Controversial psychology study affirms importance of fathers

The American Psychological Association has raised a stink by concluding that traditional masculinity is bad, bad and bad.

It's hard to argue that something's not wrong with some men when they represent 80 percent of arrests for violent crimes, 97 percent of mass shootings, a suicide rate that's three and a half times greater than women and almost 80 percent of those arrested for offenses against families and children and for aggravated assault.

The APA study says  it draws on 40 years of research that boys who are taught to conform with "traditional masculinity ideology" suffer physical and mental ill health. Among those masculine themes are “anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence.” (I disagree that these are traditional male values or are the "dominant" trait of masculinity.)

The study raised some conservative hackles because it initially sounded like so much faddish  "gender fluidity," "genderqueer," "pan gender," "transgender," and the tiresome debate over whether and how men and women, boys and girls are different. We're to believe that they're not different but that women are better than men.

I think the genders are different, even though such a statement evokes charges of homo- and other phobias. I also think that the alleged "fluidity" between the polar opposites of men and women is more of an academic and ideological construct than reality.

Yet, a deeper reading of the report should make conservatives happy: the affirmation of the overriding importance of fatherhood. A popular article of faith among liberals has been that father involvement in raising children is unimportant and that out-of-wedlock births were no big deal. Single motherhood is to be admired.

The idea that intact, two-parent families consisting of a father and a mother was necessary for the welfare of children and society was ridiculed as old-fashioned bunkum. Still is. (To refresh your memory, visit the debate over smug TV character Murphy Brown's decision to have a baby on her own. And be sure to read the Atlantic article arguing that Dan Quayle was right when he argued that the "dissolution of intact two-parent families is harmful to large numbers of children.")

The APA study couldn't be clearer about the importance of fatherhood. Rounding up decades of research, it said:

  • Father involvement for resident and nonresident fathers has been consistently linked to positive child outcomes.
  • Longitudinal studies continue to support early findings of the positive influences father involve- ment has on children’s behavioral, psychological, cognitive, and financial stability.

  • Father involvement with infants and young children has been associated with advanced language development, a lower likelihood of cognitive deficits...[and]  a facilitator of positive pre-feeding behavior, and fewer behavioral problems later in childhood. For school aged children (approximately 4-12), father involvement has been associated with academic levels of achievement, more positive school attitudes, literacy development, academic achievement, nonverbal cognitive functioning, fewer internalizing behavior problems, higher levels of emotional regulation and math and reading skills, and social adjustment."
  • And on,
  • And on.

As about every such study conclude: More research is needed. 

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