Jewish World Review July 22, 1999 /9 Av, 5759
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- EVER SINCE SIGMUND FREUD declared that all young boys secretly wanted to kill their fathers and marry their mothers, the psychiatric community has been waging war on parents.
Fathers were either overbearing autocrats or pusillanimous Milquetoasts. Mothers either clung too closely to their offspring or rejected them outright. As a result, parents were responsible for every psychiatric disorder from autism to schizophrenia.
The latest salvo in the war against parents comes from two psychologists in an article entitled "Deconstructing the Essential Father," in the June issue of "American Psychologist," the official journal of the American Psychological Association. But this time, rather than simply blaming individual mothers and fathers for their children's unhappiness, professors Louise B. Silverstein and Carl P. Auerbach argue that moms and dads as a group are largely irrelevant.
And most insignificant of all to children's well-being, say the two researchers, is whether moms and dads are married to each other.
Silverstein and Auerbach wrote their article in response to the work of two prominent advocates, David Blankenhorn, author of "Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problems," and David Popenoe, author of "Life Without Father," both of whom argue that fathers play an essential role in the children's lives and that children do best when raised by two parents in a married couple household.
Silverstein and Auerbach dub this the "neo- conservative essentialist" position.
"In contrast to the neoconservative perspective, our data on gay fathering couples have convinced us that neither mother nor father is essential," say the two researchers. They concede that kids do need some "responsible, care- taking" adult, but they say "one, none, or both of these adults could be a father (or mother)." What's more, they don't believe "that heterosexual marriage is the social context in which responsible fathering is most likely to occur."
And what is their evidence?
In addition to their own studies, involving all of 200 men from what they describe as 10 different subcultures, they've looked at research on the "fathering" practices of small, South American monkeys called marmosets, a number of studies of the parenting practices of gay and lesbian couples, and several on the children of divorced parents. Silverstein's and Auerbach's attack on the traditional family would be almost laughable if it weren't part of a larger assault by the social science establishment. For decades now, these folks have been battering the two-parent family as a patriarchal anachronism.
Silverstein and Auerbach readily acknowledge that "our reading of the scientific literature supports our political agenda," but then so, they claim, does the neo-conservatives' approach. The difference, of course, is that the neo- conservative agenda, which advocates the traditional role of mothers and fathers joined in lifelong commitment, is one rooted in literally thousands of years of human experience across different cultures.
Since the dawn of time, human females have relied on the help and support of males to provide for the needs of their young children. The monogamous, nuclear family may have emerged later in human history, and examples of polygamous societies still exist, but virtually no society has ever accepted as normal the situation that exists in many modern American inner cities today: a majority of babies born to single women who raise them without any support or help from the babies' fathers.
At a time when marriage is at an historic low, when one out of every three American children is born out of wedlock, and when most children can expect to spend some of their childhood living apart from at least one of their parents, you would think psychologists would be concerned about the long-term consequences of these trends. Instead, all too many practitioners and researchers have decided to rationalize the status quo. Worse, researchers like Silverstein and Auerbach clearly want to hasten the demise of the married-couple, two-parent family, while claiming that children won't suffer.
The real casualties in this war on parents won't
be mothers and fathers but
07/13/99: Does motivation matter in murder?