Social scientists are beginning to connect the dots on how the disintegration of the family is not only harming individuals, but is also at the heart of the growing wave of violence.
Another shooting, another son of divorce. From Adam Lanza, who killed 26 children and adults a year ago at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., to Karl Pierson, who shot a teenage girl and killed himself this past Friday at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colo., one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father. From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. school attacks” involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.
The social scientific evidence about the connection between violence and broken homes could not be clearer. My own research suggests that boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father. Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has written that “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” His views are echoed by the eminent criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, who have written that “such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.”
While broken families were rare fifty years ago, that is no longer the case. More children now live without their biological father in the home than with, which is stunning statistic. That means that not only do fatherless children not see their own dads, they don't see many of their friends' dads either.
So we have many children growing up fatherless. The girls are encouraged to excel in school and a lot of energy is spent on building their self-esteem. They find classrooms geared to their success, a sports culture that is enthusiastic for their participation, and colleges that believe in them.
But what about the boys? If they don't see their own dads, what do they see -- in the classroom, through the music industry, at the movies, on their ubiquitous screens? To put it mildly, the role models are lacking -- and often completely toxic. Where can they turn to understand the dignity of manhood?
And what of contemporary men, those whose turn it is to create and care for the next generation? Who will there be to choose from when these [materially] successful young women wish to create families and build culture? Camille Paglia has some choice words for the current situation:
Is it any wonder that so many high-achieving young women, despite all the happy talk about their academic success, find themselves in the early stages of their careers in chronic uncertainty or anxiety about their prospects for an emotionally fulfilled private life? When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys, who have no incentive to mature or to honor their commitments. And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centered and profound sense of themselves as women.
It was always the proper mission of feminism to attack and reconstruct the ossified social practices that had led to wide-ranging discrimination against women. But surely it was and is possible for a progressive reform movement to achieve that without stereotyping, belittling or demonizing men. History must be seen clearly and fairly: obstructive traditions arose not from men’s hatred or enslavement of women but from the natural division of labor that had developed over thousands of years during the agrarian period and that once immensely benefited and protected women, permitting them to remain at the hearth to care for helpless infants and children. Over the past century, it was labor-saving appliances, invented by men and spread by capitalism, that liberated women from daily drudgery.
And yet feminism has heaped scorn on masculinity and decried the strengths natural to men. It has feminised the classroom, the workplace, and in many places the church sanctuaries. God the father has been replaced with gender-neutral imagery, and grrl power has been pumped into through the very pipes of most institutions.
So the men check out. They won't commit, they won't protect, and they won't father. Is it any wonder that so many of the boys go wild, sowing mayhem, taking out their aggression on a society who believes that their very masculinity is the problem. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind.
Honour men, masculinity, and fatherhood. Collaborate with men for the good of the children. Male and female He made them, and He saw that it was good. Let's do what we can to restore a healthy culture in which all children can thrive.