Which is to say, not just fathers but fathers married to the mothers of their children. Those who insist Americans should approve, or at least not worry about, the growing number of what are somewhat euphemistically called non-traditional families “conveniently ignore, or are in complete denial about, the most fundamental consequence of the American retreat from marriage: growing rates of fatherless families,” writes the sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox in   Happy Fatherless Day . This is a bad thing

because marriage is the institution that binds men to their children. There is no substitute . . . . That’s in large part because, without marriage (and the economic, legal, and cultural supports that stand behind a strong marriage culture), these men [fathers not married to the mothers of their children] cannot maintain a good relationship with the mothers of their children, mothers who still, even today, serve as the primary caretakers and gatekeepers to their children.

Wilcox, a professor at the University of Virginia and head of the National Marriage Project, and also a friend of the magazine’s, spells out the benefits to children of having a father in The Distinct, Positive Impact of a Good Dad , published on The Atlantic ‘s site. Fathers make at least four “gendered” contributions to their children’s lives, meaning contributions apparently natural to fathers but not so much to mothers. They are, for example, “more likely to encourage their children to take risks, embrace challenges, and be independent, whereas mothers are more likely to focus on their children’s safety and emotional well-being.”

In Daddy’s Home , published by Slate , Wilcox explains what being a father at home with his children and their mother does for the men themselves. They are, for one thing, less likely to be depressed and for another less likely to be poor.

This is not, of course, what the currently dominant cultural narrative tells us. But fortunately, Wilcox and his peers are here to provide the evidence against it, and to their credit, outlets like  The Atlantic and Slate are willing to publish it. Readers will want to read his  Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives , which he edited with Kathleen Kovner Kline.

Articles by David Mills


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