In the previous blog I commented about the hazards encountered by young males raised without fathers. I would like to explore the female role in this phenomenon. For a number of years I practiced adolescent psychiatry. During that time I interviewed a great number of teenagers of both sexes. Most of their problems were not gender specific with one glaring exception. I never interviewed an adolescent boy who stated he wanted to be a father. All of them expressed a great deal of interest in having sex. Almost none thought about the consequences of pregnancy. In contrast a great number of the young ladies expressed strong desires to have a baby. They wanted something to cuddle and love. It seemed that they felt incomplete unless they could fully carry out their reproductive role to gestate.
As I have previously indicated, in the America of my childhood divorce was unusual. Despite limited methods of contraception out of wedlock births were uncommon. This has dramatically changed in the intervening decades. Now, more than thirty percent of all American children are being born out of wedlock. No longer are women ostracized for such pregnancies. In fact, society subtly encourages the practice in the form of providing additional welfare benefits. As a result, in some minority communities almost seventy percent of children grow up without a father in the home. Moreover, many of their mothers and grandmothers were raised in single parent households making them unaware of the advantages of having a parent of both genders. By almost every measure, children raised without fathers show signs of social disadvantage. They manifest greater levels of delinquency, truancy, school drop out, learning disability, academic failure, drug use and incarceration in adulthood.
Many of the early feminists, justifiably, proclaimed war against the patriarchy. Germaine Greer pronounced that a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Many felt that males were irrelevant except for impregnation. This was classically stated by a patient of mine who proclaimed in a very loud, angry voice, “I can do anything that a God damned man can do except stand up to pee. And I can do that too if I try”.
The gender wars have opened many doors and opportunities for women. They have freed women from the constraints of marriage in order to have children. I realize that many pregnancies are unwanted. However, many others are the result of a conscious choice. In the present, women can carry out their biologic destiny without being burdened by a man. Yet, we have to ask whether the exercise of such freedom is primarily to satisfy the fulfillment of the mother. Statistics strongly suggest that raising a child without a two parents in the home places the child at greater risk. In a narcissistic culture that emphasizes individual rights does anyone ask what might be best for a child or for society.