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.

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One Response to I WANT A BABY

  1. Suzanne says:

    I agree, that a two parent household of male and female is ideal. It is the most native and straight-forward way to provide the progeny with exposure to the different sexes as well as to see more than one view of what is transpiring in the household and the world around it. I would posit that even more important than a masculine influence is that diversity of view. A single parent adds a significant risk of a very biased, and potentially debilitating, view of the world whereas a second view point equally as present can help balance or counter act such influence.

    Unfortunately, the narcissism of our current and recent generations have negated some of the benefit of the two opinion/two outlook home because both parties often subscribe to a more self-serving agenda. It is not uncommon for couples who initially travel the path together to abandon it early in the pursuit, regardless of offspring. And so, one does need to wonder if even the two parent household model offers the value it once did. Are two narcissists really better than one?

    I would propose that ultimately, the true nature and goals of the family, whether it is a dual parent or single parent home, must be assessed. I do believe it is possible for a single parent to provide an extremely rich environment, influenced by contributors of both genders, that can easily surpass that proferred by a modestly interested dual parent family. And although the absence of a tangible biological father is certainly an issue, I believe the role can be played by carefully selected replacements who provide the second opinion, gender-specific guidance and support of a father figure.

    Ultimately, I think family is what you make of it and the choice to add a child to a family means you have an additional responsibility to enrich your family with a wide collection of influences, opinions and opportunities that give the child the chance to learn and thrive. So long as that is the focus, the issue of one or two parents becomes less significant. Of course, if one fails to adjust to the absence of a second parent and the mother does not plan and engage the influences of additional voices, most specifically a male to provide additional input, insight, activity and guidance, then there certainly is a loss to the child and the geneses of truancy, etc are more easily found.

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