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The Rise of Father Absence and Its Attendant Social Ills

Fatherless children are at higher risk of delinquency that undermines their own prospects and disrupts the communities in which they reside.

· 12 min read
The Rise of Father Absence and Its Attendant Social Ills
Photo by Katherine Chase / Unsplash

Men’s investment in their children is one of the most remarkable features of the human family. Such investment might not seem unusual to readers with engaged fathers, and it might seem wanting in comparison to mothers’ investment, but it is an evolutionary riddle, nonetheless. This is because male parenting is uncommon in mammals, and doesn’t occur at all in our two closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. Although the evolutionary history of men’s parenting lies beyond the scope of this essay, one aspect is relevant: men’s parenting is facultatively expressed. This means that men’s engagement with children is more sensitive than women’s engagement to the dynamics of the marital relationship and to broader social and economic conditions. The result is that social mores and broader conditions impact men’s engagement with children more than they impact women’s engagement, for better or worse.

The focus here is on secular declines in two-parent families in the United States and how children, adolescents, and society more broadly are impacted by the corresponding declines in men’s parenting. The issue is important because children who grow up without fathers are at higher risk of engaging in myriad delinquent and criminal behaviors that undermine their own long-term prospects in life, and disrupt the wellbeing of the communities in which they reside.

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