Skip to comments.New Column: Media Misreports Study on Fathers
Posted on 08/27/2008 10:57:24 AM PDT by PercivalWalks
"The dad vs. stepdad debate is no mere academic question, but instead an issue which has serious ramifications in family law. Advocates of sole or primary custody for mothers often insist that children do fine with 'father-figures' instead of their fathers."
My new co-authored column, Media Misreports Study: Stepdads Better than Dads? Not so Fast (Tacoma News-Tribune, 8/13/08), details the way the media has distorted a recent study about fathers.
Media Misreports Study: Stepdads Better than Dads? Not so Fast By Mike McCormick and Glenn Sacks
Stepdads beat biological fathers in parenting, study says. Stepdads do better than real dads in 'fragile' families. Stepfathers make better parents. This is how dozens of major newspapers and media outlets are reporting a new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family which compares stepfathers to biological fathers.
Conventional wisdom says that biological fathers are more committed to their children than stepfathers are to their stepchildren. While media accounts of the study claim that research contradicts this wisdom, a closer look at the study shows that this simply isnt true. Moreover, the studys misconstrued findings could have a harmful impact on family law and child custody cases.
For one, the researchers did not study fathers as a whole, but only a limited cohort--"fragile families," defined as low-income urban families prone to nonmarital births. Also, fathers were not studied independentlyall assessments of them were based entirely on the childrens mothers reports.
Moreover, the study did not find that stepdads were generally superior to biological dads. What researchers found was that stepfathers were more cooperative with mothers than biological fathers. To say this makes stepdads better than biological fathers is questionable, to say the least.
Cooperation with mothers can be a great thing. It can also mean nothing more than that things are being done moms way. This is no surprisestepfathers have a much more tentative, fragile role in childrens lives than biological fathers. It follows that they would generally be more cooperative.
Conflict over parenting methods and strategies within couples is often a positive for children, not a negative. Having two different, competing viewpoints weeds out bad ideas and helps preserve good ones. One reason why children in single parent homes dont do as well as children who live with both parents is that in single parent homes ideas and parenting strategies are implemented without consultation.
Numerous studies document maternal gate-keeping--mothers belief that their parenting style should be shared and followed by the childrens father. Psychologist Ron Taffel says that when fathers feel supervised and judged by mothers, they tend to back away from their children. Yet fathers styles are just as important for children as mothers. When dad feels he can only do it moms wayas is more common with stepfathers than with biological fatherschildren miss out on valuable male parenting.
Another of the studys limitations is that researchers studied families where the children were only five-years-old. This greatly skews the data in favor of stepdads.
In each one of these cases, the mothers endured a fairly recent breakup with their childrens biological father. Most feel disappointed or hurt or angry with them. Many have been or still are in the middle of contentious battles over child custody and child support.
Into this hurt and disappointment comes stepdad. After mom and dad split, mom thought she was going to have to raise the kids herselfshe is understandably grateful for stepdads unexpected help. Moreover, the relationship is newer and happier.
By contrast, mothers married to their childrens biological fathers have higher expectations of them, and thus are more likely to be disappointed in their spouses, or to find them less cooperative or helpful than they had expected.
It is not surprising that grateful mothers gave stepdads positive markswhats surprising is that the studys results dont lean even more towards stepdads.
The dad vs. stepdad debate is no mere academic question, but instead an issue which has serious ramifications in family law. Advocates of sole or primary custody for mothers often insist that children do fine with father-figures instead of their fathers. For example, on the hotly-debated relocation/move-away issue in family law, they claim there should be no obstacles to custodial mothers who wish to relocate children to other states. After all, the kids may miss dad, but theyll still have mom and the father figure that mom provides.
In family court, judges have wide powers to fashion custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the child. This studyor at least the media reports of itwill be used to mislead courts into believing that biological fathers are easily replaceable, and are not central to childrens best interests.
This column first appeared in the Tacoma News-Tribune (8/13/08).
Mike McCormick is the Executive Director of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. Their website is www.acfc.org.
Glenn Sacks columns on men's and fathers' issues have appeared in dozens of the largest newspapers in the United States. He invites readers to visit his website at www.GlennSacks.com.
[Note: If you or someone you love is faced with a divorce or needs help with child custody, child support, false accusations, Parental Alienation, or other family law or criminal law matters, ask Glenn for help by clicking here
One of the biggest lies foisted upon the American public. The reality is, it's all about the best interests of the woman.
Many times it isn't even that. It is a desire to punish the father because he is a man. One of my wife's friends has a non-resident stepdaughter that WANTS to live with her dad and step mom yet the court won't allow it despite the fighting and screaming her mom and step dad are always doing. I told my wife's friend to get the stepdaughter a video camera and have her covertly video every time a fight starts and then to have her stepdaughter hire a lawyer to get away from her mom.
Key Issue. Anti-Family, anti-Father Courts and their associates in media and academia should be a major topic in most political campaigns.
its not just about what’s good for women. these industries (and their government helpers) are screwing the women too. its about money. both the adoption and abortion industries want the dads to be marginalized and their power taken away. then the woman stands alone and they can screw her too. babies are worth alot of money both dead and alive to these industries. the government benefits too.
My child support order started long before my divorce was over. It was very gratifying to know that I was paying for my lawyer and hers as well. She actually told me that's where the money went during the divorce. So much for "child support." It's "Fun Money" for a woman like my ex who makes 50k.
Then she thinks we should replace fathers and traditional family values with welfare, VAWA and public pre-school.