Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Presence of the Social Father in Inhibiting Young Men's Violence

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Presence of the Social Father in Inhibiting Young Men's Violence

Article excerpt

The suggestion is offered that the prior presence of a residential and biological father reduces the likelihood of violent behavior by his sons grown to adulthood. Data analyzed across the U.S. indicate that father absence, rather than poverty, was the stronger predictor of young men's violent behavior. The pattern was also found in predictions of violent crime rates based on the level of out of wedlock births from the prior generation. A consonant pattern was also found in cross-national surveys. Accordingly, developmental theories that would explain these patterns need to be constructed and policies that are designed to reduce the incidence of violent crimes and their sequelae may wish to take into account (i) how the presence of social fathers may tamp down violent behavior by their sons and (ii) how to maximize the opportunities for younger children to have an on-going social father.

Key Words: Father-child relations; Violent behavior; Violent crime; Illegitimacy; Father-absence; Unemployment; Poverty.

The tendency for children from fatherless homes to be overrepresented in categories of unwanted behavior has been known for decades (Adams, Milner & Schrepf, 1984; Anderson, 1968; Bereczkei & Csanaky, 1996; Blau & Blau, 1982; Chilton & Merkle, 1972; Monahan, 1972; Mosher, 1969; Robins & Hill 1966; Stevenson & Black, 1988). see Mischel (1961a, 196Ib) and Mackey (1985, 1996) for theoretical orientations on the suggested linkages. see Wilson & Herrnstein (1985), Draper & Harpending (1982), Blankenhorn (1995), Parke & Brott (1999), and Popenoe (1996) for reviews of the literature.

However, the absence of a father also commonly implies the loss of the father's income and there is always a potential confounding between the child's lack of a father and the child's environment of poverty (Adams, Milner & Schrepf, 1984; Freeman, 1975; Gillespie, 1975; Smith & Krohn, 1995). Two hypotheses are generally offered to explain violent behavior. One portrays violent behavior as the consequence of fatherlessness; and the other views violent crime as a consequence of poverty. The two hypotheses are not mutually exclusive, and it is important to consider what causal relationship, if any, may be behind the statistics.

Five tiers of data are presented to examine the potential relationships. Tier 1 is an examination of the relationships in the U.S. (by state plus the District of Columbia) between violent crime and (i) levels of out-of-wedlock births and (ii) indices of privation. Tier 2 consists of the examination of U.S. relationships (by state plus D.C.) between violent crime in one generation, and (i) levels of out-of-wedlock birth and (ii) indices of privation in a prior generation. Tier 3 is an examination of the relationships in the U.S., as an aggregate, across time. Tier 4 is a limited cross-cultural examination of the relationships between violent crime and out-of-wedlock births. Tier 5 is a larger cross-cultural survey of the potential relationship between levels of violent crime and a predictive marker for multiple sexual partnerships, which - in turn - can be argued to reflect a diminution of the availability of a father-figure to a young child.

Definitions and Method: U.S. Patterns

Out-of-wedlock births were used to index fatherlessness. It is important to note that divorce, as a variable, is not to be equated with out-of-wedlock births, as a variable, and is not predictive of violent crime rates (see Appendix I). Fathers sometimes cohabit with the mothers of their children, but such arrangements often convert into marriage or else are short-lived, and, on the other hand, the biological parents of a child sometimes marry after the birth of the child. The two dynamics - Out-of-Wedlock Births and Divorce - are diagnostically separable. (See Mackey & Coney [2000] for a discussion of the separation.). see Appendix I for a more extended explanation of the putative distinction. …

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