- - Monday, December 18, 2017

The causal relationship is profound between fatherlessness, single-parent families and the resultant murders, shootings, violence, poverty, lack of upper-mobility, school miseries for teachers and students, flourishing of vicious and brazen gangs (replacing fathers), lost job opportunities, illicit drug use and sales, and general quality of life.

The statistics connecting all of these more or less measurable outcomes are well-established, reproduced and replicated. Just look at one summary statement from just one major study (Marriage and Family Review, 2003) titled “The Presence of Fathers in Attenuating Young Male Violence”: “Data analyzed across the U.S. indicate that father absence, rather than poverty, was a strong predictor of young men’s violent behavior.”

When this nexus of social maladies and fatherlessness is publicly articulated orally or in writing, there is usually either no response (most frequent), an ad hominem response, or a false, irrelevant response (One such response: This is a “horrible statement and a condemnation of the black single parent household.”) There is nothing racially inherent in the locating of this social disaster of fatherlessness. Both white families and black families have about tripled the number of homes with kids without fathers since the 1960s.

This author wrote a piece on the issue in the Baltimore Sun (“Blame Baltimore violence on a lack of fathers in the home,” July 25). Pursuant to its publication, I received more than a score of positive email responses, including from some of Maryland’s principle conservative politicians.

There were no emailed disagreements on the argument that fatherlessness is a core cause of virtually all societal ills. When I discussed the issue of fatherlessness on the liberal “Marc Steiner Show,” the reaction was anger, personal vitriol toward me, and accusations that I was attacking families due to racial motivation — the argument always made — and that there are plenty of smooth-functioning, single-parent families around.

Please. This criticism of families without present fathers does not mean that there are no families that do well with one parent or that there are no intact families that are dysfunctional. However, they are unusual and have little relevance to the general dysfunctions and miseries permanently attached to fatherlessness.

The issue is the proverbial elephant in the state. The electronic and print media have major comprehensive pieces on violence in Baltimore and elsewhere by its top otherwise perspicacious reporters and yet they almost never even mention fatherlessness as a cause. Political leaders throughout the country are not even asked about it.

Progressive political leaders are loathe to address or discuss fatherlessness as a problem and resent those who do, with a few exceptions like Maryland State Delegate Curt Anderson, who never is unwilling at least to take up the matter when prodded. When I have discussions on the topic with conservatives, they say the issue should be front and center but claim there is no willing audience to hear it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Anthony McCarthy, head of the communications and public affairs team for Mayor Catherine E. Pugh of Baltimore, became enraged at me on a local talk news show weeks ago owing to my claim that Ms. Pugh did not have the courage to institute a program to engage, monetarily disincentivize and stigmatize fatherless families. Mr. McCarthy did not substantively counter my arguments but accused me of utilizing “talking points” in my criticism. Talking points? What does this mean? It is a way to dismiss a salient issue without confronting it. It’s always decision-makers “ignoring the issue.”

Subsequently, Mayor Pugh herself, a guest on Jimmy Mathis’ show on WBAL, refused to speak to me, a fellow guest, apparently because of either my position on fatherlessness or my criticism of her as lacking the guts to publicly deal with this issue due to the fact that she might energize her own constituents’ political opposition.

None of the foregoing is to argue that the social pathologies caused by fatherlessness are not exacerbated by other factors. Bad police conduct, inadequate schooling weaknesses, and judges undermining the criminal justice system with weak sentencing all make the problems worse. But there is no root cause more consequential in producing permanent violence, poverty and related life dissatisfaction issues than fatherlessness.

Fatherlessness is as close to destiny as you can get. Politicians, community leaders, clergy and others ignore it at society’s peril, not their own, which is why they avoid it. If there is ever a sustained full-frontal assault on fatherless, results will be manifest is less than a decade.

Richard E. Vatz (rvatz@towson.edu) is a professor at Towson University and is author of “The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model” (McGraw-Hill, 2017), and co-editor of “Thomas S. Szasz: the Man and His Ideas” (Transaction Books, 2017).

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