Tuesday

Say What, Michael Lamb?: Two Parents Not Required

The following article has my commentary inserted within. I am utilizing it because Michael Lamb was a long time fathers' right researcher, or at least fathers' rightsters seemed to cite his research frequently. But at some point, it appears that Lamb fell off their bandwagon. I wonder what they call him now: a feminist pansy?

Single moms' sons can succeed, new research shows

By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Conventional wisdom is that boys who grow up without fathers are at greater risk of problems, from doing poorly in school to substance abuse.
And people should probably pick up some books on the subject of "conventional wisdom" and see how ignorant it can be...and how it changes like the wind. In fact, blaming conventional wisdom is short-sighted. We have been brainwashed as a nation, by a campaign, to believe that father-absence is pathological. Think about it: from t.v. shows to print...from profiling serial killers to teenage delinquents...from social science doctrine to Christianity--all which amazingly is entangled in groups like Fathers and Families.
So how does that account for the high-profile successes of standouts such as presidential candidate Barack Obama, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps and others who were reared by single mothers?

Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, tonight will accept the Democratic presidential nomination. Phelps just won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics. They — as well as Tour de France-winning cyclist Lance Armstrong, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and actor Benjamin Bratt — are just some of the accomplished men who grew up in single-parent households for most or all of their youth.
Notice, in this article, they only cite two individuals, Obama and Phelps--as if this were some type of new age idea that single mothers could produce successful sons. There are countless others. See here and even this list is limited to those who are famous or household names. Is celebrity status the only thing that defines success?
For decades, researchers have said children from two-parent families do better than those raised by a single parent. That's still true, they say. But newer research pokes holes into that all-or-nothing approach, says fatherhood expert Michael Lamb, a psychology professor at the University of Cambridge in England.
This is the propaganda I'm referring to. As long as this two-parent research has been out there have been studies explaining that it isn't that simple: Children do better when they have a combination of factors present, which is not exclusive of a two-parent household. Not two mention that this old research really doesn't mean any two parents: They mean a woman--the biological mother, and a man--the biological father, married and living together...It really is that specific. No other familial arrangement counts!
"The key point is yes, there is a risk," he says. "But it's not really a risk inherent in the single-parent family, per se. You can't assume that every child raised by a single parent is going to have difficulties. The majority don't."
Aha! Just as you cannot assume that a two-parent household is inherently better.
Lamb says that decades ago, researchers were concerned about risks to children, and "their concerns were driven by a lot of cultural assumptions, which led them to propose kids are better off in the traditional family."
Cultural assumptions...social engineering, racism, classism, sexism....same pot.
"The evidence, on the whole, hasn't supported that, but the beliefs have persisted in society," he says.

Another expert on fatherhood, sociologist Tim Biblarz of the University of Southern California-Los Angeles, says the evidence shows economics plays a significant role in the risk for negative outcomes, such as poorer grades and lower educational attainment, substance abuse or poor social adjustment.

"Those who grow up with single mothers with adequate socioeconomic resources tend to do well. The children of poor single mothers are more at risk," Biblarz says. "Many of the results that say that kids are at increased risk for negative outcomes have to do with economics."
Yes. And yet the government (Department of Health and Human Services) continues to dole out money in the millions for researchers to look for the answers...instead of doling out millions to go to the direct support of these low-income families (which equals single women with children).
According to the most recent data for 2007 from the U.S. Census, 8.4 million boys under 18 were living with a single mother. That's 22% of all boys in that age group in the USA.

Lamb says children do better if they have a good relationship with the in-home parent, as well as if the parents have low conflict; if the parent has economic resources; and if children have individual resilience to adverse circumstances.

"What's important is not whether they are raised by one or two parents. It's how good is the relationship with the parent, how much support they're getting from that parent and how harmonious is the environment.
But our government and court system would rather the children have half-assed relationships with both parents who are in "high conflict" because maybe, two half attachments is like one whole one. Just like two homes are better than one!!
"In the case of Obama, his mother was not particularly well off, though she was well-resourced intellectually and had been to college and had supportive parents," Lamb says.
So yeah, take that and compare it to a mother living in the hood with barely enough money to put food on the table, and no extended family to help her. The Marriage Initiatives folk will tell this mother to marry her babydaddy. Problem solved!
Michael Kimmel, a sociologist and gender studies expert at Stony Brook University in New York, says the resident parent has a huge effect.

"We see constantly children of single-parent families who thrive because the parents are so devoted because they're compensating for the absence of the other parent," he says.
Okay, there is still something wrong with this view. How about the mom isn't compensating for the "other parent"...she is just parenting. Furthermore, you can't compensate for something that never existed.
But Biblarz says the idea "that boys in particular need fathers in the way girls need mothers" doesn't hold true.

"I can tell you there's almost no evidence supporting that," he says. "For a variety of reasons, children who grow up with single fathers, for example, are at higher risk than those who grow up with single mothers for either sex."
But that doesn't stop Fathers and Families, and like groups (especially religious ones) from repeating their mantras.
In the case of swimmer Phelps, mothers such as Debbie Phelps have the right approach, says Peggy Drexler, author of the 2005 book Raising Boys Without Men.

"Phelps was born with a gift that his mother nurtured," says Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology at Cornell University's Weill Medical College in New York City.

Such mothers "don't hold them back," she says. "They encourage their talents, and drive and encourage independence and a sense of adventure."
And that's what mothers do...when they have the resources.