The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Fatherlessness and American violence

| Thursday, March 1, 2018

Relative to the rest of the industrialized world, the United States is a rather violent place. The Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was yet another example of this incredibly sad reality. Both mass shootings and gang violence are far too common in the United States. The explanation for these high rates of violence is multi-faceted and rather complex. With this said, one of the most significant factors that I perceive contributing to nearly all forms of violence in America is the plague of fatherlessness which has struck this nation. Certainly, lax gun laws and poor mental health play into the prevalence of violence in the United States. I am not arguing against increased gun control measures or more access to mental health resources. However, the continual breakdown of the American family and the crisis of the fatherlessness in the United States should not go unmentioned in discussions of the root causes of violent attacks carried out by young men.

Children living in a single parent home have higher rates of substance abuse, dropping out of school, developing behavioral disorders and suicide. According to the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research, young men growing up without fathers are 279 percent more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than young men living with their father involved in home life. The Journal in Research in Crime and Delinquency reported that the most reliable predictor of violent crime within a community is the pervasiveness of fatherless homes.

Unfortunately, studies on the effect of children living without their fathers are not subject to a small sample size. In fact, about one third of American children live without their biological father present in the home. This is a problem especially obvious in the African-American community, where almost 60 percent of black children grow up without their biological father. This is undoubtedly a factor contributing to the disproportionally high rates of crime, gang involvement and violent activity amongst black Americans. However, this is a problem that spans all races. Fatherlessness is a predictor of violent activity amongst young men from all racial backgrounds. This can be seen in the fact that the vast majority of mass shooters, of whom are almost exclusively young white men, come from fatherlessness homes. The most recent school shooter was yet another example of a fatherless young man carrying out a barbaric attack.

This is not to say that young men coming from fatherless homes who commit egregious violent crimes are not to blame. Violent offenders and mass shooters are sickening people whom should not be subjects of public pity and deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law. This piece is rather attempting to emphasize the simple empirical fact that fatherlessness increases the probability of such violent crimes being committed.

While the statistics are incredibly sad, they should not be surprising. The nuclear family is society’s most fundamental unit of structure. There are countless studies that prove growing up in a two-parent household is incredibly indicative of future lifetime success. There is perhaps no better blessing one can be granted than that of having the fortune to being born into an intact family, with a mother and a father.

Dr. Warren Farrell, a contemporary scholar and educator on sociological and gender issues, has argued that “when boys’ testosterone is not well-channeled by an involved dad, boys become among the world’s most destructive forces. When boys’ testosterone is well channeled by an involved dad, boys become among the world’s most constructive forces.” Despite what many people will argue, there is nothing inherently wrong with masculinity. However, as evidenced by the effect of fatherlessness and articulated in the above quote by Farrell, masculinity left unguided and unbound can lead to deadly consequences.

The rise of extramarital births in conjunction with supremely high divorce rates have left many children growing up in households without fathers. This affects both boys and girls, but results in particularly dangerous consequences amongst boys. Gun violence and violence at large are explained by many variables. Gun reform and access to counseling are certainly solutions to some of the potential causes of the violence crisis in America. However, I also believe encouraging the reunification of the American family is absolutely vital in confronting the problem.

Promoting a culture that values a family structure composed of a mother and father is not an ideological aim; it is an empirically grounded solution to at least one of the most significant causes of American gun violence. The United States desperately needs its fathers back. The approach to achieving such a goal is complicated, but first realizing the need for such a goal is crucial to curtailing violence within the nation. Neglecting the need for active fathers will continue to produce deadly consequences, and I use “deadly” with the upmost sense of literality.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: , , ,

About Eddie Damstra

Eddie is a senior from Orland Park, Illinois. He is majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies and plans on pursuing law school after his time as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

Contact Eddie