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May 27, 2008



"we can't rule out", but - using intuition, the numerous other surveys and research projects that reach the opposite conclusion, and our own experience - we probably should.

This isn't your own cognitive bias speaking, is it?


This corroborates my Bayesian prior - based on that most unreliable of evidence, personal experience - that if a violent or deadbeat dad walks out, kids gain from greater emotional security and the loss of a negative role model.

And in what proportion of cases is that the case - compared with being stuck with an equally disfunctional mother with no alternative source of support?


You might find this paper interesting as it finds that marriage is important for children (http://ssrn.com/abstract=1084562 ).

It's a paper by Marsha Garrison. My own view, based on this and other evidence, is that trying out social experiments for the benefit of adults where the guinea pigs are children is grotesque. When it turns out bad will those in favour of gay/lesbian adoption, or no father families, be prepared to say 'sorry'? And even if they do, who will repair the lives of the children who were the guinea pigs in this social experiment?

john b

"using intuition, the numerous other surveys and research projects that reach the opposite conclusion, and our own experience"

a and c are the last things we should be using (since intuition and generalisation from personal experience are both more-often-than-not wrong when scaled up to macro level); and the studies in b only reach the opposite conclusion when income effects are not taken into account.

Iceland provides some evidence in support of Chris's hypothesis - it has the highest rate of single parenthood in Europe, a strong welfare state combined with strict enforcement of child support so that single-parent-family kids aren't economically disadvantaged, and the happiest people in Europe.


Matt Munro

Yes single parents are disproportianately likely to be poor, but that is an argument for reducing the incidence of single parenthood, not incentivising it by giving them even more tax payers money !!
Your argument is like saying that because smokers are more likely to die of cancer, we should give them all free cigarettes, rather than helping them to stop smoking.

Economics aside, there are a wealth of srudies, going back to Bowlby in the 1950s to show that on almost every conceiveble psychological measure, outcomes for children, especially boys, are damaged by loss of contact with a father. It even holds true if the father is physically present but mentally absent i.e alcoholic/drug addict/mental illness. Read Banduras research from the 1970s on agression, as a starter.

If kids weren't supposed to have fathers, nature wouldn't have invented them......

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