institute found the one factor that was the most important in helping children become healthy, happy adults, was the quality of the relationship between their parents. This one factor was more important than giving kids hugs, providing good discipline, building their self esteem, or any other aspect of what is traditionally considered 'good parenting'." -- from article in The Family Law Commentator, Vol.XX, No 3, l994, by H. Schleifler, M. A., LMHC

"...the warmer, the richer, the more supportive the relationship he has with the mother, the better he is able to be a supportive and loving father for the child." -- Michael Lamb, May 2004 interview about his book "The Role of Fathers in Child Development".

Comment: "[The] tendency give more attention and weight to data that supports our preconceptions and beliefs than we do to contrary data is especially pernicious when our preconceptions and beliefs are little more than prejudices.  If our beliefs are firmly established upon solid evidence and valid confirmatory experiments, the tendency to give more attention and weight to data that fits with our beliefs should not lead us astray as a rule.  Of course, if we become blinded to evidence truly refuting a favored hypothesis, we have crossed the line from reasonableness to closed-mindedness.

Carroll, Robert Todd, THE SKEPTIC'S DICTIONARY, 1998,; also see Evans, B. Bias in Human Reasoning: Causes and Consequences (Psychology Press, 1990); Gilovich, Thomas. How We Know What Isn't' So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (New York: The Free Press, 1993); Gould, Stephen Jay. The Flamingo's Smile(New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1987).

Also see liznotes on
(there IS no "fatherlessness problem")



CALLS FOR STATUTORY REFORM, by The Honorable Chris W. Alterbernd
Florida State University Law Review

by Michael Flood, Research Fellow, The Australia Institute

The Deliberate Construction of
by Nancy D. Polikoff

also consider:
"[T]he belief that a child can have several fathers (a phenomenon called partible paternity) is quite common, says anthropologist Stephen Beckerman of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. About 24% of the Barí children and 63% of the Aché children had more than one cultural "father," and all of the fathers offered the children food gifts and protection. Such children had a survival advantage, Beckerman reports, noting that "80% of the children with secondary fathers survived to age 15, compared to only 64% of the children with a single father." Thus, "partible paternity is a poke in the eye for the bargain hypothesis."

Implications for Infant Placement Decisions
by Eleanor Willemsen and Kristen Marcel

by Terry Arendell

"... Just add Dad, the magic ingredient.

It's hard to know where wishful thinking becomes deliberate deception. But this argument, advanced by the fathers' rights movement, is like saying that, since Mercedes Benz owners make more money than people who drive Hyundais, you will become wealthy if you buy a Mercedes..."

-- Mike Peterson


No comments: