Go Ahead. Make My Father’s Day.

What better preparation for the arbitrary holiday celebrating fathers could there be than to goad readers into explaining why fathers don’t matter? Or, more specifically, why children don’t need mothers and fathers. The Wall Street Journal offers the opportunity:

A growing body of research offers new insight. Fathers can have a distinct impact on children beyond that of mothers, and in many cases without regard to the fact that they often spend less time with their kids, researchers say. Specifically, dads’ early play and the way they talk to their toddlers are emerging as special “father functions” that have a particular and lasting effect. …
… men have a tendency to behave differently with children. … Fathers tend to engage kids in more rough-and-tumble play, for example. Researchers say this can have a powerful positive impact on children, fostering curiosity and teaching them to regulate emotion and enjoy surprises. …
A 2004 study by Catherine Tamis-LeMonda at New York University and others found a link between fathers’ warm, stimulating play with their 2-year-olds and better language and cognitive skills in the children a year later, independent of mothers’ behavior. The effect endures into adolescence. Dads who play with toddlers in stimulating and encouraging ways tend to have children with healthier relationships at age 16, surpassing mothers’ effect, says a 2002 study in the journal Social Development.
… Dads also tend to handle misbehavior differently, stressing real-world consequences. Where moms might say, “If you misbehave you’re in trouble with me,” dads more typically say, “Knock it off…nobody will like you, you’ll never get a job” if you behave that way, Dr. Pruett says. Such fathering may reduce teen delinquency. In a 2006 study led by Jacinta Bronte-Tinkew of Child Trends in Washington, D.C., close, supportive fathering was linked to less teen risk-taking and delinquency.

There’s more detail in the article, as well as in the accompanying video, in which the article’s author offers the following salient advice to fathers:

Take good care of your marriage. Study after study shows that strong marriages yield less depressed mothers, more positive parenting, and in the long run children who do better.

Those who don’t believe that children deserve to be raised by their own mothers and fathers typically have a variety of responses. Some simply decline to believe that the extent to which one can generalize about such things is sufficient to stand as evidence in constructing public policy. Some focus on other family types and assume some damage to them if society upholds a different ideal. Some declare that preferences against discrimination override all other considerations.
But history proves — even families within the scope of every single American’s acquaintance prove — that the ideal of a mother and a father living their entire lives in faithful bonds of matrimony and shared parenthood is feasible. Studies show that it is desirable. Plain ol’ rational thought brings understanding, if one takes a few steps away from the cult of homogenizing equivocation, that having a model of the ideal is healthy even for families of different forms. Why must we pretend that there is no ideal? Can it be healthy for a society to behave as if privileging one type of relationship is demeaning to all others? How can it be invidious discrimination to insist that there be room to differentiate between relationships that are undeniably different?
Maybe my fatheresque qualities jar in our feminized society, but it seems to me that a healthier society would offer a firm, but warm, suggestion that those who are insecure in the face of a foreign ideal ought to suck it up and find affirmation in doing the best they can in their own circumstances. There’s more than a metaphor in the observation that our society’s cultural risk-taking and delinquency, suggestive of disconnection from a father, will have consequences that only growing up can ease.

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smmtheory
smmtheory
13 years ago

Huzzah! Happy Father’s Day!

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Those who don’t believe that children deserve to be raised by their own mothers and fathers
And, which strawpeople are these?

smmtheory
smmtheory
13 years ago

Strawpeople, MRH? I guess you believe there are no real unmarried female people that go to fertility clinics to get artificially inseminated? Only Murphy Brown fictional people, eh?

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

SMM, you delightful rogue, I don’t deny that there are children raised without both a mother and a father.
Justin claims that there are people who think that “children don’t deserve to be raised by their own mothers and fathers.” That’s a staggering claim, and I want to know what he’s talking about. Single-parenthood can’t possibly be it.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

The only explanation that I can come up with to explain your finding my claim staggering is that you’re reading “deserve” differently than I mean it, with you taking it to mean that children don’t deserve it and therefore shouldn’t get it and me intending to indicate people who don’t think there is reason to go to any significant lengths to ensure that as many children as possible are raised by their own parents.
Under my meaning, smmtheory’s example — women who bring children into the world without fathers who are even knowable — applies. As it would, I’d suggest, for people who say things like “I’m unconvinced that the state has a specific interest in encouraging that marriage be the appropriate context for having and raising children” because (in part) studies that “have shown that outcomes are better for children that are raised by their married biological parents” are “misleading.”

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

See, I figured this was at least in part a swipe at me, which is why I took the bait. Look, you said “deserve.” I find it annoying and a bit insulting that you characterize my position — that it’s acceptable for children to be raised in single-parent or same-sex-coupled households — as meaning that I think children don’t deserve both of their parents. How preposterous! Even your explanation indicates that you stated your case more strongly than you intended. Yes, how ludicrous of me to assume that when you said “deserve” you meant “deserve”! Obviously, I should have interpreted “deserve” to mean “there is to reason to go to significant lengths blah blah blah.” How silly of me. This whole “deserve to be raised by their own parents” is nothing more than a distraction if you’re trying to make a point about either single parenthood or same-sex marriage. In either case, it’s not that the child in question doesn’t “deserve” to be raised by its mother and its father, it’s that the child can’t. If a man or woman leaves their spouse with children, it’s not me who’s saying the kid can’t have both its parents, it’s the parent who left. When a gay couple adopts a child, it’s not me (or even my snarling liberal counterparts) who’s taken that child away from its mother and father, it’s the person who put the kid up for adoption in the first place. Smmtheory’s example is an extreme one, and yes, in that case, the child can’t know its biological parent. But that’s not because the child doesn’t “deserve” to. It’s because, in that situation, it’s impossible for the child to. Should such a situation be outlawed? I have no interest in legally preventing women from having children without being married.… Read more »

Michael
13 years ago

My stepdaughters are coming over on Sunday for a cookout. I’ve raised them as my own for twenty-two years. Their biological father is a deadbeat unworthy of their love. This doesn’t mean I don’t agree with Justin on a philosophical level, we just are not perfect people. There is no criteria for procreation, most humans are able to spawn without the consent of the state or society. It is ultimately up to the individual to see to it that a proper job of raising children is done.
“The problem with the gene pool is there is no lifeguard.”

smmtheory
smmtheory
13 years ago

Smmtheory’s example is an extreme one, and yes, in that case, the child can’t know its biological parent. But that’s not because the child doesn’t “deserve” to. It’s because, in that situation, it’s impossible for the child to.

Yeah, and let’s look at why the child can’t know its biological father. One, the mother has arbitrarily decided to have a child without a marital relationship. Two, the fertility clinics provides anonymity to sperm donors. The bottom line is, somebody somewhere has decided that what that particular child deserves doesn’t matter. You (or if not you, many others) keep trying to steer the debate for recognition of single sex relationships as marriage with a rudder fabricated on rights. What about the innate rights of every child to have a relationship with both its father and mother? Some people believe that the innate rights of children to have a relationship with both its father and its mother should be trumped by the presumptive rights of adults (arguably just bigger children) to have their single sexed relationship recognized as being just as special as the marital relationship.

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

What about the innate rights of every child to have a relationship with both its father and mother?
I do not believe that such a right exists. (And even if I did think that such a right existed from a moral point of view, I don’t find such a right in the Constitution.)

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Incroyable. Yeah, how could I possibly insinuate that somebody who doesn’t believe that a child has a right “to have a relationship with both [his or her] father and mother” could possibly also not believe “that children deserve to be raised by their own mothers and fathers”? What a strawman-wrestling bigot I must be! No, Matt, I’m not going to let you slip by with this. For all of your repeated accusations that I attack strawmen, it is you who insists on arguing with points that are not being made. When have I ever called for outlawing behavior in accord with what you say is my “angle”? Never. You just are — apparently — incapable of understanding arguments with which you disagree. If you could get your pinky out of your ear and your thumb out of your liberal ass, you’d realize that I don’t disagree with a single thing in this litany: I do not believe that the state should go to “significant lengths to ensure that as many children as possible are raised by their own parents” except to provide support to parents who wish to do so. I don’t believe the state should decide who can reproduce and who cannot, and I don’t think the state should exercise coercion over private relationships. All I want is for the state to perpetuate the cultural institution of traditional marriage by setting it apart as something unique, and uniquely desirable, such that those who “wish to do so” — that is, wish to raise their children in households with both of their parents (designated as “married”) — are encouraged. Where did I, pray tell, attack single mothers? Such an assault on your part requires that you (as liberals often do) insist on extremes that leave no room for — as… Read more »

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Michael,
You’ve got the balance exactly right in your phrase “raised them as my own.” The “as” indicates a model.
It has never been, and will never be, my position that we ought to develop public policy under the assumption that people can be perfect. We cannot be.
No doubt, you are doing precisely as you ought to do with your daughters (and I imagine you’ve periodically wished that they were your progeny, rather than the deadbeat’s). My entire cultural concept of marriage involves an historical investment in the institution by those who come closest to the ideal of a man and a woman establishing a home and a relationship in which to raise their own children in order that those who must deal with life’s imperfections — whether we’re talking abusive spouses or poverty — have a model and a support system on which to draw that captures as much as possible of the ideal.

klaus
klaus
13 years ago

Still at it, eh, Justin? Make an unsubstantiated claim (…Those who don’t believe that children deserve to be raised by their own mothers and fathers…), and then, when confronted by the hole in your thinking, deny that you said what you’re accused of.
And you do this consistently. Perhaps a bit more rigor in your thinking might avert some of this? Or, at least, take personal responsibility for what you’ve said.
And maybe realize that your ideal doesn’t fit everyone. And that there have been dozens of cultures in which the two-parent nuclear family is simply not the norm. Often the mother’s brother/s fill the role we assign to the biological father.
So The Cleavers are not a universal motif.
But, regardless, Happy Father’s Day.

Michael
13 years ago

Happy Fathers Day, Justin. Well said.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

No, Klaus, it’s your MO to present arguments and then leave the room if folks don’t respond as you anticipate. My emphasis is on clarification for those who do not share my assumptions… as I have endeavored to do in these comments, wherein I still don’t see how you feel justified attacking my claim as unjustified.
It must be wonderful to live in a region in which your ideology is so the norm that you can just pompously assume that those who don’t agree with you are simply not being sufficiently rigorous.
As for the ideal, I don’t know how many more ways I can restate that I understand that it doesn’t fit everybody. Apparently, some of you have a difficult time understanding that an ideal that does not fit may still offer an advantageous model and may still be worthy of honor.
As for those “dozens of cultures” (among how many?), let me stress that I don’t give a fig. I’ve a particular affinity for our culture and believe it to have been profoundly moral and profoundly successful. Some cultures have made a public spectacle out of spousal deflowering. I, for one, think that our not doing so has had a direct relationship to our culture’s health, the very health that I see the likes of you as seeking to trade for an opportunity to feel as if you’re more high-minded and empathetic than you are.

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Ah, Justin. First of all, “thumb out of my liberal ass”? Nice. Also, if I don’t take your meaning perfectly, is it possible that it’s because you’re not doing a very good job of explaining your position? No. That would be impossible! It must be that there’s something wrong with me. How very humble of you. I’d like to suggest that your ad hominem attacks in your comments and in your post do not do any justice to your position. Yeah, how could I possibly insinuate that somebody who doesn’t believe that a child has a right “to have a relationship with both [his or her] father and mother” could possibly also not believe “that children deserve to be raised by their own mothers and fathers”? What a strawman-wrestling bigot I must be! Well, maybe I can help you understand the difference, if you’re interested. Smmtheory posited an “innate [right] of every child to have a relationship with both its father and mother.” I said I don’t think such a right exists. Why? Because so many children don’t, or can’t, have both a mother and father. When parents divorce, is this hypothetical right violated? When a parent dies, is the child being deprived of a right? If a woman becomes pregnant, and chooses not to marry the man who impregnated her, is she violating an innate right of her child? I think the answer to all of my hypothetical questions is “no” because, if it were yes, I would expect that society would have an obligation (or, at the very least, justification) to enforce that right. And the consequences of such an enforcement would, in my view, be a gross injustice. Should parents be compelled to marry in the name of this innate right? No, says I. Should parents be… Read more »

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Why can’t we have this conversation without insulting each other? I don’t know. You’re the one who introduced ad hominem when you went from addressing arguments (whether accurately mine or not) to making declarations about “how I roll.” (You’ll have to explain where ad hominems appear in the post itself.) I just cut to the chase, and it would seem that my doing so allowed you to take the defensive back to argumentation sans snark. I think I’m attacking what I see a the logical extensions of the points you’ve made. How is my objection to this any different than your “annoying and a bit insulting” habit of shouting out the names of logical fallacies as if you’re one of Holden Caulfield’s classmates when I respond to logical extensions of your arguments, as I see them? It seems to me that you want it every which way, and frankly your use of faux pretentious phrases like “delightful rogue” gives the impression that you feel as if such is your allowance as a far-surpassing intellectual jouster. Me, I’d be satisfied if, instead of attacking the specter of your assumptions, you would attempt to explain why you think a particular position of the opposition leads to an objectionable logical extension. Who knows, but that one of the rare thoughtful and reasonable folks among us might agree and modify his position. if I don’t take your meaning perfectly, is it possible that it’s because you’re not doing a very good job of explaining your position? Absolutely. That’s a disclaimer that I offer again and again. If you haven’t happened to see me do so, I’ll happily reissue it. If you want to disprove me when it comes to you, then start accurately addressing the arguments that others are making, or at least start… Read more »

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Are we to be barred from disapproving of others’ choices unless we’re willing to seek to force them to adhere to our preferences through public policy?
Not at all. If all you want to do is say “I think only married people should have kids,” that’s fine. Then I’ll say, “I disagree!” and that’s boring. I thought we were having a political conversation. But whatev’.

Single mothers cannot declare themselves to deserve marriage status. Indeed, it is central to the reason for offering marriage as a category with some rights and benefits that it might non-coercively encourage such mothers to seek healthier households (or not leave them), not only for their children, but for themselves.

How can I convince you that to deprive single mothers of support that is available to married families is, in fact, coercion?

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

By the way, my wife jokes that this place should be called “Anger Rising.” I quite like it. 🙂

klaus
klaus
13 years ago

Wow. Ethnocentrism. And I love how you say your beliefs are “healthier.”
You believe our culture (and your beliefs) are somehow innately superior to all others. Our culture, and your beliefs are right, and anything else is wrong.
The point of my example is that there is no biological imperative to have a two-parent home. Overall, the two-parent family seems to be practice of most modern cultures, but it didn’t have to be that way.
Abraham (yes, THAT Abraham) had a son by his wife’s serving girl (read: slave) when Sara couldn’t conceive. Was that wrong? And polygamy has been big in many cultures in many parts of the world.
But what I really object to is the way you try to deny what you say when somoeone points out the implications. That’s just childish. My kid does that. You like to spout off, but then you don’t have the guts to stand behind what you say. Or is it that you don’t think your positions through?
Sorry to be so blunt. Think of it as tough love.
As for “leaving the room,” it’s called “having a life.” I like to drop in from time to time and ruffle some feathers, but it’s not a priority. Sorry I can’t hang out and spend hours and hours chatting with you.
Ciao!

klaus
klaus
13 years ago

PS. I keep coming back because I’m hoping that someone, sometime, one of the posts will actually offer something even vaguely resembling evidence to support the contentions made.
This seems to be a “fact-free zone.” This primarily refers to the economic issues, especially on the macro level, but it applies overall.
Really now, have to run. I’m “leaving the room” now. Probably won’t be back for a couple of weeks. Don’t miss me too much!

Justin Katz
13 years ago

I suppose I should thank you, Klaus, for giving me a reason not to respond to your broader assertions. What would be the point, after all, if you’re just stopping by every couple of weeks to throw bombs?
I cannot do otherwise than insist that I am always open to suggestions that I’ve mis- or over-stated my case and am eager to clarify and, if necessary, apologize when that happens.
On the other hand, I’m wary of the stratagem, which those on your side often employ, of repeatedly attacking commentary as baseless or poorly considered when it disagrees with your view.

Justin Katz
13 years ago

MRH.
Let me just say that, whether it’s rational or not, phrases such as “whatev'” raise my ire, in part because they give the feeling that you’re merely mocking us. At the least, their arrogant dismissiveness is not conducive to conversation.
I suppose, though, that I’m not sure why it is uninteresting to discuss whether something is right or wrong, independent of whether it ought to be legal or illegal. Personally, I find the depth of possible actions against particular behaviors to be intriguing, but if your concept of morality is that it must be explicitly stated in the law, then I’m happy to use that against you.
As for single motherhood and coercion, I guess I need you to define what you think coercion means. In my vocabulary, it implies threats and force, which I don’t see as applying to a situation in which a distinct relationship is granted special privileges on the grounds that society finds it uniquely desirable. For that to be coercion, single mothers must have a reasonable expectation that they will receive some benefit that is more widely available to others and then have that expectation held hostage.
At any rate, I’m increasingly persuaded that it is advantageous for me to have you explicitly state your view of marriage. Why bother with the entire same-sex marriage debate if you think that single-mothers ought to qualify for whatever benefits accrue to married couples? Putting all of the social engineering aside, it just comes down to redistribution, doesn’t it?
As for your wife’s cute nickname for the site, I hope she’s not blind to her husband’s role in fostering such an atmosphere.

SusanD
SusanD
13 years ago

“for giving me a reason not to respond to your broader assertions.”
Exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for sharing your schedule, Klaus, and saving us the time of responding to a non-participant.
How do we know, by the way, that your abstention from posting for the next two weeks is indeed because you are superior and not for a more nefarious reason, like you’re about to do two weeks in the slammer?
Again, thanks for the heads up, enabling gratuitous comments like this.

smmtheory
smmtheory
13 years ago

How do we know, by the way, that your abstention from posting for the next two weeks is indeed because you are superior and not for a more nefarious reason, like you’re about to do two weeks in the slammer?

I am so tempted to add stuff like – Or two weeks in a drug induced comatose state? Or maybe it takes him two weeks to be able to think of a response to some really intelligent conversation. Ooo, Oooo, I know, two weeks before his mommy will let him use the computer again. – but I won’t and I’ll just pretend I did.

smmtheory
smmtheory
13 years ago

I do not believe that such a right exists. (And even if I did think that such a right existed from a moral point of view, I don’t find such a right in the Constitution.)

So that’s it, if the right is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, it doesn’t exist? What does that say about abortion and the right to privacy it’s hinged upon? I would venture to say that your attitude in that respect is a reason so many people want to amend the Constitution to ensure that same sex liaisons are not treated as marriage. So much for self evident rights like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

smmtheory, So that’s it, if the right is not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, it doesn’t exist? No… my sentence about the Constitution was a throwaway comment; I’d expect to find more strict constructionists among your lot. … Justin, I apologize if my “whatev'” caused you offense. It was intended as a mood-lightener, not a provocation. I’ll be more careful. I think it is interesting to discuss whether something is right or wrong. There’s a part of me that truly does enjoy arguing on a plain of pure morality and ethics, separate from political concerns. I guess it’s just hard for me to tell which kind of conversation you want to have. As soon as we move from first principles to the consequences of those principles in an organized society, we’re into the realm of politics. So: I don’t believe that single parenthood is morally wrong, nor do I believe that marriage is a more morally correct state in which to have children than non-marriage. I believe that the morality of a family is determined by how they treat one another, not how the family is configured. On the political side, I think it’s important to keep preferential treatment of different kinds of families out of the law. I have no (legal) objection to any group casting aspersions on any family — such a preference, expressed or not, is of course permissible in a society that values free expression. I do object to enshrining such a preference in law at the expense of bedrock liberties and equality. The reason I keep coming back to questions like “what harm?” and “what value to society?” is this: I believe that, in this democracy at least, individual freedoms and liberties and equality among citizens are the highest concern, and to abridge those liberties… Read more »

Michael
13 years ago

What’s the most confusing day in Providence?
Give up?
Fathers Day!

Justin Katz
13 years ago

Well, MRH, we’re slipping into the territory of our more formal exchanges, so I’ll withhold making response just now. I do have one question, though: What sort and degree of harm, even hypothetical, would justify maintaining the traditional definition of marriage in the law, in your view?

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Justin,
That’s a tough but legitimate question. I’m not sure I can imagine a plausible harm that would come of allowing same-sex marriage, but then, that’s why I’m in favor of it. 🙂
A hypothetical harm that would permit discrimination in the law would probably have to affect the physical health and safety of citizens. Such a hypothetical harm would be, I think, wildly implausible. For me, it’s like trying to think of a hypothetical that would permit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or religion.
It’s much easier to think of situations that would permit infringements of individual liberty (seatbelts, motorcycle helmets, libel/slander, searching airline luggage, etc) than those that would permit discrimination against a class.
I’m sure that’s not a completely satisfactory answer, but it’s the best I can do while watching the Red Sox game.
Happy Father’s Day to those of you fortunate enough to have children!

Michael
13 years ago

It’s probably more of an inside joke than I thought. During the course of a day in Providence I respond to a lot of peoples homes for a lot of different reasons. There is an unbelievable scarcity of fathers present in the homes when we respond. A female head of household is entitled to more benefits that a traditional husband, wife and kids, thus giving even more credence to your point of view. There are also a lot of immigrants, legal and other who are married in their home country but don’t carry thr marriage licence through to this country, again getting more benefits.. In the inner city it is common for one woman to have children from numerous men. The term, my first sons father is common. My son’s mother is also a common way to refer to the person who gave birth, out of wedlock, to somebodys son. The vast minority of kids in Providence don’t have a father and mother present in their homes, at least not on paper. We see it every day and I forget that folks from outside are not aware of the situation.

smmtheory
smmtheory
13 years ago

No… my sentence about the Constitution was a throwaway comment; I’d expect to find more strict constructionists among your lot.

What does being or not being a strict constructionist have to do with taking your “throwaway” comment seriously?

mrh
mrh
13 years ago

Nothing, smmtheory. Please pretend I never said the thing about the Constitution.

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