Description Pdf
PART THREE (continued)
37 Don Browning & Elizabeth Marquardt, What About the Children? Liberal Cautions
MARKET, AND MORALS 173-192 (Robert P. George & Jean Bethke Elshtain, eds.,
38 Maggie Gallagher, (How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being?, in THE
(Robert P. George & Jean Bethke Elshtain, eds., 2006).
39 Seana Sugrue, Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage, in THE MEANING OF
George & Jean Bethke Elshtain, eds., 2006).
40 THE SOCIOLOGY OF GEORGE SIMMEL 128-32 (Kurt H. Wolff, trans. & ed.,
41 CLAUDE LÉVI-STRAUSS, THE VIEW FROM AFAR 39-42 (Joachim Neugroschel
& Phoebe Hoss trans. 1985)
CHANGING INSTITUTION 7-8 (Kingsley Davis, ed., 1985).
45 JAMES Q. WILSON, THE MARRIAGE PROBLEM 40-41, 168-170 (2002). 102
Stanley ed., 2005).
49 William J. Doherty et al., Responsible Fathering: An Overview and Conceptual
Framework, 60 J. MARRIAGE & FAM. 277-292 (1998).
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?, a Child Trends Research Brief (2002).
51 Lawrence B. Finer & Mia R. Zolna, Unintended Pregnancy in the United States:
incidence and disparities, 2006, 84 CONTRACEPTION 478-85 (2011).
Brief (2011).
Report (November 2008).

TAB 37

Liberal Cautions on Same-Sex Marriage 179
a city. This factionalism could be eliminated, he believed, if the city required
elite men to have offspring with women who were held in common, then hav-
ing state nurses raise the infants with neither parents nor children knowing
their biological ties with one another. In such a state, Plato believed that
everyone would "apply the terms 'mine' and 'not mine' in the same way to
the same thing" --especially to children, thereby undercutting the divisive
· 1A
consequences o nepotism.
Aristotle, however, believed that Plato was wrong. In developing his case,
we see Aristotle's theory of kin altruism amplified even more fully. He wrote,
Whereas in a state having women and children in common, love will be
watery; and the father will certainly not say "my son," or the son "my
father." As a little sweet wine mingled with a great deal of water is impercep-
tible in the mixture, so, in this sort of community, the idea of relationship
which is based upon these names will be lost; there is no reason why the
so-called father should care about the son, or the son about the father, or
brothers about one another. Of the two qualities which chiefly inspire regard
and affection-that a thing is your own and that it is your only one--neither
can exist in such a state as this.
Aristotle believed that such a society would water down and undermine
parental recognition and investment. Furthermore, he believed it would
unleash violence because people will no longer "be afraid of committing
any crimes by reason of consanguinity."
The great Roman Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas synthesized Aristo-
tle's insights on kin altruism with the theology of creation from Judaism and
Christianity. He developed a double language on marriage that was simulta-
neously philosophical and religious, secular and sacred, naturalistic and sac-
ramental. It constituted the core ideas supporting one of the most powerful
theories of the relation of family to the state that is available, i.e., subsidiarity
theory as it functions in Roman Catholic social teachings and the secular fam-
ily law of several modern nations, most notably Germany.
Aquinas called marriage in its primordial form an "office of nature." It was
a matter of natural reason and natural law that both children and adults flour-
ish better if supported by the power of marriage to integrate procreation, the
socialization of children, love and commitment, and the regulation of sexual
At this level marriage could be illuminated by the natural law, espe-
cially that aspect of it that identifies those natural inclinations that are further
guided by interventions of "the free will" and "acts of virtue."
But marriage
for Aquinas also was revealed in scripture, specifically the Genesis account
of creation. In the "Supplement" to the Summa Theologica, he quotes
~ a t t h e w 29:4, "Have ye not read that He Who made man from the beginning
lllade them male and female,'" a verse which itself refers back to Genesis 1:27.
Nearby he refers to Genesis 2:21 and claims that from the foundations of Cre-
ation and before the emergence of sin among humans, God //fashioned a help-
mate for man out of his rib."
This implies what the full Genesis passage
Liberal Cautions on Same-Sex Marriage 185
ok and deny the injustice forced on these children. They are required
to over
. ··de their time and affections between two homes or to lose contact with
to t\1 . f h h . .
. mother or father, too often m the name o t e appmess of the1r parents.
thetr h f h h · · f d"
hile some divorces are necessary, t e act t at t e maJonty o tvorces end
W -conflict marriages reinforces this question as one of social justice.
as no-fault divorce in with no regard for the
hildren's needs, the Goodndge deCISIOn that legahzed same-sex marriage
Massachusetts brushes aside the now-large body of social-science data that
dicate that children raised by their married biological do better, on
U:erage, than those raised by single parents or stepparents."
Although data
a ets are not sufficiently large to demonstrate anything definitive about the
:trengths or weaknesses of same-sex couples for child-rearing, our society's
experience with other alternative forms that these families
will not, on average, be able to reduphcate the mvestments and consolida-
tions of marriage built on the energies of kin altruism, the consolidation of
which has been in the past the primary goal of marriage.
To disregard the
needs of children, the traditions that have understood these needs, and con-
temporary social-science evidence offends natural justice. That is, this whole-
sale dismissal offends both what is fair and what contributes to human
flourishing by meeting the unique needs of the individuals in question. If
our earlier summary of the disconnections introduced by modernizations into
the field of generativity is correct, the legalization of same-sex marriage
would not be just one more example of the drift, but the culmination that
finally shifts the institutional logic of marriage and further marginalizes chil-
dren from its basic meaning.
Third, the legalization of same-sex marriage is not only unjust to children, it
is unjust to a wide range of other human arrangements that attempt to meet
the dependency needs of the vulnerable, including those who are old, ill, or
disabled. The feminist legal scholar Martha Fineman has observed that
same-sex marriage extends the protections of marriage to one type of sexual
family while excluding nonsexual arrangements organized around the care
of dependents. These examples include single parents with children, brother
caring for ailing brother, daughter taking care of aging mother, friend caring
for dying neighbor, and more.
She believes that the forces of modernity have
so radically transformed society that the "sexual family"-whether married
or unmarried, gay or straight-should in the name of justice be delegalized.s
The benefits traditionally associated with marriage should now be distributed
actual caregivers and their dependents. Although Fineman has no preju-
dtce against homosexual couples, it is real and grave dependency that she
wants to draw attention to and protect. She does not believe that the robust
benefits that once went to marriage should go to the many able-bodied
heterosexual and homosexual couples who are healthy, employed, and have
few actual dependency needs. She thinks the new, thin, affectionate-sexual
relationships at the heart of the legal norms intended by Goodridge and
Rauch should be protected, at best, by privately drawn legal contracts-not
10 Marriage
12. Daniel Cere, Redefining Marriage and Family: Trends in North American Juris-
·udence 24 (Family Law Project, Harvard University 2003).
13. This position is often associated with the organizations called Focus on the
nnily and Promise Keepers. See James Dobson, Dr. Dobson Answers Your Ques-
JilS about Marriage and Sexuality iii, 65-71 (Tyndale House Publishers 1974); James
obson and Gary Bauer, Children at Risk 156 (Word Publishing 1990); Tony Evans,
Man and His Integrity, Se-ven Promises <:fa Promise Keeper 73 (Focus on the Family
ublishing 1994).
14. Martha Fineman, The Illusion of Equality (The University of Chicago Press
:191); Martha Fineman, The Neutered Mother, the Sexual Family, and Other Twentieth
entury Tragedies (Routledge 1994).
15. Jonathan Rauch, Gay Marriage: Why It is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and
:ood for America (Henry Holt and Company, 2004).
16. Martin Daly and Margo Wilson, The Euolutionary Psychology of Marriage and
>ivorce, The Ties that Bind 91-110 (Aldine De Gruyter 2000).
17. Aristotle, Politics, in The Basic Words of Aristotle Bk. I, ii (Random House
18. Plato, The Republic (New York: Basic Books, 1968).
19. Aristotle, supra n. 17, at Bk. I, ii.
20. Id.
21. Thomas Aquinas, Supplement, Summa Theologica III Q. 41, A. 1 (T. and
·. Washbourne 1917).
22. ld.
23. ld. at Q. 42, A 3.
24. For a discussion of how metaphors of characterizing the ultimate context of
xperience unwittingly pervade the social sciences, see Don Browning, Religious
7wught and the Modern Psychologies (Fortress Press 1987, 2004).
25. Aquinas, supra n. 21 at Q. 41, A. 1.
26. ld.
27. Id.
28. For a summary of these four conditions as they can be found in the litera-
ure of evolutionary psychology, see Don Browning et al., From Culture Wars to
Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate 111-114 (Westminster
ohn Knox 1997, 2000). See also Don Browning, Marriage and Modernization: How
;Jobalization Threatens Marriage and What to Do about It 109-111 (Wm. B. Eerdmans

29. Aquinas, Supplement, Summa Theologica, Ill, at 41.
30. Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, at Q. 10, A. 12.
31. Rerum Novarum, in Proclaiming Justice and Peace: Papal Documents from
<.erum Novarum through Centisimus Amws, at para. 11 and 12 (Michael Walsh &
kian Davies eds., Twenty-Third Publications); Pius XI, Casti Connubii (The Barry
lail Corporation 1931); and Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, The Papal Encyclicals
McGrath 1981 ).
32. Mary Midgley, Beast and Man (Cornell University Press 1978).
33. Jean Porter, Natural and Divine Law (Saint Paul University Press 1999).
" i

TAB 38

(How} Does Marriage
Protect Child Well-Being?
Maggie Gallagher
ery known human society has some form of marriage.
the norms of marriage in different cultures vary considerably,
marriage always has something to do with creating a public (not pri-
vate) sexual union between a man and woman so that socially-valued
children have both a mother and a father, and so that society has the
next generation it needs.
As Margo Wilson and Martin Daly put it recendy: "Marriage is
a universal social institution, albeit with myriad variations in social
and cultural details. A review of the cross-culrural diversity in marital
arrangements reveals certain common themes: some degree of mutual
obligation between husband and wife, a right of sexual access (often
but not necessarily exclusive), and expectation that the relationships
will persist (although not necessarily for a lifetime), some cooperative
investment in offspring, and some sort of recognition of the status of
the couples' children. The marital alliance is fundamentally a reproduc-
tive alliance. "
Why does the marriage idea arise again and again in widely varying
societies? Here is the most likely reason: because sexual relationships
between men and women create children. Every society must find some
way to regulate these relationships, to channel some portion of the
erotic energies of men and women attracted to the opposite sex into
the kind of sexual union where (a) childbearing is acceptable because
(b) children and society's interests are protected. Does marriage con-
tinue to play an important role in protecting children in the modern
context and if so how?
This paper does not attempt to explain whether and how same-sex
marriage will reduce child well-being or injure marriage.
My goal is
more modest: it is to (1) review the social science evidence on whether
married mothers and fathers are important to child well-being; (2)
review the claim that the social science literature on gay parenting
contradicts the claim that children do best when raised by their own
married mother and fathers; and (3) draw some inferences from this
evidence about how and when marriage protects child well-being, based
on current social science evidence.
Do mothers and fathers matter for kids or in the contemporary context
are all kinds of family forms equally protective of child well-being?
In the last thirty years, thousands of studies evaluating the conse-
quences of marriage for children and society have been conducted in
various disciplines (psychology, sociology, economics, and medicine). In
virtually every way that social scientists know how to measure, children
do better, on average, when their parents get and stay married (provided
those marriages are not high-conflict or violent). By contrast, every
major social pathology that can trouble an American child happens
more often when his or her parents are not joined by marriage: more
poverty, dependency, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse,
suicide, depression, mental illness, infant mortality, physical illness,
education failure, high school dropouts, sexually transmitted diseases,
and early unwed childbearing, and later on, divorce.
Twelve leading family scholars recently summarized the vast re-
search literature this way: "Marriage is an important social good associ- ..
(How) Does Marriage Protect Child We/1-Beingr I99
ated with an impressively broad array of positive outcomes for children
and adults alike. "
Among their conclusions:
• Marriage increases the likelihood that children enjoy warm, close
relationships with parents.
• Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage.
• Children raised outside of intact married homes are more likely to
divorce or become unwed parents themselves.
• Marriage reduces child poverty.
• Divorce increases the risk of school failure for children, and reduces
rhe likelihood that they will graduate from college and achieve high
starus jobs.
• Children in intact married homes are healthier, on average, than
children in other family forms.
• Babies born to married parents have sharply lower rates of infant
• Children from intact married homes have lower rates of substance
• Divorce increases rates of mental illness and distress in children,
including the risk of suicide.
• Boys and young men from intact married homes are less likely to
commit crimes.
• Married women are less likely to experience domestic violence than
cohabiting and dating women.
• Children raised outside of intact marriages are more likely to be
victims of both sexual and physical child abuse.
They conclude, "Marriage is more than a private emotional relation-
ship. It is also a social good. Not every person can or should marry. And
not every child raised outside of marriage is damaged as a result. But
communities where good-enough marriages are common have better
outcomes for children, women, and men than do communities suffering
from high rates of divorce, unmarried childbearing, and high-conflict
or violent marriages. "
Recent analyses by mainstream child research organizations con-
firm this emerging scholarly consensus that family structure matters.
For example:
• A Child Trends research brief summed up the scholarly consensus
thus: "Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters
for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a fam-
ily headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.
Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried
mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships
face higher risks of poor outcomes .... There is thus value for
children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological
• A Center for Law and Social Policy Brief concludes, "Research
indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with
both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better
off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step-,
or cohabiting-parent households."
While scholars continue to disagree about the size of the marital
advantage and the mechanisms by which it is conferred/ the weight of
social science evidence strongly supports the idea that family structure
matters and that the family structure that is most protective of child
well-being is the intact, biological, married family.
Most of the preceding research on family structure, however, does not
directly compare children in intact married homes with children raised
from birth by same-sex couples. Thus the powerful new social science
consensus on family structure is on a collision course with a separate
emerging consensus from a related field: the social science literature
on sexual orientation and parenting.
Judith Stacey summed up this new challenge to the social science
consensus on family structure in testimony before the U.S. Senate:
{How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being? 201
"The research shows that what places children at risk is not fatherless-
ness, but the absence of economic and social resources that a qualified
second parent can provide, whether male or female .... Moreover, the
research on children raised by lesbian and gay parents demonstrates
that these children do as well if not better than children raised by het-
erosexual parents. Specifically, the research demonstrates that children
of same-sex couples are as emotionally healthy and socially adjusted
and at least as educationally and socially successful as children raised
by heterosexual parents."
Other researchers, including at least two prominent professional
associations, have made similar claims.
Advocates for same-sex mar-
riage often rely on these studies to assert that scientific evidence shows
that married mothers and fathers hold no advantages for children. As
Mary Bonauto, counsel for the plaintiffs in the Massachusetts mar-
riage litigation, wrote in the Summer 2003 edition of Human Rights,
"[C]hild-rearing experts in the American Academy of Pediatrics, the
American Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological
Association insist that the love and commitment of two parents is most
critical for children-not the parents' sex or sexual orientation."
Similarly Evan Wolfson, head of Freedom to Marry, asserted re-
cently, "[T]here is no evidence to support the offensive proposition
that only one size of family must fit all. Most studies-including the
ones that [Maggie] Gallagher relies on-reflect the common sense that
what counts is not the family structure, but the quality of dedication,
commitment, self-sacrifice, and love in the household."
For many people the question of how children fare when raised by
same-sex couples is at the heart of the gay marriage debate. My own
views on how same-sex marriage will hurt marriage as a social institu-
tion have been developed elsewhere.
I take up here the social science
evidence on gay parenting for a different (if related) purpose.
Several decades of public and scholarly debate has established a
broad consensus on the importance of married mothers and fathers
for child well-being. There is only one outstanding scholarly body of
evidence challenging this hard-won consensus that the intact, married
family consisting of a mother and father is the "ideal" family form for
(How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being? 203
• Few long-term studies. Most of the studies conducted to date focus
on static or short-term measures of child development. Few or none
follow children of unisex parents to adulthood.
But perhaps the most serious methodological critique of these studies,
at least with reference to the family structure debate, is this:
• The vast majority of these studies compare single lesbian mothers to
single heterosexual mothers. As sociologist Charlotte Patterson, a
leading researcher on gay and lesbian parenting, summed up as of
zooo, "[M]ost studies have compared children in divorced lesbian
mother- headed families with children in divorced heterosexual
mother-headed families."
Moreover, even within this literature, some research finds that al-
though sexual orientation "per se, is not associated with negative out-
comes, father absence is. For example, Golombok, Tasker, and Murray
(1997)2° compared a snowball sample of thirty children with lesbian
moms to forty-one children living with opposite-sex couples and forty-
two single heterosexual single mother families. Families experiencing
economic hardship were excluded. Lesbian families had significantly
higher social class: 28 percent of heterosexual families were in manual
labor compared to 3 percent of lesbian families. Nonetheless, "Children
in father-absent families perceived themselves to be less cognitively
competent and less physically competent than children in father-pres-
ent families, with no differences between children in lesbian and single
heterosexual families."
Most of the gay parenting literature thus compares children in some
fatherless families to children in other fatherless family forms. The
results may be relevant for some legal policy debates (such as custody
disputes) but are not designed to shed light on family structure per se,
and cannot credibly be used to contradict the current weight of social
science: family structure matters, and the family structure that is most
protective of child well-being is the intact, married biological family.
(How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being? 205
For the most part, the legal duties and obligations of parents have
been severed from marital status (in part by the Supreme Court deci-
sions abolishing"legitimacy" as a legal category).
In theory, unmarried
fathers have exactly the same legal support obligatio.ns to their children
as married fathers, as well as the same rights to care and custody of
their children. Moreover, marriage as a legal institution is more likely
to give rise to financial penalties for spouses than financial benefits,
primarily through tax and welfare policies.
So a realistic appraisal of how marriage matters to children's welfare
divides into two key questions: (1) How does the existence of marriage
as a legal and social institution increase the likelihood a child will be
raised by his own mother and father? (z) How and why are children
better off if their biological parents marry rather than cohabit?
Let me suggest two main mechanisms: First, marriage as a legal and
social institution substantially reduces the likelihood that children will
be conceived in a home without a committed father. Marriage produces
important "selection" effects in terms of who becomes a parent, at what
time oflife, and with what partner. Second, marriage may increase the
likelihood that a particular child's parents will stay together in one
family unit rather than separate.
Increasing the likelihood of committed fathers
Almost every child conceived and born to a married couple will begin
life with both her mother and her father already committed to caring
for her and raising her together. The majoriry of children born outside
of marriage do not begin life with this advantage.
Moreover, as time
passes, the majority of children raised outside of intact marriages do
not have a close, warm relationship with their father.
Moreover, for young men and women attracted to the opposite sex,
avoiding an out of wedlock pregnancy or birth is difficult. Regardless
of what we think of the options morally speaking, the logical possibili-
ties single men and women face are: sterilization, surgical abortion,
ruthlessly contraception,
confining sexual relationships to engaged
partnerships or other romantic partners who will probably marry in
(How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being? 207
Marriage as a legal, shared, public norm helps reduce the likeli-
hood that children are born to fathers who are not committed to them
or to their mother. The pledge of sexual fiddity in marriage has an
important side benefit for children. It reduces the likelihood that the
emotional, psychological, spirirual, and financial resources of fathers
will be subdivided across many mothers and households, making effec-
tive fatherhood difficult if not impossible.
Conscientious social scientists invest considerable effort in try-
ing to control for "selection effects" in evaluating the consequences of
marriage. This is necessary and appropriate to answer the question:
Would the children of this particular couple be better off if we could
persuade that couple to marry? But as important as that question may
be, focusing on it exclusively may obscure rather than reveal the prime
mechanism through which a marriage culture protects children.
For marriage, as a social institution, is designed to create huge
selection effects in who has children with whom. A marriage culture
asks young people to consider with what kind of person they wish to
have children. The kind of qualities that make for an enduring mate,
someone that you are likely to want to keep around for the rest of your
life, are likely to be quite different from the kind of qualities that are
sufficiently attractive for less enduring relationships. The kind of man
who is "good enough" for a Sarurday night date, or even for a cohabiting
relationship, is often very different from the kind of man one envisions
as a life-long mate.
The long-term horizons of marriage help focus attention of young
people on the kind of qualities that make for a good mother or father:
dependable, responsible, reliable, committed; marriage as a social and
legal instirution allows men and women to signal to one another when
that person has arrived on the scene. 3
Keeping parents together
Marriage reduces the likelihood that parents will part. Even biological
cohabiting parents are more likely to separate than married parents.
{How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being? 209
children (at least of all the family structures that have been well-srud-
ied), but it does not tell us as clearly why or how.
Many of the features that make marriage better for children might
be expected to apply to remarried families or cohabiting and same-sex
families as well. Two adults in the home means twice the manpower
available for parenting tasks: two potential breadwinners, and two po-
tential nurturers, educators and discipliners as well. Economies of scale
mean that two adults providing for children can live more cheaply (and
thus have more money available to the family) than rwo parents or
partners who maintain separate households. The decline in commit-
ment to sex roles and sex role ideology suggests to many Americans
that two fathers or two mothers can do all the things that a mother
and father might do in raising children together.
What then is it about married mothers and fathers raising children
together that matters? From the social science evidence on this ques-
tion, two great possibilities suggest themselves: gender and genes.
Marriage brings together the two sexes, male and female, in the
only kind of sexual union that can give children their own mother and
father in a single family. In general, outside of intact marriages, rela-
tively few children have committed and dependable fathers.
How does gender matter?
One theory of how and why marriage matters, is that fathers and moth-
ers parent differently, in ways that complement one another and boost
child well-being. There is evidence that mothers' and fathers' parenting
styles differ in reasonably systematic ways, although the evidence of
the causal relationship of such differences to child well-being is not as
But a "task-oriented" vision of how fathers matter to their children
may be missing a deeper point. Men and women do differ and tend at
least to parent somewhat differently; when men and women are parents
together, these differences may become even more apparent as each
person "specialius" in the aspects of parenting most congenial.
But parents are more than caretakers. A child's need for a father
may not be captured by breaking parenting down into a set of tasks
performed, whether they are performed the same or differently by men
and women.
What do I mean? Gender is a human universal, although particular
gender roles may not be. Every human society notices that human be-
ings consist of two different sexes, and strives to assign social meaning
of some kind to this biological distinction. A distinguished group of
thirty-three neuroscientists, pediatricians, and social scientists recently
reviewed the evidence on gender as a basic reality: "In recent years
dozens of studies of the behavior of young children show that boys
and girls differ significantly in a number of areas, including who they
want to play with, the toys they prefer, fantasy play, tough-and-tumble
play, activity level, and aggression. Some portion of these differences
is likely attributable to ... environmental factors . .. . But a number of
basic differences in gender role behavior are also biologically primed
and even established prenatally."..o Moreover, "In the area of gender
identity (typically at about IB-%4 months of age) [as the child] begins
to show a deep need to understand and make sense of her or his sexual
embodiment, the child's relationships with mother and father become
centrally important. For the child searching for the meaning of his
embodiment, both the same-sex-as-me parent and the opposite-sex-
from-me-parent play vital roles. "
At puberty, all societies typically mobilize to "define and enforce
the social meaning of sexual embodiment .... [T]he need to attach social
significance and meaning to gender appears to be a human universa/."
Much of gender meaning is socially constructed. But as these sci-
entists point out, "Gender also runs deeper, near to the core of human
identity and social meaning-in part because it is biologically primed
and connected to differences in brain structure and function, in part
because it is so deeply implicated in the transition to adulthood. "
What a boy gets from experiencing the dependable love of a father
is a deep personal experience of masculinity that is pro-social, pro-
woman, pro-child, and not at odds with love. Without this personal
(How) Does Marriage Protect Child Well-Being? zn
experience of maleness, a boy (who like all human beings is deeply
driven to seek some meaning for masculinity) is vulnerable to a variety
of peer and market-driven alternative definitions of masculinity, often
grounded in real gender differences in aggression, physical strength,
and sexual proclivities.
The importance of a father in giving a boy a deeply pro-social
sense of his own masculinity may be one reason why one large national
study found that boys raised outside of intact marriages were two to
three times more likely to commit a crime leading to imprisonment.
Similarly, a girl raised without a father does not come to adolescence
with the same deep experience of what male love feels like when it is
truly protective, not driven primarily by a desire for sexual gratifica-
tion. At the same time, fatherless girls may experience a hunger for
masculine love and attention that leaves her particularly vulnerable to
use and abuse by young adult males. (Girls raised without fathers are
at high risk for unwed motherhood.)
Gendered differences in response to father absence are themselves
affirmation that gender is a deeply important human category. In-
deed sexual orientation as a concept presumes that gender exists and
is an important category for human relationships. It would be odd to
presume (as the gay parenting debate often does) that gender is all-
important to adult romantic relationships, but has no significance at
all in the hungry love a child feels for his or her parents.
Genes and Parenting
Marriage ordinarily provides not just a generic male adult for a child,
but the child's own biological father. Evolutionary psychology now sug-
gests that genetic relationships do make a difference in human affairs,
and that men are particularly likely to be affected by the existence or
absence of a biological relationship with a child.
The data are perhaps most clear for child abuse, where children
who live with unrelated males are at extremely elevated risks of sexual
and physical abuse. Martin Daly and Margo Wilson report that living

TAB 39

Soft Despotism and Some-Sex Marriage
as it appears that the United States Supreme Court, together with the
highest courts of various states, are poised to push the boundaries of
this jurisprudence still further.
The logic of their jurisprudence leads
to a redefinition of marriage from the union of a man and a woman to
the union of any consenting adults who believe their emotional needs
would be better met through a ceremony legitimizing their sexual rela-
tions. Same-sex unions and polygamous and incestuous couplings are
the ohvious taboos on the cusp of being shattered.
The thesis of this paper is not primarily that same-sex marriage
leads to the further demise of marriage, although this is true. My thesis
is that the establishment of same-sex marriage will contribute to the
demise of political liberty. One of the unintended consequences of the
jurisprudence of privacy rights is that it serves to diminish liberty as it
leaves us, and especially our children, increasingly susceptible to stat-
ist regulation in those domains where the state is utterly unfit to rule.
By promoting "liberty," the Supreme Court is making us less free. By
promoting equality, it is compromising our children. Not only are we,
and our children, being invited to be Humean slaves to our passions,
we are subordinating ourselves to the very power that we have the most
reason to fear: coercive state power.
To understand why this is so, one must understand the respective
roles of the market, the family, and religion in supporting our liberties,
and especially our abilities to be self-governing. These institutions,
and others, will hereinafter be called "institutions of civil society" or
"civil institutions" to evoke the Enlightenment's appreciation of forms
of social order separate from the state. Institutions of civil society are
typically understood to be supportive of political liberty. As the family,
the market, and religion are society's most foundational institutions for
securing freedom and self-governance--as they limit state power and
sustain robust republican governance-it would be remiss to exclude
these from the rubric of institutions of civil society.
Institutions of civil society are too often ignored by judges and
political theorists alike who tend to focus almost exclusively on the
state and its relation to individuals, as though the state were the only
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
norms, that serve a coordinative function.
As marriage is a normative
institution, the move to redefine it by erasing one of its constitutive
norms is a potent attack, one that can be expected to have long-term
and far-reaching consequences. By taking upon itself the power to
change the definition of marriage, the state, through judicial action, is
effectively dismantling the connection between marriage and family.
The state gains power through this move, while the family, and its most
defenseless members, our children, lose their bearings.
Complicit in this assault upon the family are advocates of the
market who mistakenly assume that the principles of the market are
equally applicable to the domain of marriage and family.
Seen through
the normative lens of the market, sex is simply another good or service
around which people can contract to bind themselves. Accordingly,
one's freedom of choice ought to include the liberty to opt into public
goods like marriage, where this serves the desires of those who would
like to choose this option. Alternatively, it may be argued that marriage
ought to be abolished, at least as far as state entidements are concerned.
Consenting adults simply ought to be free to define the terms of their
relationship by themselves.
It should suffice to dispel the notion that market principles trump
in family Life to point out that children, who arise from heterosexual
relations, can never recompense their parents for giving them life and
for rearing them. Children soil the tidy contractual relationships of the
adults under whose custody they are placed.
It is around this simple
truth that the institution of marriage arises. Moreover, those who sup-
port unbridled freedom of choice in the domain of the market may
be reminded that John Locke, that great defender of property rights
who continues to inspire modern-day libertarians,
appreciated that a
different logic applies to the domain of marriage and family; which he
called "conjugal society." The nature and purposes of conjugal society
are very different from those of the market, and must be approached
as such.
Locke also recognized that the market and conjugal society require
a measure of autonomy from overly zealous state regulation to func-
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marrt'age
them. However, each cares for the sel£
The domain of the marriage
and family, on the other hand, finds its core justification in the basic
inequality of some members of humanity, especially the basic inequality
of children.
Unlike adults, children do not reason according to moral
principles, and hence cannot be self-governing. They need to be taught
how to exercise liberty responsibly. As Locke stated so aptly: "The
freedom then of man, and liberty of acting according to his own will,
is grounded on his having reason, which is able to instruct him in that
law he is to govern himself by, and make him know how far he is left
to the freedom of his own will. To turn him loose to an unrestrained
liberty, before he has reason to guide him, is not ... [to] allow . .. him
the privilege of his nature to be free; but to thrust him out amongst
brutes, and abandon him to a state as much beneath that of a man, as
Hence the crucial difference between the market and con-
jugal society lies in this: the former is premised upon the equality of
all competent adults, the latter accepts the reality of human inequal-
ity. Equality begets the liberty of the market that flourishes through
properry rights; inequality begets the duty of family that ftourishes
through marriage.
The market presupposes the equal capacities of adults to exercise
their liberty responsibly and their common need for self preserva-
tion. Conjugal society arises from the fact that not everyone has the
capacities to act responsibly. For this reason, the application of market
principles to the domain of marriage and family is inappropriate. The
family, rooted in marriage, is an institution for the protection of our
most vulnerable members of humanity, and includes not just children,
but also those who by reason of age or infirmity, are incapable of pro-
viding for themselves.
The market, rooted in property, is an institu-
tion in which each takes care of herself as each is presumed to possess
relatively equal capacities.
Although their normative underpinnings are very different, the
market and rhe family are alike in one crucial respect. They are alike in
that they both operate best when political power can be put to use to
enforce their core norms and to curb abuses where these occur. How-
ever, the invocation of political power in the domains of the market
and the family begets a significant risk: state interference that extends
beyond what is essential to preserve the integrity of these institutions
of civil society.
This conclusion is consistent with Locke's understanding of the
purpose of political society. According to Locke, the chief end of gov-
ernment is the protection of property, which includes one's life and lib-
erty.28 Although property rights exist independently of political power,
without government, everyone would be responsible for protecting
their own life, liberty, and property. Everyone would be judge in their
own case yet partial to their own interests. Such a condition inevitably
leads to over-reaching and abuse as each attempts to enforce rights as
against others.
Political society exists to protect the life, liberty and
property of all, and to ensure that an impartial arbiter judges the inter-
ests of equals. A society that does not protect life, liberty, and property
exercises powers beyond right. I t acts tyrannically.
In the realm of conjugal society, Locke understood parental gov-
ernance over children to be natural and hence not dependent upon
political society. In this respect, it is unlike political society, which is
formed by the consent of the governed.
However, within the domain
of the family, parents do not have absolute or arbitrary authority over
their children, nor do husbands hold such dominion over wives.
Moreover, the state does not create the responsibilities that parents
owe to their children, nor can it take away these obligations. "[T]he
power that a father hath naturally over his children, is the same, where-
ever they be born, and the ties of natural obligations, are not bounded
by the positive limits of kingdoms and commonwealths."
Like the
market, conjugal society, consisting of marriage and family, is not the
creation of the state. It is a pre-political institution, rooted in sex di-
fference and procreation.
Given the pre-political nature of conjugal society, the state regu-
lates it rightly by recognizing it as a natural fact with its own norms
and purposes. The state ought not treat conjugal society as its own
creation. Where there is evidence that parents are failing in their du-
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage 181
ties to each other or to their children, the state may intervene. Absent
this, however, the state ought to leave conjugal society, rooted in the
union of one man and one woman, alone.
Conjugal society, being a pre-political form of social order, the exis-
tence of which is independent of the state, is precisely what advocates
of same-sex marriage seek to change. Marriage rooted in procreation
and sexual difference is to be replaced by marriage for the gratification
of two consenting adults. If this change is to take hold fully, it will
depend upon widespread acceptance of two justifications for same-sex
The first of these is that there is merely a contingent relation-
ship between marriage and procreation. For this reason, marriage is
not primarily an institution for the rearing of children, but one that
advances the comforts and needs of adults who choose it. Pointing to
infertile heterosexual couples, advocates of same-sex marriage argue
that if infertile heterosexuals may be permitted to marry, so too must
same- sex couples. As infertility is a biological reality, yet infertile men
and women marry, it is concluded that the goods of companionship and
mutual support that adults provide to one another through marriage
must be the decisive criteria for determining who may marry. Far from
being the foundation from which springs a sacred duty rooted in the
inherently unequal status of children, marriage is a contract, binding
two adults for so long as they may choose.
The analogy between infertile heterosexuals and same-sex couples
misses the point. The extension of marriage to infertile heterosexual
couples serves not to deprecate same-sex couples, but to preserve the
equal sratus of women in marriage. A test for fertility would be unfair
to women because all women spend most of their adult lives in a state
of infertility. Fertile women are infertile most days of a month, and
post-menopausal women are always infertile. A fertility requirement
would also renderwomen susceptible to enormous abuse by men, pro-
viding a ready excuse for men who would trade in older women for
nubile brides. The status of women in marriage would be intolerably
diminished through this practice. Infertility is less common among
men, as they can sire children into old age. Moreover, men, like women,
typically do not discover that they are infertile until they attempt to
sire children, at which time they ought already to be married.
A measure that serves primarily to protect women and to preserve
their equal status within the institution of marriage is not a measure
that is an appropriate basis by which to judge that the same should go
for same-sex couples. One of the great challenges men and women face
in marriage is in coming to terms with their differences while respect-
ing the status of the other as an equal. Acceptance of infertility is a
measure promoting this end. A measure to accommodate the reality
of sex- based difference in marriage is no reason to extend marriage to
same-sex couples. Moreover, accommodation for infertility in no way
diminishes the reality that the inequality of the parent-child relation-
ship is what differentiates marriage from other contractual relation-
ships. It is the parent-child relation, as it emerges from sexual difference
and procreation, which elevates marriage above a mere contract, and
renders it a sacred dury.
Moreover, the attempt by advocates of same-sex marriage to sever
marriage from procreation is more chimerical than real.l
One would
be hard-pressed to find an advocate of same-sex marriage who would
accept the proposition that same-sex couples should be given the right
to marry but that right does not entail a right to procreate and rear
children. Were marriage and family truly severable, as rhe contractual
view suggests, the one would not entail the other. However, advocates
of same-sex marriage want it both ways. They want the contractual
view of marriage plus the option of raising children.
This, then, leads to the second major justification for same-sex
marriage. It is noted that same-sex couples do rear children and they
are effective at childrearing. Given this reality, it is argued that same-
sex couples should be permitted to marry for the sake of their children.
Same- se.x marriage will protect the children under their care so that
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
these children will not be stigmatized, or otherwise disadvantaged, by
having two parents of the same sex.
To this, it is countered that the same-sex conception of marriage
and family is, and must be, parasitic upon the demise of conjugal so-
ciety, wherein biological parents are 1101 taking responsibility for the
rearing and education of their own children. Having no natural justi-
fication, the dominion of two adults of the same sex over children in
their custody is crucially dependent upon the state to enforce their
claim to these children as against the claims of the biological parent(s).
Same-sex marriage is necessarily a political form of social order, invok-
ing the power of the state to make it so.
For same-sex marriage to be regarded as a serious option by serious
people, marriage must be failing. Indeed, all justifications for same-sex
marriage for the sake of children arise out of social tragedy accepted as
the status quo. Same-se.x marriage for the sake of children requires the
existence of men and women who are not forming stable unions con-
ducive to the rearing of their biological children. It requires biological
parents who are not willing or able to raise their children. It accom-
modates husbands or wives who would like to divorce to join lovers of
the same sex. It envisions men and women offering their sexual organs,
or sperm and eggs, to others without intending to accept the respon-
sibilities of being parents to the children they bring into the world.
In short, same-sex marriage for the sake of children can only exist in
a world in which a sufficiently critical mass of parents are willing to
walk away from their biological children and the mother (or father) by
whom they sired (or conceived) these children.
Marriage does not serve primarily to accommodate or to mitigate
social tragedy of this sort. Its principal function is to prevent or limit
the occurrence of such tragedies in the first place. Nevertheless, it is
readily conceded that where social tragedy occurs, adoption may be
laudable. At the same time, caution is in order where same-sex couple
adoptions are concerned. Although there is evidence ro substantiate
the claim that adopted children fare satisfactorily with an adoptive
mother and father, and in some cases, even with a single parent,
there is insufficient evidence to make judgments about how children
fare with same-sex couples. In such cases, children in need participate
in a social experiment.
Yet in the rare case where no other placement is possible, adop-
tion by same-sex couples would be permissible, although a legislature
may rationally decide not to engage in this social experiment.
cases where an adoptive mother and father cannot be found, other
responsible adults may be permitted to adopt children in need and
thereby make these children their own. Adults who voluntarily take
upon themselves the responsibility of parenthood for children in need
provide an enormous social service. Such adults deserve praise; the full
range of tax benefits and parental rights should be accorded to them.
However, the existence of adopted children in the care of same-sex
couples is not sufficient to justify same-sex marriage.
Proponents who advance the needs of children to justify same-sex
marriage do not distinguish between cases in which same-sex couples
adopt needy children from cases in which a parent leaves a husband
or wife for a same-sex lover. Nor do they distinguish between adop-
tion of a needy child and the production of children using surrogate
sperm or eggs or wombs. In cases apart from the adoption of children
in need, same-sex couples who take children into their custody do
nor ameliorate social evils but share in them. In many instances, they
exacerbate them.
The principal reason for the tendency of same-sex marriage to
make the plight of children worse is straightforward. Once same-sex
couples are given a right to marry, they will claim from this a right to
procreate. The fact that they cannot do so naturally will not stop them
from achieving procreation through artificial means. Same-sex marriage
will increase demand among gays and lesbians for reproductive tech-
nologies to produce children. The cloning of children will become an
area deemed worthy of further exploration by those who cannot mate
but who can marry. It does, after all, clean up the aesthetically unpleas-
ing reality that one of the partners in the same-sex marriage might
otherwise forever be tied through a child to someone of the opposite
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
sex. In short, where the logic of the market is applied to marriage, the
result is the commodiiication of children.
In all cases apart from adoption, same-sex marriage fosters the
vulnerability of children to advance the desires of adults. Children are
rendered vulnerable not because same-sex couples make bad parents;
the evidence of their competency as parents remains too scanty to make
such a determination.
Rather, children are made vulnerable because
they do not naturally belong to same-sex couples. They belong to rhem
to the extent that their biological parents renounce responsibility for
them and to the extent that the state will grant same-sex couples pa-
rental rights. In a very real sense, same-sex marriage normalizes the
practice of entrusting the care of children to strangers. It is a socially
constructed family that can survive only as long as favorable social
conditions exist.
None of this is intended to refute the right of adults to enter into
contracts for their mutual support and sustenance. One should pre-
sume that adults are capable of taking care of themselves and that they
will do so. It would be wrong, however, to equate these arrangements
with marriage. Unlike same-sex marriage, marriage is a distinctive,
pre-political form of social order that is first and foremost about duty,
especially to offspring, while it also promotes the mutual support and
sustenance of the husbands and wives. Its justification does not rest
on the equality of all adults, regardless of sexual orientation, but upon
the inequality and vulnerability of some members of our species, par-
ticularly children. Marriage demands that men and women curb their
sexual appetites, that they commit to a member of the opposite sex,
and that they accept the burdens of parenthood if and when children
result from their union.
Neither do these arguments against same-sex marriage deprecate
adoption by same-sex couples or other adults. Adoption is a humane
and laudable measure to mitigate the tragedy of children without par-
ents willing or able to raise them. Adoption is not, however, a justi-
fication for same-sex marriage. Far from benefiting children, same-sex
marriage encourages the severance of children from their biological
parents. Children are thereby made vulnerable as it becomes unclear
to whom these children belong as they are produced, or commodified,
to fulfill the desires of adults.
According to Tocqueville, one of the peculiar evils to which democratic
nations are prone is soft despotism. Soft despotism arises from the
desires of democratic people to have their wants gratified, and to be
left alone to indulge in their private lives. To this end, they cede their
political freedom to the state, which cares for their wants. Tocqueville
describes this state of soft despotism, emerging from the love of demo-
cratic peoples for equality and comfort, as follows: "Over this kind of
men stands an immense, protective power which is alone responsible
for securing their enjoyment and watching over their fate. That power
is absolute, thoughtful of detail, orderly, provident, and gentle. It would
resemble parental authority, if, father like, it tried to prepare its charges
for a man's life, but on the contrary, it only tries to keep them in per-
petual childhood. It likes to see the citizens enjoy themselves, provided
that they think of nothing but enjoyment. It gladly works for their
happiness but wants to be sole agent and judge of it. "
Tocqueville observed that the primary means by which Americans
resist this peculiarly democratic impulse toward puerility in citizens,
and concomitantly, toward soft despotism, is through their rradition
of political self governance.
Their habit of political engagement then
spills over into a habit of organizing civic associations.
Through such
associations, Americans regulate themselves without the need for state
intervention and oversight. Liberty, understood in the sense of taking
responsibility for one's self governance, tempers the tendency toward
soft despotism, which arises from the desires of all to be equally com-
fortable and left alone. Tocqueville appreciated that this tradition of
self governance is one of America's principal strengths, as it fosters a
political order that is dynamic and energizing, yet orderly.
In short, it
is a political order that is sustainable over time as its people can respond
to the unexpected and the threatening.
Soft and Same-Sex Marriage
Like Locke, Tocqueville could not have imagined an age in which
self-indulgence would become tolerated to such an extent that it would
be commonplace for parents to put their desires for sexual gratification
above their duties to rear their biological children with the partner
by whom these children are conceived. This is a tragedy of our times,
and same-sex couples reflect it but are not primarily responsible for
it. Sexual licentiousness is more dangerous to social order among het-
erosexuals than among gays and lesbians, as it is heterosexual unions
that beget children.
Unlike conjugal society, however, same-sex marriage requires a
condition of soft despotism to exist. In this political condition, gays
and lesbians are liberated with their .heterosexual counterparts to gratify
themselves as they see fit. Self-indulgence in the realm of sexuality
demands exactly the kind of gentle despotism thatTocqueville under-
stood democracies have good reason to fear. It requires that the state
increasingly step into the role of parens patriae to pave the way for the
pursuit of self-gratification. Self-indulgence is what the United States
Supreme Court encourages through its doctrine of privacy rights, which
it decrees to be fundamental to the American constitution. Privacy
rights include the right to use contraceptives, to abort children, and to
have sexual relations with the partner(s) of one's choice so long as there
is consent.
It is a doctrine that allows individuals to believe that they
can enjoy sex without consequences; indeed, that they have a right to do
This is the state to which liberty has been degraded in our times.
Rather than to be equally free and autonomous, we are to be equally
indulged and infantilized to pursue our sexual desires.
Few doctrines are more disingenuous or dangerous than the Court's
doctrine of privacy rights. The name of the right speaks volumes. It is a
right to turn inward, to have regard only for one's self, to do what one
wants to do without interference from the government. It is precisely
the disposition thatTocque'ville warned against, for it is the disposition
that turns us from being men and women, capable of self-governance,
into children who confuse liberty with license. As critically, the cen-
tralization of power that results has the potential to result in social and
political stagnation.
Those who demand privileges from the state
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
of same-sex couples to rear children would not exist absent a political
order which decrees that specific children belong to them. It is the
nature of the former to bind a man and woman together in the solemn
duty of caring for their children and each other. No such pre-political
obligation exists for same-sex couples; they are bound together only
for as long as they both shall want.
Same-sex couples can only marry insofar as the state decrees that
they can. In claiming for homosexuals the right to marry, the state
also claims for itself the ability to declare what constitutes marriage. It
endows itself with the prerogative of defining its terms. It transforms
marriage from a pre-political obligation into its own creation. At the
same time, it replaces marriage as an obligation within conjugal society
to marriage as a choice and a means of self-gratification. In this way,
it changes the character of marriage not just for s a m e - s ~ couples, but
for everyone. By allowing same-sex marriage, the state decrees that,
henceforth, marriage is what the state says it is. Marriage then loses
its status as a fundamental institution of civil society, and becomes a
right, granted by the state, for the desiring self.
As marriage loses its independence, rooted in biology and moral
obligation, it also loses its ability to order society without state inter-
ference. Where marriage is a pre-political institution, husbands and
wives know that they are bound to each other, especially through their
children. They don't need the state to create parenthood or to define
who belongs to whom. The proper role of the state in regulating par-
ent-child relations is simply to recognize the reality that this man and
this won1an are the parents of this child.
With same-sex marriage, this changes. The ability of same-sex
couples to be parents depends crucially upon the state declaring that
they possess such rights, and by extinguishing or redefining the rights
of biological parents. With the rise of same-sex marriage, the obli-
gations parents owe to their biological children are reduced to mere
convention. This is true for everyone. Parents come to owe obligations
to their children not because they are parents, but because they choose
to be parents.
The obligations of parenthood are onerous and are felt to be es-
pecially so by a people who demand self-grati£cation. Furthermore,
lacking roots in biology, in tradition, in a sense of duty, same- sex mar-
riage is not sufficiently resilient to fend off the vicissitudes which the
ordinary and extraordinary demands oflife place upon all of us. Being
entirely a creation of the state, it is an institution that needs to be
coddled, and which demands cocooning to protect it. Its very fragility
demands a culture in which it is protected. It is desperately in need
of state intervention to support it. For these reasons, once marriage
becomes a statist institution for the sake of consenting adults, the state
will increasingly be called upon to create the social conditions to protect
these unions. 5° The need of same-sex unions to be culturally coddled
also increases the likelihood that the state will use public education for
this end.Sl In this way, same-sex marriage affects not just those who
participate in it; it affects everyone, and especially our children.
With the demise of marriage, children are being raised to £t better
the lifestyle demands of their parents. Children are to understand their
parents' needs; the importance of being accepting of sexual orientation
and alternative lifestyles; the contingencies of all attachments; the need
for each of us to create our own meaning of the universe. Such children
are also taught a worlclview that is intended to make them accepting of
difference and adaptable in a world in which there are no permanent
moral obligations. These dispositions are useful in resigning children
who have no choice but to adapt as they are shuffled from household
to household. These lessons are reinforced in their homes as children
learn from the adults in their lives that self-grati£cation is good, that a
sense of entitlement is normative, and that acts or omissions need not
have consequences. The experience with the demise of sexual norms in
Scandinavia indicates that such children do not flourish; they respond
with a sense of despondency.
It is a sad feature of our current political thought and jurisprudence
that the importance of conjugal society to republican governance has
been all but lost in the rhetoric of liberty and equality. Through force
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
of law, a movement is afoot to transform marriage from a pre-politi-
cal organization rooted in duty to offspring, to a political institution
rooted in self-gratification. Same-sex marriage will likely not affect the
material well-being of children, but it cannot but affect the character
of the rising generation. Same-sex marriage will further erode political
liberty by undermining the cultural milieu in which children learn to
be self-governing and to care for themselves and their families. This
is damaging both to the wellbeing of children and to the long-term
sustainabiliry of America's political order.
The demand for a culture to nurture same-sex marriage has profound
effects not just for traditional marriage, and the rights of parents to
raise their children as they see fit. It affects all intermediary institu-
tions of civil sociery standing between the individual and the state, but
particularly those which threaten same-sex marriage. Foremost among
these are religious organizations that do not support same-sex marriage.
The Catholic Church, by virtue of its strength in American society, tops
the list, but it is not alone. Many Christian, Jewish, and Muslim com-
munities are morally, culturally, and intellectually opposed to same-sex
marriage. To the extent that they exert cultural influence, they pose a
threat to the sustainability of this fragile political instirution.
Religious institutions opposing same-sex marriage are faced with
a formidable adversary once same-sex marriage is recognized. That
adversary is the state itself, or at least that branch of it that decrees
same-sex marriage to be a right. The state necessarily stands in opposi-
tion to religious institutions who refuse to recognize same-sex marriage,
and this opposition is heightened by the fact that same-sex marriage
is in need of a protective culture to be sustainable. When a state cre-
ates same-sex marriage by political means, religious organizations are
placed in the undesirable position of being in a contest for the hearts
and minds of the people. In this contest, religious institutions are at a
marked disadvantage, given that the tenets of religious faiths are pri-
marily transmitted through conjugal society. As the state undermines
conjugal society, it also undermines religions that support it.
Marriage and religion have a long and mutually supportive his-
tory.53 Religion has traditionally served to recognize and regulate mar-
riage either independently or concurrently with the state; husbands and
wives, in turn, educate their children in the tenets of the faith in which
their marriage is recognized and regulated. Moreover, in democratic
societies, religion, more often than not, serves civic purposes. It teaches
children and adults about their responsibilities to their fellow men and
to society at large. As Tocqueville rightly observed, religion tends to
serve as a bulwark against soft despotism in that it encourages citizens
to look beyond their immediate self-interest and material comforts.
Religion is a principal means by which people become actively involved
in tending for the well-being of others.
Children nurtured in faith
are prone to learn dispositions that make them more capable of self-
governance, and less in need of the state to care for them.
State efforts to institutionalize same-sex marriage undermine re-
ligious authority in a number of ways. First, as the state claims for
itself the right to redefine marriage, it limits the traditional regulatory
powers of religious organizations in the realm of matrimony. It forces
upon religious institutions the need to come to terms with a political
institution regarded by them as contrary to reason and at odds with the
tenets of their faiths. In so doing, it also indicts as intolerant religious
institutions that stand in opposition to same-sex marriage. Through
this charge, the moral authority of religious institutions is undermined
in the eyes of the public who are encouraged to view uncompromis-
ing faiths as unreasonable and unsupportive of marriage (as it is now
Secondly, in its effort to create a culture in which same-sex mar-
riage can be sustained, the state, through education, inculcates within
children beliefs at odds with the tenets of traditional faith. In the
United States, the state has the additional advantage that it can call
upon the establishment clause to keep religious points of view out of
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
public schools. 5
By this means, the children are indoctrinated into nar-
row secular ideology. Exposure to prayer led by teachers is prohibited,
while acceptance of sexual behavior at odds with traditional faiths is
encouraged. Traditional beliefs are thereby stigmatized.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the state drives a wedge between
religion and children by taking away the desires of their parents to be
guided by religion. Parents, raising children in a society in which reli-
gion is widely regarded as inconsistent with official public policy, are
less apt to expose their children to it. Pa.rents thereby choose to deprive
themselves of a fundamental support for their own marriages, as well as
a source of civic education and spiritual inspiration for themselves and
their children. As families shy away from religion, religious organiza-
tions tend to wither, for they cannot exist if people do not believe in
the tenets of their faith or accept the moral authority of their religious
Same-sex marriage, then, is not simply a statist assault upon the
independence of marriage as a pre-political institution. It is also statist
assault upon religion, and especially those religions which oppose it.
Unlike marriage, however, the state cannot usurp religion by claiming
for itself the power to define it. Instead, it relegates it to the private
realm, where it is treated as a matter of individual conscience. Rather
than being an institution of civil society, religion is reduced to a matter
of indivi.dual belie£
In this way, the state overcomes religious opposi-
tion by refusing to recognize the ability of any given religion to speak
with one voice. It also limits effective political action among those who
might otherwise be united by an authority independent of the state.
What results from the wedge that is driven between marriage and
religion through the creation of same-sex marriage is cause for great
concern for anyone who values political freedom. By creating same-
sex marriage, the state does a great deal of harm to two principal civil
institutions: conjugal society and religion. It also limits the effective-
ness of these institutions in their capacity to serve as buffers between
the state and individuals. As Tocqueville well understood, individuals
in a democracy are weak. The principal means by which rhey preserve
their freedom against centralized political power is by means of asso-
Crucial to this effort to protect political freedom are mar-
riage and religion, both of which stand as pre-political forms of social
order. Both of these institutions serve to inculcate within people, and
especially within children, the dispositions needed to be self-govern-
ing. These include a concern for the welfare of others, a sense of duty
that permits one to be self-sacrificing, a sense of justice tempered by
mercy, a belief in the fundamental equality of all men, a love ofliberty
but not license and the sense to know the difference.
Much as proponents of same-sex marriage may profess that these
values are sustained by same-sex marriage, their professions are in
vain. By virtue of being a political institution to satisfy personal needs,
same-sex marriage promotes a sense of entitlement, not obligation; a
love for tolerance that erodes moral standards of judgment; a desire for
uncritical approbation; a love oflicense over liberty; a slavish equality
of all beneath the rule of a gentle despot. It is an institution that is
antithetical to political freedom. Its very existence depends upon an
exercise of state power, and its sustenance equally depends upon fre-
quent state intervention to shape a public culture in which same-sex
marriage can be coddled. Moreover, same-sex marriage stands opposed
to religions that regard it as an illegitimate usurpation by the state,
and in this contest, religions stand to lose as the choices of same-sex
couples become the object of state protection. As the state undermines
authentic marriage, it concurrently undermines religious authority in
the domain of family life.
The society resulting from same-sex marriage is deeply disordered,
as far from enabling people to govern themselves to the extent pos-
sible, it creates dependence on the state to define and order marriage
and family life. It is contrary to the principle of subsidiarity, which
stipulates that individuals ought to be encouraged to regulate them-
selves within simple and proximate associations wherever possible to
foster their own wellbeing.
In practice, subsidiarity is a call to work
to establish good governance within our families, religious communi-
ties, workplaces, neighborhoods. It also carries with it the expectation
Soft Despotism and Same-Sex Marriage
that state regulation should not be sought unless it is needed to solve
problems for the common good. The principle of subsidiarity calls upon
each of us to become fully engaged in, and responsible for, social order
and justice. Each person has an immediate and pressing responsibility
for the promotion of the common good, but this responsibility starts
at an immediate and proximate leveL
Same-sex marriage is antithetical to this principle. A creature of
the state, dependent upon the state for its existence and sustenance, it
invites state intrusions into the lives of children, as it transforms society
from the top down. It undermines conjugal society, rooted in respon-
sibility, and the religious institutions that nurture it. It leaves persons
without robust institutions of civil society through which to govern
themselves effectively and without state intervention. It promotes bad
choices, while also making individuals both unfit and without the full
array of institutional resources through which they can govern them-
selves without recourse to the state.
A just regime is one that makes its peace with the market, the family,
and religious authority, allowing each to govern in their proper do-
mains. A just regime is one that is content with the decentralization
of power and legitimate governance that results. An unjust regime is
one that folds one or all of these civic institutions into the state, or
which undermines them. Such a regime regulates ineffectively at best,
and despotically at worst when it usurps or undermines our society's
core civic institutions. ·
As a pre-political form of social order, the raison d'etre of marriage
does not stem from the purposes of the state, even if those purposes
include the seemingly laudable principles of promoting equality and
liberty. It also does not stem from the desires of adults. Marriage arises
from the peculiar vulnerabilities of children and the biological reality
that it is the sexual coupling of men and women that begets children.
Marriage serves to place upon these two, as full and equal human be-
ings, the sacred responsibility of raising and educating the children
begotten by their sexual union. It thereby elevates one man and one
woman above the realm of contract, imposing upon them, and upon
them only, the sacred duty of rearing and educating their children.
Same-sex marriage is a radical denial of marriage. By importing
market principles into the domain of marriage, same-sex marriage
denies that marriage is necessarily connected to procreation, while it
also seeks to advance the rights of same-sex couples to procreate and
rear children. Same-sex marriage is a political institution. It is entirely
dependent upon the power of the state for its very existence. It is also
dependent upon the power of the state to create the cultural conditions
in which it can survive.
Finally, same-sex marriage undermines not simply marriage, but
religious authority as well. Here, the state is called upon to limit the
influence of religions that pose a threat to its creation. This end is
effectively achieved by severing the mutually supportive relationship
of marriage and religious authority.
Same-sex marriage undermines core civil institutions so as better
to gratify consenting adults. This is not liberty. One's masters become
state power and sexual desire. The cost of same-sex marriage, and the
privacy rights upon which it is based, is soft despotism, not simply for
oneself, but also for one's children.

TAB 40

The Sociology of
Georg Siinmel
Kurt H. Wolff
The Free Press, Glencoe, Illinois
Copyright 1950 by The Free Press. All rights in this book are reserved
and no part thereof may be reprinted without permission from the
copyright owners, except small portions used in connection with a
review or notice of the book in a magazine or newspaper. THE SoCIOL-
OGY OF GEORG SIMMEL has been set in Bodoni and Baskerville types,
printed on Antique Wove paper supplied for this book by the Per-
kins and Squier Company. Composition, printing, and binding by
Knickerbocker Printing Corp., New York. Manufactured in the
United States of America.
128 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad
ture which they feel exists and operates on its own. Yet in all
its purity, this condition is met only rarely even in groups of as
few as three. Likewise, the third element in a relation between
two individuals-the unit which has grown out of the interac-
tion among the two--interferes with the most intimate nature of
the dyad; and this is highly characteristic of its subtler structure.
Indeed, it is so fundamental that even marriages occasionally
succumb to it, namely, when the first child is born. The point
deserves some further elaboration.
§ 7. Monogamous Marriage
The fact that male and female strive after their mutual union
is the foremost example or primordial image of a dualism which
stamps our life-contents generally. It always presses toward
reconciliation, and both success and failure of the reconcilia-
tion reveal this basic dualism only the more clearly. The union
of man and woman is possible, precisely because they are oppo-
sites. As something essentially unattainable, it stands in the way
of the most passionate craving for convergence and fusion. The
fact that, in any real and absolute sense, the "I" can not seize
the ''not-1," is felt nowhere more deeply than here, where their
mutual supplementation and fusion seem •to be the very reason
for the opposites to exist at all. Passion seeks to tear down the
borders of the ego and to absorb "I" and "thou" in one another.
But it is not they which become a unit: rather, a new unit
emerges, the child. The parents' nearness, which they can never
attain to the extreme extent they desire but which always must
remain a distance; and, on the other hand, their distance, which
nevertheless to an infinite degree approaches their becoming-
one-this is the peculiar dualistic condition in the form of which
what has become, the child, stands between his creators. Their
varying moods now let one of these two elements play its role,
now the other. Therefore, cold, intrinsically alienated spouses
do not wish a child: it might unify them; and this unifying func-
tion would contrast the more effectively, but the less desirably,
with the parents' overwhelming estrangement. Yet sometimes
it is precisely the very passionate and intimate husband and
wife who do not wish a child: it would separate them; the meta-
Monogamous Marriage 129
physical oneness into which they want to fuse alone with one
another would be taken out of their hands and would confront
them as a distinct, third element, a physical unit, that mediates
between them. But to those who seek immediate unity, media-
tion must appear as separation. Although a bridge connects two
banks, it also makes the distance between them measurable; and
where mediation is superfluous, it is worse than superfluous.
Nevertheless, monogamous marriage does not seem to have
the essential sociological character of the dyad, namely, absence
of a super-personal unit. For, the common experience of bad
marriages between excellent persons and of good marriages be-
tween dubious ones, suggests that marriage, however much it
depends on each of the spouses, may yet have a character not
coinciding with either of them. Each of the two, for instance, may
suffer from confusions, difficulties, and shortcomings, but man-
ages to localize them in himself or herself, as it were, while con-
tributing only the best and purest elements to the marital rela-
tion, which thus is kept free from personal defects. If this is the
case, the defect may still be considered the personal affair of the
spouse. And yet we have the feeling that marriage is something
super-personal, something which is valuable and sacred in itself,
and which lies qeyond whatever un-sacredness each of its ele-
ments may possess. It is a relationship within which either of the
two feels and behaves only with respect to the other. His or her
characteristics, without (of course) ceasing to be such, neverthe-
less receive a coloration, status, and significance that are different
from what they would be if they were completely absorbed by
the ego. For the consciousness of each of them, their relationship
may thus become crystallized as an entity outside of them, an
entity which is more and better (or worse, for that matter) than
he or she is, toward which he has obligations and from which he
receives good or fateful gifts, as if from some objective being.
This rise of the group unit from its structure, which consists
of the mere "I" and "thou," is facilitated, in the case of marriage,
by two circumstances. First, there is its incomparable closeness.
The fact that two fundamentally different beings, man and
woman, form such a close union; that the egoism of each is so
thoroughly suspended, not only in favor of the other, but also
in favor of the general relationship, including the interests and
130 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad
the honor of the family and, above all, the children-this is
really a miraculous fact. It is grounded in bases of the ego which
rationalistically are inexplicable and which lie beyond its con-
sciousness. It is also expressed in the distinction between the
unit and its elements. That each of them feels the relation to be
something with its own life-forces, merely indicates that it is
incommensurable with the personal, self-contained ego, as we
usually conceive it.
The second point is that this idea is further corroborated by
the super-individual character of marriage forms, which are
socially regulated and historically transmitted. It is impossible
to decide whether the immeasurable differences in the nature
and value of individual marriages are larger or smaller than
are those among individuals. But no matter how great either of
the differences may be, no couple has by itself invented the form
of marriage. Its various forms are valid, rather, within given cul-
ture areas, as relatively fixed forms. In their formal nature, they
are not subject to the arbitrary shadings and fates of individuals.
If we look at the history of marriage, we are struck, for instance,
by the important, always traditional role that is played by third
persons during courtship, in negotiations regarding dowry, and
in the wedding ceremonies proper. They are not always rela-
tives: they include the priest who seals the marital union. This
un-individualized initiation of marriage forcefully symbolizes
its sociologically incomparable structure: in regard· to its content
and interest, as well as to its formal organization, this most per-
sonal relation of all is taken over and directed by entirely super-
personal, historical-social authority. This inclusion of traditional
elements profoundly contrasts marriage with friendship and
similar relations, in which individual freedom is permitted much
more play. Marriage, essentially, allows only acceptance or re-
jection, but not modification. It thus evidently favors the feeling
of an objective form, of a super-personal unit. Although each of
the two spouses is confronted by only the other, at least partially
he also feels as he does when confronted by a collectivity; as the
mere bearer of a super-individual structure whose nature and
norms are independent of him, although he is an organic part of
Modern culture seems more and more to individualize the
Monogamous Marriage 131
character of the given marriage, but at the same time to leave
untouched, even in some respects to emphasize, its super-individ-
uality, which is the core of its sociological form. At first glance,
it may appear as if the great number of marriage forms found
in half-cultures and past high-cultures (some of them based on
the choice by the parties to the contract, some on their specific
social positions), reflected an individualization that is at the
service of the individual marriage. Actually, the reverse is true.
Each of these types is profoundly un-individual and socially
pre-determined; and being more minutely articulated, it is
much narrower and tighter than is a very general and pervasive
marriage form, whose more abstract character is bound to leave
greater play to personal differentiation.
Here we encounter a very general sociological uniformity. If
the general is socially defined; if, that is, all relevant situations
are stamped by a pervasive social form, a much greater freedom
of individual behavior and creativity prevails than is true when
social norms are crystallized in a variety of specific forms, while
seemingly paying attention to individual conditions and needs.
In the latter case, there is much more interference with what is
properly individual: the freedom of differentiation is greater
when the lack o( freedom concerns very general and pervasive
The uniform character of the modern marriage form
thus certainly leaves more room for individual articulations
than do a larger number of socially pre-determined forms. On
the other hand, it is true that its generality, which suffers no ex-
ception, greatly increases the character of objectivity and au-
tonomous validity that it has in comparison with individual
modifications in which we are interested here.
9 These correlations are treated in detail in the last chapter. ["The Enlarge-
ment of the Group and the Development of Individuality"; not contained in this
10 The peculiar combination of subjective and objective, personal and super-
personal or general elements in marriage is involved in the very process that forms
its basis-physiological pairing. It alone is common to all historically known forms
of marriage, wh1le perhaps no other characteristic can be found without excep-
tions. On the one hand, sexual intercourse is the most intimate and personal
process, but on the other hand, it is absolutely general, absorbing the very per-
sonality in the service of the species and in the universal organic claim of nature.
The psychological secret of this act lies in its double character of being both wholly
personal and wholly impersonal. It explains why it is precisely this act that could
become the basis of the marital relation which, at a higher sociological stage, re-
182 The Isolated Individual and the Dyad
Something sociologically similar can be seen in the dyad of
business partners. Although the formation and operation of the
business rests, exclusively perhaps, on the cooperation of these
two personalities, nevertheless the subject matter of the coopera-
tion, the business or firm, is an objective structure. Each of the
two has rights and duties toward it that in many respects are not
different from those of any third party. And yet this fact here has
another sociological significance than in the case of marriage.
Because of the objective character of the economic system, busi-
ness is intrinsically separate from the person of the owner,
whether he be one or two, or more persons. The interaction
among the participants has its purpose outside itself, while in
marriage it has it within it. In business, the relationship serves
as the means for obtaining certain objective results; in marriage,
all objective elements are really nothing but means for the sub-
jective relation. It is all the more remarkable that the psychologi-
cal objectivity and autonomy of the group structure, which is not
so essential to other dyads, does exist in marriage, along with
immediate subjectivity.
peats the same duality. But it is in the very relation between marriage and sex
behavior that we find a most peculiar formal complication. For, however impossible
it is to give a positive definition of marriage in view of the historical heterogeneity
of marriage types, it can certainly be said which relation between man and woman
is not marriage--the purely sexual relation. Whatever marriage is, it is always
and everywhere more than sexual intercourse. However divergent the directions
may be in which marnage transcends sexual intercourse, the fact that it transcends
it at all makes marriage what it is. Here is, sociologically speaking, an almost
unique phenomenon: the very point that all marriage forms have in common is the
one which they have to transcend in order to result in marriage. Elsewhere there
seem to be only very distant analogies. Thus all artists, no matter how heterogene-
ous their stylistic and imaginative tendencies may be, must know natural phenom-
ena very minutely, not in order to stay within them, but in order to fulfill their
specific artistic task by going beyond them. In a similar way, all historical and indi-
vidual variations of gastronomic culture must satisfy relevant physiological needs,
but again not to stop there, but to transcend this merely general need satisfaction
by means of the most diverse stimuli. But among sociological formations, marriage
seems to be the only one, or at least the purest, of this type. Here all cases of a
given social form really contain only one common element; but this element is not
sufficient to realize the form. This form emerges, rather, only when something else,
something inevitably individual, which is different from case to case, is added to
the general.

TAB 41

Claude Le,ri-Strauss
A ~ D
Basic Books, Inc., Publishers I New York
The Family
household and bear and raise to be a practically
unh·ersal phenomenon, present in type e>f society.
1 hesc t•xtreme posuJons suffer from simplicity. We know cases-
r.lre, 11 is trul·-when' fo1mily bonds as we conceive of them seem not
tv Amnng the Na>ar, 1\ll imponant large group Jiving on the
t+.Ia!.1l)Jr coJstof India, the men. engrossed 10 \var, could not establish
a fJmilr. A purely symholical ceremony, marriage did not crc:atc per·
mancnr ties between spouse!.: the married wuman had as many lovers
ns !.he and the children bclonged to the maternnlline. Family
authority and property rights were exercised not by the ephemeral
hu.,b:tnd a per'>oo-bur the wife's brothers. Since land
wa!. culti\"ated by an inferiur cnste, subservient to the Nayu, a
"oman's brothers were a<> completely free ns her insiguiticant
to de\ otc themselves to militar}' activities.
Bizarre h.wc frequently been misunderstood by being
\·icwcd as I he \"estigc of an nr:dlaic sQcial org:tnizatic)u, onct' common
in most societies. llighly spt>dali'l,ed. the NRyor arc the proc:luc:-t of a
lung historical evolution and can teflrh us nothing 1lbou1 the early
of humanity. On the orher hand, there is linle doubt that the
Nayar an extreme form of :1 tendenc-y that is far more fre·
qut•nt in human societies th<lfl is hcli<wcd.
\\'ith()ut going as .t5 the Nnyar, some human snt·ictics rcsnirt the
role ol· the mnjugal family. they recognize 11, only as one pattern
amoug Such is the in Africa, a01ong the Masai and the:
ChaggJ, whose youngest cia:.!' of adult men were dedicated to warlike
lived in rllllitM} settings, and established \'er)' free cmo·
tinn:d Jnd "CX!I<tl rcl..1tiom with tht' corrt·sponding d:1ss of adult girls.
It" onlr after this .u:ti\c period the men couiJ marry and stan
:l lanuly. In a systt'rll, the conjugal family existed side side \l.'ith
imtituuon.ll promiscuity.
For <hfltrent the same dual pattan prcv:1ilcd among the
Bor6ro and other tribes of central, and Rnwng rhc Muria and
other trihes of lnd•a and Ao;sam. All the known inst;\nces could be
:arranged in a w.ty as to make the Nayar rl.'prcsem the nH>SI
systematic, and )t)gically extreme ,·asc. Uut the tendency
th.u 11 •llusu att·:- mJntfestec.l elsev. hel'e, .md nne sees 11 rcJppc.1r in
cmllryomc form e\'en in modern sm·•ehes
Such wa') the (":lSe of N;ttl Gcrm.lll)', where the family unll
bcg1nning 10 '>piJt; on thr (lllC hand, the men <l<:dJcJtcd co politseJI :tnd
milit;try w11rk .tnrl cnjo}'lng a prc'it!J,:C th.u allo)'.l;ed them a wide
lawudc of behJvior: on the other h;Htd, the women," ho.!.c: vocation

TAB 42

G. Robina Quale
New York • Westport, Connecticut • London
Relationships Among Marriage Rules, Kinship
Rules, and Socioeconomic Conditions: A
Hypothesis of the Spiral-like Development of
Marriage Systems
Marriage systems involve the sets of rules used in societies to govern the
establishment, continuance, and dissolution of marriage. These include rules
concerning who may be married and who may not, among both kin and
nonkin. They also include rules concerning the holding and transmission of
property or status. However, to try to understand the actual operation of
a marriage system by looking at it in isolation from its full context is to
behave like a taxonomist rather than like a hunter. The hunter who discerns
a leopard in the forest would err profoundly in rushing to attack without
considering wind direction, sun position, ground conformation, paths of
escape open to the leopard, indications of the presence of other leopards
such as its mate or irs cubs, indications of the presence of other animals the
leopard might be watching for, signals from hunting companions, or indi-
cations of the presence of other human beings. The leopard must be seen,
to be either avoided or attacked. Bur the leopard must then be fully related
to its context, if the hunter is to escape becoming the hunted.
The functioning of a marriage system also needs to be fully related to the
overall economic and political situation within which families and individ-
uals must make their way. That overall situation ought in turn to be looked
at historically, for it is constantly changing from the situation for which the
currently used rules were made. Sometimes that change may seem as violent
as a hurricane. Sorr:etimes it may seem almost glacially slow. But it is never
entirely absent. It is always forcing people to rethink what they should do,
how they should do it, and with whom they should do it.
Marriage is an alliance, before it is anything else. At a minimum, it is an
alliance between the two it brings together. However, in some societies it
may take less of their time and attention than it does in others.
Marriage is usually an alliance between the two families from which those
partners came. Still, it may be less of a preoccupation for those families in
some societies than in others.
Marnago: Rults, Ktnship Rules, and So..:ioecouomic Conduions 3
band's relationship with his wife. Still even the Nayar anticipated that the
publicly acknowledged father of a child would take an affectionate interest
in it. When the spec1fic political and social circumstances which had led to
dcernphasizing the husband-father's role changed during the 19th century,
that affectionate interest proved so strong that the whole property-holding,
marriage, and inheritance system was O\'erturned. Both men and women
evidently wanred to be able to treat their spouses as primary partners in
raising the children born to them. They clearly did not want to have men
continue to be torn between their duty to their sisters' children and their
concern fur their own, to the distress of women whose own husbands could
do little to help them if a brother started giving more to a wife'!. children
than to his nieces and nephews.
The Nayar s y ~ t e m stre,sed the role of a woman's eldest living brother,
who remained at home to manage the famtly property, over the role of her
soldier husband (usually a younger son of some other family) who nught
be lost in battle. It may date as far back as the wars that accompanied the
decline of the great Chola empire in southern India in the llth century A.D.
It was certainly well entrenched by the time Europeans reached southern
India at the end of the 15th century, for they soon beg,m w describe it, in
amazed fascination. Its rise 111 an era of frequent and bloody conflict, its
endurance through centuries of continuing strife, and its overturn after the
establishment of an effective peacekeepmg central government all demon-
strate the vital need to look at marriage systems in their larger social and
historical context, if their workings are to be understood in full.
No marriage system develops in isolation from other elements in people's
lives. Among the Nayar the eldest brother who stayed home took all re-
sponsibility for the economic mamtenance of the nonfighring women and
children. That made it possible for the husb.:md to take none, and for most
men to be gone on militar}· service most of the tune. lr also made it possiblt'
to accept the legitimacy of marriages between a woman and several hus-
bands, each of whom might spend his military leave m her company, and
each of whom might on his side be wed to sevnal women. In that way he
could go to another of them if the wife he chose to go to first was already
entertaining another of her husbands. However, it took the special circum-
stances of being a hereditary military group to lead to such a marriage
system, and to sustain it. The cultivators who grew the crops on lands the
Nayar aristocracy held from their Brahmin overlords had very difft'rent sets
nf rules for marri <lge, property-holding, and inheritance. So did those Brah-
min overlords, the ones who relted on the Nayar men to fight their wars.
They needed different rules, even though they lived in the same region, at
the same time, as members of the same society, and in the same larger
political and economiC system. As C. J. Fuller makes clear in The Nayars
Tod,zy ( 1976), they were in different politicnl and social circumst.mccs, so
that ro look at either cultivatOr or Nayar or Brahmin in central Kcrala in

TAB 43

levels of education are as5ociated with greater social and sexual liberalism (see
chapter 14) and with greater sexual experimentation (see Kinsey, Pomeroy, and
Martin 1948: Kinsey et al. 1953: and chapter 3 above). Acceptance of nontradi·
tiona! sexual behavior is likely to be higher among the more educated. This
may facilitate higher rates of reponing among the better educated. even i f be-
havioral differences across education level:> are negligible. But it seems likely
that both effects occur.
We have already observed some drop-off in heterosexual partners (and rates
of sexual activity) among the more highly educated women (see chapters 3 and
5) On the one hand, more education for women may represent greater gender
nonconfonnity. But it may also represent a higher level of personal resources
(human capital) that can translate tnto more economic and social opportunities,
which would. in tum. increase one's ability to please oneself rather than others.
The fact that younger women (those under forty) report higher levels of same-
gender partners in all three ume periods but do not so clearly repon htgher
levels of same-gender desire may be due to historical changes that affect the
opportunities and nonns for cohorts differentially. In particular, the expectation
and need for wornen to work and the lowenng of barriers to economic success
have had a greater effect on younger women. A more general pattern of
younger women's sexual expenences becoming somewhat more like m.:n·s
seems to be enitrgn;g i:-: ni hoth same- and opposite-gender activi!y.
Both the ideology of women's equality and the structural bases for its realiza-
tion have been increasing in the postwar period, but with especially marked
increases since the late 1960s.
The .Ui.xture of Same- and Opposite-Gender Sex Partners
So far we have focused on the existence of any same-gender partners 111
given time periods or the expresswn of sexual interest in people of the same
gender. Many of those who report same-gender sexual experience or tnterest
also have sexual experil'nces with and interest in people of the opposite gender
:?.S wei!. Tables 8.3A and 8.38 show the gender breakdown of sex partners in
various time periods and the distribution of sexual iueni1fication and se>:l!<'l
attraction for men and women.
First, It-t us look at the mixture of genders of sex partners in four di!fercnt
time periods; the past year, the past five years, since age eighteen. and smce
puberty. As would be expected. the longer the time period. the higher the pro-
portion of people who report having had any same-gender partners. However,
the relative proponion of people who have had only same-gender partners
compared to the proportion who have had partners of both genders changes
dramaucally. Whtle the O\erall proportions of men and women :cpo111ng any
same.-gender partners differ. the general pattern of how these are distributed
bet\l.ecn people having only same-gender partners and having partners
1•f both genders is quite similar. Beginning with the distribution of partners by
gender m the lasl year, v.e lind that 2.7 percent of the men had a male partner
of Same-Gender nnd Oppositt-Gender
Par1ners (percentages)
Ps •n Pasr 5
Ps 10 Lasr Yea:- Years
Ps Since Age IS
Ps smce Puben
M w M w

w M w
Nc partners
10.5 13.3 5.9 "i.l 38 33 2.
Opposite gender only
86 s 85 4 900 907 9:] 92 5 90 3 94.
Both men and women
3 2. 1 1.4 40 1
5.8 J.
• I
Same gender only 10 10 zo .S 9 4
Any (%)·
Both men a.'ld women
51,6 62.-:J 51.6 89 9 90 7 9-l.'
Same gender only 7-1.7 75 0 48 .t 37 I 18 4 10.1 93 5
Total N
3.49·1 -1,376 2.224 2.838 3.073 3.853 1.134 1.67l
Par1ncr \anable.. (last year. p;t!ot hvc and smce c1ghtecn) me from combmed GSS and NHSL!
(append!x C. SAQ 2. 4. 7. 5. and 9 cumu!at1vcly l smcr. pubcny ts based on ag1
of iir<r mtercourse and age of lir\t same-gender panner from NHSLS • C. l\
:!0 anc! 40)
Table 8.JB
Prevalence of Snual Identity and Sexual Allraction,
by Gender I p.!rcenlJigcsJ
[ Sexual Attracrion' M W.......
Sc.tua.! tdenrity"
M w
W ·
' Onh opoos1te gender q3 8 !I'VJ
gender 2 6 SOi
Both genders 6 .S
.3 I
96.9 9S.6
8 5
:.o .9 Mostly 'Arne gender . 7 6
Ar.y same-gender sex I%J; Only sam" gender 2.: 3
Roth men and women 28.2 31_5
To1aiN ).731
gender only 71 8 IS2.5

1.'!01 1,732
•Frum C. sccr•on 8, qur;uon 49
'From • C, quc,llrms 47 and 48
and 1.3 percent of the women a female partner. Of these, about three out of
four report having only same-gender partners in the past twelve months. while
the other quarter had at one partner of each gender. In the past five years,
-l. i percent of the men and 2.2 percent of the women had at least one same-
gender partner. About half these men had both male and female partners in this
llrnc period. The women are more likely than men to have had sex with
both men and women than only same-gender partners. Almost two-thirds of
the womc:n reponing a female partner in the pas: five years also repon a male
partner. The proportion of the men with male partners since age eighteen who
report having had only male partners declines to about 20 percent of the total
For women, the comparable figure is about 10 percent. When the time period
under consideration is extended to all partners since puberty, the proportion of
men with only male partners declines again to I 0 percent of the men with any
male partners.
Translated to a prevalence rate for the men as a whole. this
means that, since puberty. under I percent of all men (0.6 percent) have had
sex only with other boys or men and never with a female panner. For women,
the proportion is even smaller. ,\bout 5 percent of the women who have had
female partners since puberty have never had sex with a male partner. This
means that, overall. only 0.2 percent of all women have had sex only with
These findings based on measures of sex partners indicate once again just
how nommtive heterosexuality is in our society. Over a lifetime, the vast major-
ity of people who report sex with others include at least one opposite-gender
partner. On the other hand, we have seen that there is a minority, about 9 per-
cent of men and 4 percent of women, who have sex with someone of their
own gender (see the any sex column in table 8.2). These data also indicate the
importance of the life course in viewing issues such as the gender of sex part-
ners as a dynamic process. Given the relatively low rates of same-gender part-
ners and the small size of our sample. it is not possible to look at questions of
the movement back and forth between panncrs of each gender over time. For
many, no doubt. the pattern of the mixture of panners represents some experi-
mentation early on a.'1d into a fixed choice later. if for no other
reason than the fact that most people have relatively few partners ovcrali lSCe
ch:tpter 5). On the other hand. there arc some people who have had both male
and female partners in the past one to five years. Here again, men and women
also appear to differ. Women are much more likely than men in :my time frame
longer than a year to have had male as well as female partners, given that they
have any same-gender partners.
Let us now tum briefly to the questions of self-identification and sexual
attraction (table 8.38). The questions that we asked are in the present tense
and refer to the respondents' self-assessment at the time of the interview. The
distribution of the responses on sexual identification resembles the distribution
of panners in the past year."' Does this meanlho:st answers to a que5!inn about
sexual orientation reflect a statement about current behavior. or do current be-
havior and orientation express relatively stable outcomes of a developmental
process? In l!ither case, the ratio of reports of a self-identification of homoscx-
28. The measu"" used here fur panners smce pu'brny 1s based solely on the quesnons abou! the
of sex (3fter pubcny) w1th first s:unc· and first opp<>s1te·gender partner tn the childhood and
adolescence section of tlu: que!tionnaire. This i'roduccs a slightly (,)wer rate. uf same·gender pan·
ners than the anv Jam•·gerufer parrnu measure used in fig. ll.l and table 8.2.
29 The maJor difference is that. while ahout tO percent of the Slllllple had no pMtners tn the
past year. pracucatly everyooe gave an answer that dosdf fit into one of the three maJor categones.
homosexual. or btscxual. The distnbution IS cons1stenl with the idea that the non-
'cxually Jctive people had the same dtstnbuuon on sexual tdentuy as the sexually acuve people
HoMosexUAliTY 313
ual to one of bisexual is similar to the ratio of having only same-gender pan-
ncrs to havrng partners of both genders in the past year (between 2: I and 3: I).
Responses to the question about sexual attraction display another interest-
ing difference between men and women. If one looks only at the respondents
who report any sexual attraction to people of their own gender, one finds that.
whereas the men follow a bimodal disuibution, the women's distribution is
monotonic. An equal proportion of men (2.4 percent) report being attracted
only to other men as repon being attracted mostly to women (2.6 percent). The
other categories of same-gender attraction for men, that is. the men who report
equal attr:tction to men and women and the men who report mainly but not
exclusively being attracted to other men, arc much lower. at 0.6 and 0.7 per-
cent, respectively. For the women. the pattem is quite different. The largest
group of women v,.ho report same-gender attraction arc those who report
mostly, but not exclusively, being attracted to men, 2.7 percent. As the degree
of sexual attraction to other women increases, the proportion of women re-
porting it declines. Only 0.3 percent of women report being exclusively at -
tracted to other women. Now compare these rates with the rates of self-
identification (categories of sexual orientation). Slightly more men report be-
ing exclusively atlracted to other men than report considering themselves to be
homosexual (2.4 vs. 2.0 percent), whereas more women consider themselves
to be homosexual than report exclusive same-gender attraction (0.9 vs. 0.3 per-
cent). While ihe numbers here :!."e very small. i1 appears that, whereas two-
thirds of the women who consider themselves to be homosexual report at least
some minimal level of sexual attraction to men. a much smaller minonty of
the men who report attraction to men but none to women do not consider them-
selves to be homosexual. Again, there seem to be somewhat elusive (owing to
small sample sizes) but intriguing differences between the way that !'ame-
gcnder sexuality is experienced by men and women in the United States.
Str Partner.r, Frequency, and Practices
In this section, we retum to some key measures of sexual behavior from
chapters 3 and 5 and compare their prevalence for people who do and do not
report same-gender partners. This is a preliminary analysts based on crude
summaries of means and proportions. We are limited by the fact that the rates
of reporting same-gender sexual behavior are so low and our sample size is
Slllall. In chapters 3 and 4, we have already seen that the distribution of sexual
behaviors is related to a variety of social characteristics. We have also seen that
the distribution of same-gender sexuality is similarly differentiated. Ideally,
one would want to look at the differences between sexual behavior between
same- and opposite-gender couples, taking into account these other social sta-
tuses and contexts. However, we have barely thiny men and women in many
of these categories, the minimum that we have set for computing group esti-
mates. In several cases. there are fewer than thirty women who had same-

TAB 44

Comparative Perspectives on a Changing Institution
edited by
Kingsley Davis
in association with
Amyra Grossbard-Shechtman
. ~ · .
j - ~ ·
sual union," which is widely tolerated but not ordinarily given
official or religious recognition. In some parts of Latin America it
constitutes a majority of all unions. Unlike common-law marriage,
the consensual union, unless recognized by statute, has no legal
standing. To dissolve it, one does not need a divorce. The man is
not required to support the woman or her offspring. The only en-
forcement of family obligations therefore comes from public opin-
ion, which may be sufficient in small communities but not in
cities. Unlike parties to a common-law marriage, a partner in a
consensual union can be married to someone else, in which case
the relationship can be called concubinage or de facto polygamy.
Unions other than full marriage generally lack more than for-
mal recognition and approval. For instance, if a couple openly live
together and establish a division of labor but do not (at least for
the time being) intend to stay permanently togetheJ and have chil-
dren, they are missing three and possibly four of the attributes of
true marriage in Figure I.l. On the other hand, they do share a
common residence, which gives their relation the name "cohabita-
tion." If this trait is also missing, the relationship is harder to
name, but the term liaison perhaps comes the nearest.
Why Sexual Unions?
If this conceptual analysis of marriage and its alternatives is use-
ful. it leads us to the question of why the various kinds of union
exist and why they differ in normative standing. For example, why
is it that all five of the unions named in the stub of Figure 1.1 have
one trait in common, namely, a sexual relationship of some dura-
tion? The answer: this is what we mean by "unions," and it is
unions that we are discussing. But why is it that, of all five types of
union, marriage is the only one entered with full public approval
and ceremonial recognition? The answer is again simple: that is
what is called "marriage." The family is the part of the institu-
tional system through which the creation, nurture, and socializa-
tion of the next generation is mainly accomplished. If these vital
and extremely demanding tasks are to be performed efficiently,
some individuals must be held responsible for them and rewarded
for the effort. The genius of the family system is that, through it,
the society normally holds the biological parents responsible for

TAB 45

james Q . Wi lson Why Do Families Exist? 41
in ways that made capitalism possible), and schools did not make
families less relevant (families changed in ways that made schools
more valuable). In later chapters we shall see how these complex alter-
ations occurred.
But for now it is important to observe that the family now rests
almost entirely on affection and child care. These are powerful forces,
but the history of the family suggests that almost every culture has
found them to be inadequate to producing child support. If we ask
why the family is, for many people, a weaker institution today than it
once was, it is pointless to look for the answer in recent events. Our
desire for sexual unions and romantic attachments is as old as
humankind, and they will continue forever. But our ability to fashion
a marriage that will make the uniori last even longer than the romance
that inspired it depends on cultural, religious, and legal doctrines that
have slowly changed. Today people may be facing a challenge for
which they are utterly unpreP.ared: a vast, urban world of personal
freedom, bureaucratized services, cheap sex, and easy divorce.
Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of gecring
people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for
children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve. The
problem of marriage today is that we imagine that its benefits have
been offset by social arrangements, such as welfare payments, com-
munity tolerance, and professional help for children, that make mar-
riage unnecessary. But as we have already seen, the advantages of
marriage-personal health, longer lives, and better children-remain
great. The advantages of cohabitation are mostly illusory, but it is an
illusion that is growing in· its appeal.
168 james Q . W lson
through a few of the leading studies and then suggest that the second
view is gaining the upper hand.
The first view initially rested on the confident predictions by coun-
selors and therapists that divorce was a way of solving marital prob-
lems and even liberating the child from parental tension. In fact, a
divorce may make children more tolerant of others with an accompa-
nying increase in cooperation and respect. And even if the child is hurt
by the divorce, the hurt will last only briefly, especially if the financial
Joss to the mother and child can be set right.
This claim about the
advanrages of divorce meant that its advocates, in Barbara Dafoe
Whitehead's words, had "shifted the weight of expert opinion from
protecting the interests of children to defending the rights and prerog-
atives of parents to pursue their own satisfactions."
The most infl uential writings about divorce asserted that it was
marital conflict, not divorce itself, that hun the child; divorce added
little lasting burden to this problem. Frank Furstenberg and Andrew
Cherlin, rwo distinguished students of family life, argued in 1991 that
long-term studies of children showed that their problems mostly arose
from marital discord. A minority of them might be hurt by divorce,
but it was only a minority; children differ greatly, and most adjust rea-
sonably well to parental breakup. And when the mother remarried
and the children acquired a stepfather, most seemed to do quite well.
Cherlin repeated this view tbe following year. Some studies, he
said, showed that divorce can be beneficial in the long run for some
children because it takes them out of a conflict-ridden family. At the
same time, he noted, it can impose serious psychological distress on
other children, but fortunately this tended to last only a short time.
In part this happens because most divorced parents remarry.
This is a remarkable argument, for it suggests one or both of two
implausible views. One is that children can be raised as well by a
mother as by a mother and father. Since the great majority of children
live with the divorced mother rather than with the father, lacking a
father does not make much of a difference. And they indeed lack a
father: "The vast majority of children [of divorced parents] will have
little or no contact with their fathers."
David Popenoe notes that
more than half of all adolescent children living with separated or
james Q. Wilson Divorce

TAB 46

/0 SEX, I'AMII.\", AND
paternity. It. almost always the husband of the warnan who con-
sidered the legal of her duldren, whether he be their • •
or not.
This Ciln be Jdincd • a form of coh2bir>tion, wluch from
111 thlt it impli<:s a .::omiJcral:oly storu: at tho f<.., , t.
p:trrncr :tnd her offspring th:>n clue enjoyed by the le!lll wife. It i, J
tcrnrinolozi.:•l confusion to spc;lk of concubinage when there is
to a "'Otn•n, or sexu:tl rights in her. On promitivc levels
of culture real dO<'< not CXI>t. Some ,imilancy to 1t c:tn be
lound in the mstituttoc of subs1dio.ry \VIVCS. In cerum polygynous com-
nwnities there ij one prmcipal wife, and the )'tlb;idiary ones h•vc a much
lower stnus . .s is rhe :tmong the Guar.mi. Ccntr•l Eskimo, 1\r:tu·
.:anians, t\p:;chc, Chippcw.1 ( Amcrk.1\; Chukchi, Yal..ut ('N.E.
Asia); • l>bnJw;, Ton;;ons, T•h•tians, • :\>br>h:tll bbnJ, s
(!'olyncsll); A"'·•mba, \\'arlpJ, S.E. Bantu. !'liJndt, Yon:b>, E"'hc
• Kad:tras, Khambts (India); Basobo, Kulanun
(I ndanc.•i•) .
It is not coruct to rcgord the insututions of temporary :md !muted
partnership dcscnhcd abo,.,, such as the of C. Austro!u or the
pmtractcd clldtangc of p•rtnerJ •mong the as concublllagc.

Tlu: o! .... • nr prostitution very
range prirruti,•c peoples. has been rtportcd from
(S:tnta Cruz, Rc»sd ls!.nJ), Po!) r.e>1a (Line bLmds, Caroltnc hbnJ1,
lsl:md, N. Amcnca (Omaha ) , S. Ammca
(Karaya, U1toto, Boro), W. Africa, E. Africa ( Banyoro). ln Its relation
to marcia!,!C H b.,;.-ms to pbv important p>rt only in cultut c, ,
On one hJnd 1t pro, ides for the sexual •
to unmarried men ()r those who for some reason cannot colubit with
their wh·es. It tim< constitutes an in>titution to marri•ge.
On the other hand, in communities of whkh Anctcnt u a
notable cnmpk'. i.e., ''hctairism," prostitution in 2 hi;:her and more
refined forrn, women Ul devote themsclvts to cultur.1l
pnrsuits and to associate with men more freely th>n -.. .1> possibk to those
lcgllh· Jtllrr,.d.
On the whole it is rather • subsidiary institution th>n either a rcbx•-
tion or a I orm of prcpnlliOn. Unhk.: the other of se.x.ual
licence, prosmuuon ts <hrfctly corrdarcd "'irh murbge nor does
it alfcct its intcgnt;- so scriou.s!y as do the forms of matnmonul relua-
tion which in,·olve both husband and wlic.
MAR.Il!AtoE 11
Tb,• l'i"O '!U:I:tcs oj the bous,bold a•:J famtly
\X'c are led >ll st>sc.s of our ro the condu,ion tiut the
institution of marrjage is· dcmmined b)• the needs of the off-
spring, by the dependenc;e of the chil<lren upon. thdr '1Uftnts. Mnre
specially. ;he motho:r >in(c she handic3ppcd at' prcsn:mc}' 3nd !or
t;rnc Jitcr birth. the of p:.1rtnc.:r. The.· nJic oi
Jssocia:c :md hdpn•re is p!.1yed h;- :he husbo: 1 ex-
c!usivdy, though jn sorne rn:nrilincJl so::ictic; the
sharc:s with the hu;.bJnd in some of the >nc hu:d":>s ot
tht· household. economic 35 wdi biolc,gi.:a! nann o: " fomtlr
rhus lll•)thrr. lad husbond--or c:o:ceptionJll)' both the nusb.tnd
ond lh<' wife'> b:'Othcr.
In the vost nniorit)' oi hunun >ocicties the individull .fmri.l;, l:•sed
on .1ud consisting of n1oth1ar, father and cluldn:n .
forn1s 3 .. J nor hou·e-.·cr cut c){\. {;-. 1"'1 Sf)-
(he household there ts " typoc•l SLh"me of dtvi,,.on m
funetic•ns, •g•in airno•r unl\'<rSll £v '-'irtue of narur.! endr;wmcnt
wife h:l:i not to !:i,·c birth to lnd nourish the childret;, bnt •he :>
llso destined to of the early tcnJcr • to keep them :1nJ de,n, t•> iull th<m :o •nd soothe thctr mtanttlc trot:blcs.
Even i11 dus the husb:ond often helps teo a • dcgrt·<, prompceu
by nltur>l indin"tiC>n wdl 3S by custom. ThJS lattu Imposes
upon him •nd ritu>l manifc;rations >uch as taboo> dunn,;; the
pregnancy of •nd 3t .:hildbir:h, •nd p=rfommnces lt the time of
c.oniincmcnt, u( v.l,;,·h ,Aoi, ;.. u.fc b the rn::st • . . \ II ,u, h
obhg2tiom the f ather'.< hi, devotion co
ch1ld. later on ut the <duc>tton of offspring botb parents luvtt to t>kc
plrt. :heir rc•pect i,·e dut irs, wluch var>· with the $OC!cl\'
aml WH.h the st•x of the dnldrcn.
.'\pJrt J rom spcci:.l of producing and rcJrmg the choldren,
the wife norntlll}' lo"ks lfter the prcparuion of th< food; she llnt(l>l
the fuel ""d the water; is the actu.1! at the
he.1rth or iir.:p!.1ct.:; tends owns coohin;;-,
and 1hc is :olso rhc mau1 curicr of burdens. In the stmplcsr. ..:ulturc<
the wo111•n ;lso erects the hur or shelter looks Aftcc c>mp orrln;;c-
""nts (AustrJli1ns, Bushmen. :\adJm>n The hu;bJ:;d
l'ri,tcctor and dc f,: ndc:r ot the i.lrtt.t!)'·. :tnd hi: tht. work
wluch requires strcn_;th, courage .1nd dccisiont :s
g•mc, J.i,hing.' buildmg o! hous.,-s :::d crofc, tl·c
The dn i .• ion of hbour husbatld :tnd w.fc ( ' Utst<k the •lOU>cho!d
follows the of men'> and women's w!llch differ wtth
community, but on the "·hok mlkc hghuns, huntin.;, n:l:nb, work

TAB 47

The Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) is the UK's leading progressive think
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4. Fathers and public services
Adrienne Burgess
4.1 Introduction
The concept of fatherhood is awakening innovative thinking in public serv-
ice policy and practice. But this is accompanied by a failure of philosophy
and procedure that is causing public services and the labour market to
neglect the best interests of families, and a government that prides itself on
policy led by clear core messages to present itself as incoherent.
This chapter sets out a case for public service reform that places children
at the centre, mobilises the assets that fathers can bring to families and
tackles the failures of some fathers in family life. It recognises that social
transformation continues, and that involved fatherhood must play a cen-
tml and increasing part if the goals for child wellbeing set out in Every Child
Matters (HMT/DfES 2003) are to be achieved and the final chapter in the
advancement of women is to be successfully written.
The chapter begins by examining why fathers ·matter to children's
experiences and outcomes. It then assesses developments in policy and
practice in relation to public services and fatherhood, particularly under
New Labour and, finally, sets out ways in which policy might drive further
4.2 Why fathers matter
• I19W Jhflt
• •. • • • • • • •
aqle l.n . a.I1d These include: better peer
relationships; fewer behaviour problems; lower criminality and substance
abuse; higher educational/occupational mobility relative to that of parents;
capacity for empathy; non-traditional attitudes to earning and cl1ildcare;
more satisfying adult sexual partnerships; and higher self-esteem and life-
satisfaction (for reviews see F1ouri 2005; Pleck and Masciadrelli 2004).
·The .(:on verse is···also,·.true:Iow levels ofm-\761-\Temeht are,·:associated.\fitH a
rar}ge outcqrne§, For example, among teenagers both low father
involvement and decreasing closeness predict delinquency in adult life
(F1ouri 2005).
Among separated families, children do best when they maintain close
and positive relationships with both parents (Amato and Gilbreth 1999).
Contact needs to be designed in such a way that father and child regularly
experience a range of activities together: bedtimes, mealtimes, watching1V,

TAB 48

est: Fami(y Change and Decline in Modern Societies
Pleasure, Public Plight: American Metropolitan
Community Life in Comparative Perspective
burban Environment: Sweden and the United States
Housing and Neighborhoods (co-editor)
Neighborhood, City and Metropolis (co-ed.itor)
The Urban-Industrial Frontier (editor)
Compelling new evidence that fatherhood and marriage are
indispensable for the good of children and society
New "tOrh London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore
140 Why Fathers Matter
aggression and general activity level, cognitive skills, sensory sensitivity,
and sexual and reproductive behavior. By every indication the expres-
sion of these differences is important for child development.
Moreover, the biological father-not just any man-is the most
likely person to bring these inputs. The biological father is by far the
most plausible candidate for enduring third-party status. He not only
has the genetic tie to his child but also, usually, the sexual and emo-
tional tie to the child's mother. His biologically based interest in the
well-being of the child is generally far greater than that of any other
male. Especially in modem societies, a child who does not have a close
and sustaining relationship with her or his biological father is far less
likely to have such a relationship with any adult male.
It is a father's task to help raise his children so that they can be con-
structive members of society, to transmit to his children those culrural
values they must have to succeed in life. Many tomes have been written
on the topic of what men bring to this task that women cannot, or or-
dinarily do not, bring; the list of possibh.: factors is great. Much of the
writing is speculative and based mostly on intuition or personal experi-
ence. Here I shall stick to those fatherly traits that have a body of social
sdence evidence in their support.
The first father roles that men presumably played in human evolution
were protector and provider for women and children. Males tend to be
physically stronger than women; they arc also more aggressive and take
more risks. In times past, families without male protectors were highly
vulnerable. Even today, when families are not so vulnerable, it is almost
always the man-if available-who is e.xpected to go downstairs at
night when a strange noise is heard or break up the fight between
neighborhood children or lead the way in the dark.
Despite the rise of police forces, armies, and criminal justice sys-
tems, the male as protector has by no means outlived his usefulness.
Fathers act as protectors of their daughters from child abuse by
strangers, protectors of their sons from violence, protectors of their
wives from rape and assault, and protectors of their homes and neigh-
borhoods from intrusion and disorder. As James Q. Wilson has ob-
served: "Neighborhood standards may be set by mothers but they are
enforced by fathers, or at least by adult males. Neighborhoods without
fathers are neighborhoods without men able and willing to confront er-
rant youth, chase threatening gangs, and reproach delinquent fathers. "
Even when men are not acrually engaged in protecting, of course,
their physical strength is often well put to other uses. Their gender ad-
( rj __)
Case 2:13-cv-00217-RJS Document 43 Filed 10/11/13 Page 24 of 35
· ~
144 Why Fathers Matter
Mothers, of course, also play with their children. In fact, because
they spend so much more time with their children, mothers actually
play more with children than fathers do. But mothers' play is different.
Mothers' play tends to take place more "at the child's level." Mothers
provide the child with the opportunity to direct the play, to be in
charge, to proceed at the child's own pace. In the short run, at least,
children seem to prefer their fathers' more physically arousing style of
play. In one study of lh-year-olds who were given a choke of play
parmers, more than two thirds chose to play with their fathers.w
The benefits of fathers' play have shown up in child development areas
ranging from the management of emotions to intelligence and academic
achievement. Fathers' play appears ro be particularly important for the de-
velopment of socially acceptable forms of behavior that do not include vi-
olence and aggression-in other words, for the development of the char-
acter trait known as self·amtroL According to one expert, "children who
roughhouse with their fathers . . . usually quickly learn that biting, kick-
ing, and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable. "
They learn
when "enough is enough" and when to "shut it down."
A committee assembled by the Board on Children and Families of
the National Research Council (a group sponsored by the National
Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine) concluded, "Chil-
dren learn critical lessons about how to recognize and deal with highly
charged emotions in the contexr of playing with their fathers. Fathers,
in effect, give children practice in regulating their own emotions and
recognizing others' emotional clues."
Experimental studies with animals have found thar certain forms of
play in childhood are crucial to controlling later aggression. And stud-
ies among humans have found that self-control is a trait notably lack-
ing among adult criminals. The findings of a study of convicted mur-
derers in Texas are probably not based on coincidence-90 percent of
the murderers either did not play as children or played abnormally. 13
Competition, Risk Taking. lrul£peruknce. Through their play. as well as in
their other childrearing activities, fathers tend to stress competition, chal-
lenge, initiative, risk taking, and independence. Mothers in their caretak-
ing roles, in contrast, stress emotional security and personal safety. On
the playground, for example, fathers will try to get the child to swing ever
highet; higher than the person on the next swing, while mothers will be
cautious, worrying about the possible dangers. On an outing in the
woods, fathers will want to hike the extra mile, while mothers will be
more concerned about fatigue and the coming storm. (My own daugh-
ters remember fondly various family outings which included activities
that my wife considered, at the time, to be "life threatening.")
( )"
What Do Fathers Do? 145
These fundamental differences in parenting styles show up in the
way fathers and mothers communicate with their children.H Fathers'
conversations tend to be briefer and to be more directive and focused
on specifics; they less often occur face-to-face. In content, fathers' con-
versations more often relate to issues of independence and autonomy.
Mothers are much more likely to share their feelings and to engage in
e.'<tended conversations; they are less directive and more verbally en-
couraging. The content of mothers' conversations emphasize interper-
sonal relationships.
Male-female differences even show up in the way infants are held.
Psychologist jerrold Lee Shapiro, who has interviewed thousands of
dads and observed hundreds of families, finds that while mothers use
touch in order to give a child comfort, fathers more often use touch in
order to excite:
When a mother picks up her infant, she rends to wrap the baby up toward
her breasts, providing comfort, warmth, and security. By contrast, a father
may well hold the child at arm's length and make eye contact, ross her in
the air; rum her around so that her back is against his chest, or prop her up
to look back over his shoulder. Each of these "daddy holds" underscores a
sense of freedom.l5
The complementarity of male and female parenting styles is striking
and of enormous importance to a child's overall development. lt is
sometimes said that fathers express more concern for the child's
longer-term development, while mothers focus on the child's immedi-
ate well-being (which, of course, in its own way has everything to do
with a child's long-term well-being). What is dear is that children have
dual needs that must be met: one for independence and the other for
relatedness, one for challenge and the other for support.
Disdpline. Differing parenting styles also show up strongly in the area
of discipline. Because of their greater size and strength, fathers virtually
everywhere are seen by children to be more powerful, threatening, and
"authoritative." But in addition to this, the disciplinary approach of fa-
thers tends to be "firm" while that of mothers tends to be " respon-
sive." Mothers' discipline varies more Erom time to time, involves more
bargaining, and is adjusted to the child's mood and context. It is seem-
ingly based on a more intuitive understanding of the child's needs and
emotions of the moment. Fathers, without the "special understanding"
of mothers, necessarily rely on rules and principles. Based on this dis-
tinction, of course, mothers are often accused of being too soft, while
fathers are accused of being too arbitrary and rigid.
That fathers almost everywhere have been the "disciplinarians of last
146 Why Fallters
reson" is no accident. When the emotional and come.xt-t,1ilored ap-
proach of falls shon. as sometimes happens, the fatherly rules
and narural authority come inro play. fathers set the limits; they musr
be obeyed. studies have found that fathers are more
than mothers at getting quick action ("clean up the mys").
If educational psychologist Carol Gilligan and her followers arc cor-
rect, the two disciplinary approaches arc rooted in a fundamental dif-
ference berwet:n men and women in their moral Men srrcss jus-
tice, fairness, and duty (based on ntlcs), while women stress !.ympathy,
care, and helping (bll.Sed on relationships).
6 This difference is apparent
even in early childhood. lnfam show more interest in people and
faces than do infant boys. And in his classic srudy of the play of young
children, the famed psychologist jean t>iaget found that girls are more
concerned with relationships and bO)'S with tUies.l7
In the area of discipline we again clearly see a complememanty of
opposites in the parenrJng styles of men and women. While mothers
provide an imponant flt!>dbility and :>ympathy in their discipline, fa·
rhers provide ultimate predictability and consistency. Both dimensions
are critical for an efficient, balanced, and humane childrearing regime.
Ih¢ §f sup podS ilie tdea.,tliat.
imponam for ..
to childrearingiS • •
A broad review of psych,lloglcal research in the journal Child DLVclop-
mcm, for example, concluded that children of parentS who are sex-
typed arc more "competent."!& And a major study or the outcome of
childrearing styles on adolescem development found that the most ef-
fective parenting was that which was both highly demanding and
highly n:sponsive.l9
The significance of gender-differemiated parenting undoubtedly is
rdated to something fundamental in the human condition. P!,ychoso-
cial marurity and comperence among humans consists of the imcgra-
tion of r..vo factors; communion, or the need ro be included, connected,
and relar.ed; and or the drive. for independence, individuality,

These terms (and many others could be substi·
ruted, such as expressive and instrumental. and choice. or roots
and wings) refer to the balance of ps>•chic and social of which
human life consisL'>. One without the other is a denuded and impaired
humanity, an incomplete realization of the human potential.
For many couples, to be sure, these factors arc not rigidly di·vided
along standard femalc·male lines. Significant overlap can exist among
( )

\Vhat Do Do? 147
females and males in the range of gender-differentiated traits they ex-
press (and the degn:e of overlap is no doubt affected by culture and by
environmental circumstance.) f'Or some couples, there may even be a
"role reversal," with men largely assuming the female style and women
the male style, Bllt these are exceptions rha1 prove the rule. Through-
our. the world, gender-differentiated parenting occurs naturally in most
father-mother families. And certainly, let us not forget. the factors of
communion and agency are i:.'l:tremdy difficult for either a man or a
woman alom• to combine effectively;
Gender•differentiated parenting is of such irnpornnce that in chtl•
drearing by homosexual couples, either gay or lesbian, one panner
commonly fills the male·instrumental role while the other filL<\ r.he fe·
male-expressive role. Unfortunately, we do not yet have good data
about the child outcomes of these same·sex arrangementS. Not enough
such couples have been srudied, and rhere has not been enough fol·
low-up time to see results.
In focusing on the independem contributions of males and females,
of course, the. profound significance for children of the (elationship
rhat ;1 father and a mother have with t:at:h ocher should nor be over-
looked. Children learn about male-female. relationships by seeing how
their parents relate w each orlle.r. Children learn about r.rust, intimacy,
and caring between the se.'l:es. Most irnponamly, their parents' relation-
ship provides children with a model of the most meaningfui heteroso;-x-
ual relationship that the grear majority of mdividuals will have during
their lifetimes-marriage.
The behavioral research conducted over the few decades indicates
lhat children benefit greatly from a high level of father involvement.
The more that far.hers are involved in the day-to-day ac.tivities of their
children-assuming the fathers arc wmm and scnsirive to their chil-
dren's needs-the better orr i.n life those children will be.:u After re-
vk'\o,.ing the accumulated evidence in his recem book Fndu:rs mtd fami-
lies: Facwrs in Child De:wlopment, the noted psychologist and
longtime. smdcnr of fatherhood Henry B. Biller sums up; "The father is
c.'l:tremcly important for the child's imdlectual, erno1ional and social
development. "12
Fathers the world (>ver become especially influential in the lives o[
their children, with whom they have more direct conracL But
the research just discussed suggest.S. they am have a significanr 1rnpact
on their younger as well. or special importance is the facr that
early bonding between father and child is Strongly ll.Ssociated \vith a fa-
154 Why Fachers Ma!!er
has demonsrrated beyond much doubt the powerful effect on aggres-
siveness and delinquency of being raised in a family that is discordant,
lacking in affection, or given to inappropriate disciplinary practices. "
In their recent reanalysis of the pioneering data set first collected in
the late 1930s and early 1940s by Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck of the
Harvard Law School, researchers Robert]. Sampson and john H. Laub
found strong corroborating evidence for the imponance of early child-
hood experiences. The Gluecks' daca set, designed to uncover the
causes of delinquency and adult crime, compared the life course from
childhood to adulthood of five hundred delinquents with five hundred
nondelinquents, all of whom were white males who grew up in the
Boston slums. The Gluecks collected data from a wide variety of
sources, including teacher repons, psychiatric interviews, health and
welfare records, employer assessmems, and extensive interviews with
the subjects and their families. Sampson and l.aub reached this conclu-
sion: "Low levels of parental supervision, erratic, threatening, and
harsh discipline, and weak parental attachment were strongly and di-
recdy related to delinquency. "19
A recent authoritative repon entitled Violence, prepared by the Panel
on the Understanwng and Control of Violent Behavior of the National
Research Council, summarizes what we now know: have
identified many correlates and antecedents of aggressive childhood be-
havior that are presumed to reflect psychosocial influences {incluwng]
early family experiences: harsh and erratic discipline, lack of parental
nunurance, physical abuse and neglect, poor supervision, and early
separation of children from parents. "5° The repon continues: "Numer-
ous studies show that violent offenders tend to come from cenain
types of family backgrounds. In paniculcu; they tend to have been sub-
jected to physical punishment, they tend to have alcoholic or criminal
parents, and they tend to have disharmonious parents who are likely to
separate or divorce."'t
Where do fathers fit into this picture? A major conuibution of in-
volved fathers, according to researchers, is to teach their children two
key character rraits: self-control and empathy. People with antisocial
and criminal tendencies lack both of these traits; that is, they "tend to
be impulsive, insensitive, physical (as opposed to mental), risk-taking,
shon-sighted, and nonverbal, and they will tend therefore to engage in
criminal and analogous acts. "S2
The lack of self-control in adulthood is closely associated with the
absence of powerful and necessary "inhibiting forces" in early child-
hood, forces which can now be identified with some clarity following
several decades of intense srudy by social scientists.s3 These inhibiting
forces consist of parental childrearing practices which are able "to set
I ,,


Whac Do Fathm Do? 155
clear rules, to monitor behavior, and to make rewards contingent on
good behavior and punishment contingent on bad behavior"'
The de-
velopment of empathy in children, in turn, is strongly associated with
childrearing approaches that involve reasoning \vith children (rather
than disciplining without reasoning), teaching about the consequences
of their actions on others, and eschewing authoritarian and/or harsh
It is entirely possible, of course, for a single mother to follow these
childrearing practices and bring up children who possess a high degree
of social control and empathy, but it is cenainly more difficult for one
parent than for two. The well-known criminologists Michael Gottfred-
son and 1iavis Hirschi have aptly described the siruation:
The single parent (usually a woman) must devote a good deal to suppon
and maintenance activities that are at least to some extent shared in the
two-parent family. Further, she must often do so in the absence of psycho-
logical or social suppon. As a result, she is less able to devote time to mon-
itoring and punishment and is more likely to be involved in negative, abu-
sive contacts with her children.56
The single mother's predicament is borne out by extensive social sci-
ence findings. Much antisocial behavior among teenagers is peer-group
related, for example, and it has been found that children from single-
pm.::nt families are especially susceptible to antisocial peer

The National Health Examination Survey of 1966-1970, a representa-
tive sample of 6, 710 noninstirutionalized youth of ages twelve to seven-
teen which compared mother-only families with families containing
both biological parents, concluded that:
Mother-only households are . . . associated with panicular patterns of fam-
ily decision making and adolescent deviance, even when family income and
parental education are controlled. In contrast to adolescents in households
with two narural parents. youth in mother-only households are perceived
as more likely to make decisions without direct parental input and more
likely 10 exhibit deviant behavior. The presence of an additional adult in a
mother-only household, especially [or males, is associated with increased
parental control and a reduction in various forms of adolescent
deviance . ... We believe that a major reason for the increased deviance of
youths in mother-only households is the absence of the second adult. "
The Second Adult
Unfortunately, not just any "second adult" will suffice. What about a
second mother? In addition to the obvious desirability of providing a
male role model, something two women cannot do, a father brings to
158 Why Fathers Matter
Just as fathers are imponam for preventing male delinquency and vio-
lence, so are they imponant for preventing another of the major social
problems of our time-unwed teen childbearing. And as in the case of
male delinquency, we now have a good understanding of what fathers
do that is so consequential.
The classic work on the relationship between father involvement
and the sexual and personality development of adolescent girls was
done in the early 1970s by the prominent University of Virginia psy-
chologist E. Mavis Hetherington.
Although methodologically unso-
phisticated by today's standards, the smdy, which followed the lives of
adolescent girls into adulthood, sharply points up some central themes
that have been verified by later, more rigorous, analyses.
Hetherington classified her femak adolescent subjects into three
groups: those from intact, father-present families; those who had lost
their fathers through divorce; and those who had lost their fathers
through death. Even before analyzing her first interview results, she
came up with a striking finding. The interviewing was done by a male
interviewer seated in a room with a desk and three other chairs. One
chair was located very near the interviewer, a second was on the other
side of the desk, and the third was about three feet away. Remarkable
differences between the girls in the three groups were by which
chair they selected and by their behavior toward the male interviewer.
Girls from the father-present families rook the chair that was
medium-distant from the interviewer, and they related to the inter-
viewer naturally and with ease. Girls from the divorced families tended
to take the chair closest to the and assumed a rather seduc-
tive, sprawling, open posture. They leaned forward toward the inter-
viewer and smiled more than the girls from the other groups. The girls
from widowed families took the chair furthest from the interviewer and
tended to sit upright, often looking away from the interviewer and nor
speaking very much.
The interactions which these girls had with the interviewer proved
to be highly indicative of the relationships they had with males in gen-
eral. The girls from intact families related to boys easily and on their
own terms. They showed a quiet confidence in heterosexual relation-
ships. The girls whose fathers had died tended to avoid boys and to be
shy and inhibited when boys were around. Similarly, it was learned that
during recreation center dances at school, they stayed at the girls' end,
often in the back of a group of girls.
The girls from divorced homes, in contrast, sought out boys more
and were more seductive toward them. AI the recreation center dances,

, ..,
What Do Fathers Do? 159
they spent much of their time at the boys' end of the stag line. They
tended to be relatively promiscuous, eng;:ging in more and earlier sex-
ual relationships. Later investigation showed that they were more likely
to marry at an earlier age than females in the other groups, often to in-
appropriate men; to become pregnant before marriage; and evenrually
to divorce.
As might be guessed, the interview responses found that the girls from
intact homes had generally positive perceptions of their fathers, while the
girls of divorce had very negative perceptions. The girls whose fathers
had died tended to remember their fathers with idealized images.
Fathers are the first and most imponant men in the lives of girls. They
provide male role models, accustoming their daughters to male-female
relationships. Engaged and responsive fathers play with their daughters
and guide them into challenging activities. They protect them, providing
them with a sense of physical and emotional security. Girls with ade-
quate fathering are more able, as they grow to develop consuuctive
heterosexual relationships based on uusr and intimacy.71
A number of srudies have found that girls with involved fathers have
a srronger "internal locus of conrrol." That is, they are more indepen-
dent and self-possessed, more likely ro assume responsibility for the
consequences of their actions, and more likely to perceive themselves
as masters of their own fareJ 2 Stronger internal control has been found
to be associated not only with lower levels of problem behaviors bur
also with higher academic achievement and overall self-esteem ..
For girls whose fathers are not involved, many positive character and
personality traits fail to be developed. Girls deprived of strong relation-
ships with their fathers rend to grow up with the perception that men
are irresponsible and unrrusrworthy. As adolescents they commonly be-
come obsessed with heterosexual relationships. ln a desperate search
for substirute forms of male affection, some have inappropriate sexual
contacts, become overly dependent on men, and allow men to take ad-
vantage of them. Studies in many different culrures have found the
same pattern: Father-deprived girls "show precocious sexual interest,
derogation of masculinity and males, and poor ability to maintain sex-
ual and emotional adj usunenr with one male. "73
Teen Promiscuity
There may be an evolutionary basis for the problematic sexual behavior
of adolescent girls from father-deprived households, just as for the hy-
permasculine behavior of father-deprived adolescent males discussed
above. ln line with the central assumption that people are predisposed
l_ (
162 Why Fachm Macro-
voluntary relinquishment of power by males as from a takeover of that
power through economic means. The authority srructures of virtually
every society in the world have been, and mostly still are, dominated
by males, yet in some societies men have been willing to share some of
their power with women. What causes men to do this? The answer
may lie in the way in which they were socialized in childhood. Here is
what Scott Colrrane found: "Societies with father-present patterns of
child socialization produce men who are less inclined to exclude
women from public activities than their counterparts in father-absent
societies. "
The linkage between male attitudes toward women in adulthood
and the socialization of males in childhood was an early insight of Mar-
garet Mead. In Male and Female (1949) she wrote of male exclusionary
attitudes toward women in societies where men are relatively unin-
volved in childrearing:
ln a great number of societies men's sureness of their sex role is tied up with
their right, or ability, to practice o n n ~ activity that women are not allowed to
practice. Their maleness, in fact, has to be underwriuen by preventing
women from entering some field or performing some feat. Here may be
found the relationship between maleness and pride; that is, a need for pres-
tige that will outstrip the prestige which is accorded to any woman. so
Boys who grow up in societies where they have involved fathers and
strong male role models, in contrast, do not have the same need to re-
ject and dominate women and create exclusionary, all-male activities.BI
Moreover, just as a strong sexual division of labor in childrearing gener-
ates a srrong sexual division of labor in society as a whole, as Nancy
Chodorow has pointed out in her book The Reproduction of Mothering,
so does male-female cooperation in childrearing lead to an expectation
that there will be male-female cooperation in other areas of life.
sharing in the home seems to uanslate into task sharing in public life.
It may also be the case that involved fathers sex-type their children less
and thus promote in their daughters the kind of self-confidence and
sense of autonomy that enables them to be stronger participants in the
public sector. There is some evidence to that effecr.BJ
The association between the contribution of fathers to childrearing
and the public status of women needs more study and analysis, but the
evidence available leads to the conclusion that as fatherlessness grows,
women's status will drop. The underlying social process involved,
again, is that the relationship boys (and girls) have with their fathers
when they are growing up has a significant impact on their adult be-
havior and consequently on larger societal issues and problems.
) ' : ' ' ~ 1 ~ : ) .
Whac Do Fathm Do? 163
Fathers are far more than just "second adults" in the home. Involved
fathers--especially biological fathers-bring positive benefits to their
children that no other person is as likely to bring. They provide protec-
tion and economic support and male role models. They have a parent-
ing style that is significantly different from that of mothers, and the dif-
ference is important in healthy child development. According to the
evidence, fathers make important contributions to their children's in-
tellectual competence, prosocial and compassionate behavim; and psy-
chological well-being.
Father involvement in childrearing also brings an important benefit
to women: It raises their public status. Children raised by involved fa-
thers grow up to become adults who are more respectful of women and
more willing to share with women broad social power and authority.
Clearly, expectations for fathers have been changing. From their an-
cient roles of protector and provider, men are being a.Sked today to
raise children pretty much as women have always done. Just how mal-
leable are men in the fathering process? Are men really cut out to be
"new fathers"? What did fathers actually do in the thousands of soci-
eties that existed prior to modem times? How are other societies orga-
nized to maximize paternal investments? To answer such questions we
must go to the roots-to the biology of males and tht.. au:t!t-female
bond and to the evolution and anthropology of fatherhood. These are
the subjects of the following chaptet

TAB 49

University of Minnesota
Responsible Fathering:
An Overview and Conceptual Framework
This article defines responsible fathering, sum-
marizes the relevant research, and presellts a sys-
temic, ecological framework to organize research
and programmatic work in this area. A principal
finding is that fathering is influenced, even more
than mothering, by contextualj(tctors in the family
and conummity.
For more than a century, American society has
engaged in a sometimes contentious debate about
what it means to be a responsible parent. Whereas
most of the cultural debate about mothers has fo-
cused on what, if anything, mothers should do
outside the family, the debate about fathers has
focused on what fathers should do inside the fam-
ily. What role should fathers play in the everyday
lives of their children, beyond the traditional
breadwinner role? How much should they emu-
late the traditional nurturing activities of mothers,
and how much should they represent a masculine
role model to their children'? ls fatherhood in a
unique in late twentieth century America
(Blankenhorn. 1995; Doherty, 1997; Griswold,
1993; LaRossa, 1997; Popcnoc, 1996)?
Department of Family Social Science and Children, Youth, and
Families Consonium, University of Minnesota, 1985 lluford
A¥cnuc, St. Paul, MN 55108 {bdohcrty@che2.chc.umn.cdu).
Key 1Vortls: coparental relationship, jiultas, j(ulter-dlilcl rela-
titmship, family relations am/ dynamics. tlivorce, pareming.
The recent upsurge of interest in fathering has
generated concern among supporters of \Vomen's
and mothers' tights that the emphasis on the impor-
tant role of fathers in families may feed longstand-
ing against female-headed single-parent fam-
ilies, that services for fathers might be increased at
the expense of services for single mothers, tmd that
the profatherhood discourse might be used by the
fathers' rights groups who arc challenging custody,
child support, and visitation arrangements after di-
vorce. On the other hand, feminist psychologists
have recently argued for more emphasis on father-
ing and have suggested that involved, nurturing fa-
thers will benefit women as well as children
(Phares, 1996; Silverstein, 1996). Only an ecologi-
cally sensitive approach to parenting, which views
the welfare of fathers, mothers, and children as in-
tcttwined and interdependent, can avoid a zero-sum
approach to parenting in which fathers' gains be-
come mothers' losses.
These cultural debates serve as a backdrop to
the social science research on fathering because
researchers arc inevitably influenced by the cul-
tural context within which they work (Doherty,
LaRossa, Schumm, & Steinmetz, 1993). In
their recent reanalysis of the historical trends of
American ideals of fatherhood. Pleck and Pleck
( 1997) sec the emerging ideal of fatherhood in the
late twentieth century as father equal coparcnt.
(From 1900 to 1970, the dominant cultural ideal
was the genial dad and sex role model, and from
1830 to 1900, the distant breadwinner.) Research
on fathering, then, has attained prominence in the
Journal of Marriage and the Family 60 (May I 998): 277-292 277
social sciences during an era of historically high
expectations of men's involvement in the every-
day lives of their children. Not surprisingly, a
good deal of that research has compared levels of
fathers' involvement with mothers' involvement
because mothers have become the benchmark for
norms for fathering (Day & Mackey, 1989).
This post-1970s interest in fathering has been
fueled by the reapprnisal of family roles for
women and by unprecedented demographic
changes in the Ameril:an family. In other words,
scholarly, professional, and public policy interest
in fathering has crystallized during the time that
the foundation of traditional fathering-the physi-
cally present father who serves as the unique fam-
ily breadwinner-has been eroding rapidly. With
more than half of mothers in the work force, with
new marriages breaking up at a rate of 50%, and
with nearly one third of births to single women,
the landscape of fathering has been altered sub-
stantially (Bumpass, 1990; U.S. Bureau of the
Census, 1994a).
Sociological and historical \Vork on fathering
makes it clear that fathering (at least beyond in-
semination) is fundamentally a social construction.
Each generation molds its cultural ideal of fathers
according to its own time and conditions, and
each deals with the inevitable gap between what
LaRossa ( 1988) terms the "culture" of fatherhood
and the "conduct"' of fathers in t:1milies. Sociolog-
ical and historical analyses also make it clear that
fathering cannot be defined in isolation from
mothering, mothers' expectations, and social ex-
pectations about childrearing in the society, and
that these social expectations have been fairly
fluid in the United States in the twentieth century.
LaRossa (1997) has demonstrated how the culture
of fatherhood and the conduct of fathers change
from decade to decade as social and political con-
ditions change.
In addition to this historical and social con-
structivist perspective, fathering also lends itself to
a systemic framework, which views fathering not
primarily as a characteristic or behavioral set of
individual men or even as a dyadic characteristic
of a father-child relationship, but as a multilateral
process involving fathers, mothers, children, ex-
tended family, and the broader community and its
cultures and institutions. Fathering is a product of
the meanings. beliefs, motivations, attitudes, and
behaviors of all these stakeholders in the lives of
children. Indeed, this article will suggest that fa-
thering may be more sensitive than mothering to
contextual forces, forces that currently create
Journal of Marriage and the Family
more obstacles than bridges for fathers but that
potentially could be turned in a more supportive
With these historical, social constructionist,
and systemic perspectives as a backdrop, we ex-
amine the concept of responsible fathering, sum-
marize findings from the major areas of research
on responsible fathering, and offer a conceptual
framework to guide future research and program
development. Because of the vastness of the liter-
ature on fathering and the presence of a number
of recent reviews, the review of the literature in
this report is selective rather than comprehensive.
It focuses on major recent work and points out
continuing gaps, such as cultural issues in father-
ing. In some areas, we rely almost entirely on re-
cent reviews by other scholars such as Plcck
( 1997). Our goal is one of synthesis and theory
development rather than comprehensive docu-
The use of the term "responsible fathering,"
which was the original language used by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services in
commissioning our work, reflects a recent shift by
academics and professionals away from value-
free language and toward a more explicit value-
advocacy approach. "Responsible" suggests an
"ought," a set of desired norms for evaluating fa-
thers' behavior. The term also conveys a moral
meaning (right and wrong) because it suggests
that some fathering could be judged "irresponsi-
ble." The wiilingness to use explicitly moral tetms
reflects a change in the social climate among aca-
demics, professionals, and policymakers, who
until recenily embraced the traditional notion that
social science, social policy, and social programs
could be value free. In the late twentieth century,
there is more appreciation of the inevitability of
value-laden and moral positions being part of so-
cial science and social interventions and a greater
willingness to be explicit about values so that they
can be debated openly and their influence on social
science and policy can be made clear. rather than
being covert (Doherty, l995a; Doherty et at., 1993;
Wolfe. 1989). [ndccd, there has always been a
strong but implicit undercurrent of value advocacy
in fathering research, much of it conducted by
men and women interested in promoting more
committed and nurturing involvement by men in
their children's lives. Similarly, there has always
been a moral undertone to the focus on fathers'
Re.IJ)(msib/e Fatlzerinf{
deficits that has characterized much of the litera-
ture on absent, "deadbeat," and emotionally unin-
volved fathers (Doheny, 1990). The term "respon-
sible fathering," as we use it, applies to fathers
across all social dasses and racial groups, not nar-
rowly to men in lower social classes or minority
groups. Now that value advocacy has become
more explicit in the fathering area (Dollahite,
Hawkins, & Brotherson, 1997). responsible father-
ing needs to be clearly defined. James Levine and
Edward Pitt (1995) have made an important start
in their delineation of responsible fathering. They
A man who behaves responsibly towards his
child docs the following:
• He waits to make a baby until he is prepared
emotionally <md financially to support his child.
• He establishes his legal paternity if and when
he docs make a baby.
• He actively shares with the child's mother in
the continuing emotional and physical care of
their child, from pregnancy onwards.
• He shares with the child's mother in the con-
tinuing financial suppon of their child, from
pregnancy onwards. (pp. 5-6)
Levine and Pitt's elements of responsible fa-
thering have the advantage of rcfcn-ing to both
resident and nonresident fathers, a rcnection of the
diversity of fathers' situations. The authors also
assert that commitment to this ethic of responsi-
ble fatherhood extends beyond the father to the
mother, to professionals who work with families,
and to social institutions cntmstcd with the support
of families. We employ Levine and Pitt's defini-
tion in this article, but we narrow our scope to men
who are already fathers: we do not address the
issue of postponing fatherhood.
The developmental backdrop for the discussion
of fathering reflects children's needs for pre-
dictability. nutturancc, and appropriate limit setting
from fathers and mothers, as well as for economic
security and a cooperative, preferably loving rela-
tionship between their parents (Hetherington &
Parke, 1993). Furthermore, the specific needs of
children vury by their developmental stage. Purents
arc required to provide higher levels of physical
caregiving when their children arc infants and
greater levels of conflict management when their
children become adolescents. Although we do not
review the literature on the effects of active father-
ing on children, an assumption behind this arti-
de-and our value stance-is that children need
and deserve active, involved fathers throughout
their childhood and adolescence. The prime justi-
fication for promoting responsible fathering is the
needs or children.
The major areas of research on responsible father-
ing reflect the domains outlined by Levine and Pitt
(1995). with the addition of attention to whether
the father resides with the child. These domains
can be categorized as (a) establishing legal pater-
nity, (b) nonresidential fathers' presence versus
absence, (c) nonresidential fathers' economic sup-
port for their children, and (d) residential fathers'
level of involvement with d1cir children. There are
not many theoretical models or research studies
that cross over between residential and nonresiden-
tial fathers. Offering such a model is one of the
goals of this article. The review of literature, how-
ever, will be organized by the four research tradi-
tions delineated above. In order to delimit the re-
view, we focus on heterosexual. biological fathers
and not gay fathers. stepfathers, adoptive fathers,
or father surrogates-groups deserving consider-
ably more research and programmatic attention.
Fathers and /.ega/ Paternity
Declaring legal paternity is the sine qua non of re-
sponsible fathering. With legal paternity comes a
variety of economic. social, and psychological
benefits to the child and some degree of protection
of the father's rights. Tangible benefits for the
child include health care if the father is employed,
social security, mandated child support, and armed
forces benefits if the father is in the military.
They also include the intangible benet1t of know-
ing one's biological heritage and having a clearer
sense of social identity (Wattenberg. 1993).
Unfortunately, only about one third of non-
marital births in the U.S. arc followed by paternity
adjudication (Adams, Landsbergen, & Hecht.
1994). There is limited research on the reasons,
but they appear to involve lack of information
about the benefits of legal paternity, the dynamics
of the couple relationship, opposition from moth-
ers, cultural issues, social policy barriers, and low
priority actions on the part of social institutions
(Anderson, 1993: Wattenberg. 1993). In a study of
new, unmarried parents, Wattenberg documented
the faulty and incomplete information the young
couples had. Nor were they informed by health
personnel or social service personnel, who them-
sci ves had major gaps in their knowledge about the
advantages of paternity determination. What's
more, current institutional practices encourage
unmarried fathers in welfare families to remain
"underground" because the state generally keeps
a substantial portion of the child support the father
pays. If he does not declare paternity, any infor-
mal, under-the-table payments he makes go directly
to the mother and child (Achatz & MacAIIum,
Anderson (1993) and Wattenberg ( 1993) also
have explored the ambivalence of the mother and
father themselves about establishing paternity.
Young fathers sometimes feel tricked and trapped
by the mother. and the mother may feel both pro-
tective of the father (not wanting him to be ha-
rassed by authorities) and reluctant to tic herself
to him in the future. Extended family on both
sides may have mixed feelings about legal pater-
nity and father involvement. Social service per-
sonnel, too, have been found to have the same
ambivalence and reluctance to encourage the
mother and father to establish paternity. Recently,
however, federally mandated reforms have re-
quired states to implement programs to promote
the acknowledgment of paternity. The results thus
far have been mixed: Rates of paternity establish-
ment have increased, but paternity is still unac-
knowledged in the majority of cases for reasons
cited in prior studies (Sorenson & Turner, 1996).
The available research on the process of estab-
lishing legal paternity supports an ecological
model that emphasizes how contextual forces in
the community combine with mother-father rela-
tionship factors and individual father factors to
create a situation where too many fathers stumble
on the first step of responsible fathering.
Father Presence Versus Absence
After the declaration of paternity, the bedrock of
fathering is presence in the child's life. The two
major structural threats to fathers' presence are
nonmarital childbearing and divorce. In 1993, 6.3
million children (9% of all children) were living
with a single parent who had never married, up
from 243.000 in 1960 (.4% of all children). In
terms of percentages of all births, nonmarital
births have risen from 4% of births in 1940 to
31% in 1 993; the biggest increases occurred in
the 1970s and 1980s. The nonmarital birth rate
for women over age 20 has increased substantially
since the late 1970s. For teenagers. although the
Joumal of Marriage a11d the Family
overall birth rate has actually remained steady for
decades. the decision to not marry has led to a dra-
matic increase in the nonmarital birth rate (U.S.
Department ofHcalth and Human Services, 1995).
ln ill] §pthoutside of
Olrifli:lgg;reslde withtheirmothcrs; If fathers do
['l()t live with the mother and child, their presence
in the child's life is frequently marginal and, even
when active for a while, tends to be fragile over
time. Until recently, studies in this area have been
hampered by small, nonrepresentative samples.
Lerman (1993), using data from a nationally rep-
resentative group of over 600 unwed fathers, found
that about three fourths of young fathers who did
not reside with their children at birth never lived
in the same household with them. About 50% of
these fathers visited their child once a week, but
about. 20% never visited or visited once a year. The
pattern over time was toward less contact a..-; the
children got older. There were racial differences
in these findings. however. African American un-
married fathers were more likely to live close to
their children and see them more frequently than
were White and Hispanic fathers. The figures J'or
fathers who rarely or never visited their children
were as follows: African American ( 12% ), Hispanic
(30%), and White (37%). African American un-
married fathers also had a slightly higher frequency
of support payments.
A number of qualitative studies have docu-
mented how mothers and grandmothers serve as
gatekeepers for the father's presence in the child's
life and how institutional practices create barriers,
particularly for young fathers (Allen & Doherty,
1996; Wattenberg, 1993 ). Many of these fathers
relinquish involvement, and many who try to stay
involved face structural and relationship barriers.
Overall, there appears to be a strong negative
eftect of nonmarital fathering on the father-child
bond. Furstenberg and Harris (1993). reporting on
their 20-year follow-up of new unmarried African
American parents in Baltimore (a group who were
generally representative of African American un-
married parents nationally), found that only 13%
of the young adults reported a strong bond with
their biological father if he had not lived with
them. The figure was 50% for fathers who lived
with the child. These investigators also examined
bonds with stepfathers and other male figures in
the child's life. Here, too, the tindings were sober-
ing: "Taking all these father figures into account,
just I% of the children had a strong relationship
with two or more fathers, 30% reported a strong tie
with at least one, and 69% had no father figure to
Re.11>onsible Fathering
whom they were highly attached'' (p. 126). Note
that this study focused on the quality of father-
child bonds among young adult children, not the
frequency of contact.
In more than 25% of nonmarital births, the
parents are cohabiting (U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 1995). ln these cases, fathers
are far more present in their children's lives. How-
ever, studies indicate that cohabiting couples have
high breakup rates, and those who go on to marry
have higher divorce rates (Bumpass, Sweet, &
Chcrlin, 1991; DeMaris & Rao, 1992). Therefore,
even when the father lives with the mother of the
child, his ongoing presence in the child's life is
often fragile.
Although the number of nonmarital births has
been increasing, an even greater number of chil-
dren (6.6 million) live with a single parent subse-
quent to divorce (U.S. Burcall of the Census,
1994b). In about 90% of cases, these children re-
side with their mothers. Research has documented
a declining presence of noncustodial fathers over
the years after a divorce. One national study of
school-aged children found that 2 years after a di-
vorce about half had not seen their father for a
year (Furstenberg & Nord, 1985). A more recent
study, using 1990 data from the Survey of Income
and Program Participation, reported that about
one third of divorced fathers did not spend time
with their children in the previous year (Nord &
Ziti , 1996). In generaL although father involve-
ment after divorce seems to be increasing and
some fathers are quite involved with their chil-
dren after a divorce, the predominant pattern
among noncustodial fathers is one of gradual
withdrawal from their children's lives (Amato &
Rezac, I 994; Seltzer, I 991 ).
The sequelae of divorce for the quality of father-
child relations is also quite sobering. Zill, Morrison,
and Coiro (1993) followed a large national sample
of children and parents through the young adult-
hood of the children. After adjusting for a variety
of demographic factors and vocabulary test scores,
they found increasing alienation of divorced fa-
thers from their children, measured by the chil-
dren's descriptions of these relationships. Among
18- to 22-ycar-olds, 65% of those whose parents
had divorced reported a poor relationship with
their father, compared with 29% of those whose
parents had not divorced. The data also showed
poorer relationships with mothers after divorce,
but the eftect for fathers was stronger. Remarriage
of one of the parents made things worse: 70% of
children of divorce and remarriage reported a
poor relationship with their father.
Much of the research on fathers' involvement
with their children after divorce has focused on
children's well-being. Although some studies
have found that higher levels of father involvement
were associated with grcater psychological adjust-
ment among children, other studies. especially
those with nationally representative samples, have
failed to support that conclusion (Furstenberg,
Morgan. & Allison. 1987; Hetherington, Cox, &
Cox, 1982; Guidubaldi. Cleminshaw, Perry, Nas-
tasi, & Lightel, 1986; Kalter, Kloner, Schreier, &
Okla, 1989). A number of scholars who reponed
no effects for father involvement suggested that,
although contact with both parents is desirable in
principle, the benefits of father involvement for
the child may be neutralized when there is signifi-
cant conflict between parents. That is, when there
is a good deal of interparental conflict, higher
contact with the father might create additional
strains on the child. strains that offset the advan-
tages of seeing the father more frequently (Heth-
erington et nl.. 1982).
Amato and Rezac ( 1994) tested this hypothesis
directly with data from the National Survey of
Families and Households. They found that higher
levels of involvement by the nonresidential parent
(mostly fathers) , measured by frequency of con-
tacts, were associated with less problem behavior
in children only in the presence of low inter-
parental conl1ict. In other words, when the parents
got along well, frequent contact. of fathers with
their children had positive behavioral outcomes
for the children. When the parents had more seri-
ous conflict, however, high contact between father
and child was associated with \Vorse behavioral
outcomes. This finding, which was statistically
significant for boys but fell shot1 of significance
for girls, supports the importance of a systemic
and ecological model for fathering, rather than a
dyadic model that f<.1cuscs only on the father-child
relationship. Recent analyses of national data by
Nord and Zill ( 1996) also shed light on the com-
plexities of involvement of nonresidential fathers.
They found that joint custody and voluntary visi-
tation agreements were associated with better
health among adolescents than were sole custody
and court-ordered agreements. Generally, al-
though more contact with the nonresident father
was associated with better reports of health, the
status of the parents' divorce agreements was an
important factor.
Overall, it appears that there arc many barriers
to the father's presence in a child's life outside of
a marital context. Residential status alone, of
course, c ~ m n o t account for this situation. Although
there is a dearth of studies in this area, noncustodial
mothers appear to do a better job of maintaining
presence in their children's lives. For instance,
more noncustodial mothers than fathers live in the
same state as their children (U.S. Bureau of the
Census, 1995) and have more contact with their
children than noncustodial fathers do (Amato &
Rezac, 1994). It appears that there arc personal,
relational. cultural, and institutional barriers spe-
citlc to fathering that inhibit fathers' presence in
the lives of children with whom they do not live.
Fathers· Payment of Child Support
For many policy specialists, the principal concern
with fathering outside of marriage lies with the
payment of child support. The term "deadbeat
dad'' was coined to communicate moral indigna-
tion at the number of fathers who do not con-
tribute to their children's economic well-being
after a divorce. The research data arc clear and
consistent on the subject. According to a report
on child support by the U.S. Bureau of the Census
( 1995), only 48% of the mothers who m·e award-
ed child support by the courts receive the full
amount due. The remainder m·e divided more or
less equally between those who receive partial
payment and those who received nothing. Further-
more, other research has found that the amounts
awarded and paid arc not adequate to support a
child. given mothers' often low incomes, even if
the full amounts arc forthcoming (Rettig, Chris-
tensen, & Dahl, 1991 ).
This economic struggle is even more common
for nonmarital childbearing than for postdivorcc
situations. especially when fathers have lost con-
tact with their children (Lerman. 1993 ). In 1993,
38% of children living with divorced mothers, but
66% of those living with never-married mothers,
were living below the poverty line, compared with
II% of children living in two-parent families
(U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1994b). Only 27% of
never-married custodial mothers have a child sup-
port award (U.S. Bureau of the Census. 1995).
Because many children born to never-married par-
ents have not had legal paternity established. the
prospects of establishing awards for these chil-
dren arc limited.
Researchers have examined factors in the non-
paymenl of child support by fathers. One important
predictor is having joint custody or visitation
privileges or both. Fathers with these arrdngcmcnts
pay all or part of child support more often than
Joumal of Marriage and the Family
those who do not (79% vs. 56%; U.S. Bureau of
the Census, 1995). When asked about their lack
of economic support, many fathers point to re-
sentment toward mothers for misusing the funds
and for withholding the children from the father
(Furstenberg. Sherwood, & Sullivan, 1992; Kur-
dek. 1986). Indeed, studies have documented that
more frequent contact is associated with more
child support (Seltzer, 1991 ). Similarly, a tug-of-
war over visitation and other contacts with chil-
dren is associated with lower child support pay-
ments (Dudley, 1991; Seltzer, Schaeffer, &
Charng, 1989).
Researchers and policymakers have tended to
assume that the failure of noncustodial parents to
provide economic support is primarily a problem
specific to fathers. Without studies of noncustodial
mothers' child support, many assumed that non-
custodial mothers would be better payers of child
support in the same way that they maintain more
contact with their nonresidential children. This
appears not to be the case. The most recent U.S.
Bureau of the Census ( 1995) report on child sup-
port offered the first national data on child sup-
port payments by noncustodial mothers, as well
as fathers. The Jindings showed that noncustodial
mothers, like noncustodial fathers, do not pay all
the child support that is owed. Custodial fathers
receive about 53% of the child support owed, and
custodial mothers receive about 68%. Slightly
more than half of the noncustodial fathers (52%)
and less than half of the noncustodial mothers
(43%) pay all of what they owe. Mothers' nonpay-
ment cannot be dismissed as stemming from their
incomes being lower than the incomes of fathers
because child support awards by the court are cal-
ibrated partly according to income.
These tindings of nonsuppott by noncustodial
mothers suggest that there is something in the
structure or nonresidential parenting, rather than
in the culture of fatherhood, that is the principal
inhibitor of economic support for children outside
of marriage. Structural aspects of nonresidential
parenting that may inhibit economic support
might include having to send funds to an ex-spouse
or to an ex-partner, having to provide economic
support in the absence of day-to-day contact with
one's children, and having no influence over how
child support funds a n ~ spent. Because there are
far more noncustodial fathers than noncustodial
mothers, the greater social and policy problem is
the lack of paternal support. But the solutions
should reflect the possibility that there arc inher-
ent difficulties in paying money to an ex-spouse
Responsible Fathering
or to an ex-partner when a parent docs not live
with, and thus does not have daily contact with,
his or her children.
Residential Father Involvement with Children
A striking aspect of research on father involve-
ment with the residential children is its emphasis
not on the traditional responsibility of the father
for economic support, but on the father's face-to-
face interaction with his child in the family set-
ting. However, it is clear that the quality of fathers'
interactions with their children is tied to the fa-
ther's success, real or perceived, as a breadwinner.
The classic studies documenting this phenomenon
are reports by Glen Elder and colleagues on how
unemployment during the Great Depression af-
fected the quality of father-child relations for men
who became unemployed or who perceived them-
selves as less than adequate providers. These men
increased the quantity of time with their children
but showed decreased parenting quality through
more arbitrariness and rejecting behaviors. Elder
and colleagues found that the impact of unemploy-
ment on fathering was greater than on mothering,
a finding replicated by other swdics as well
(Elder, Liker, & Cross, 1984; Elder, Van Nguyen,
& Caspi, 1985; McLoyd, 1989). Studies with
more recent cohorts of fathers have shown the
same results and have emphasized that the father's
perception of his financial situation, even more
than his actual situation, influenced his fathering
behavior (Harold-Goldsmith, Radin, & Eccles,
1988; LaRossa & Rcitzes, 1993 ).
It appears that feeling like a failure in the
breadwinning role is associated with demoraliza-
tion for fathers, which causes their relationships
with their children to deteriomte (McLoyd. 1989).
This phenomenon has particular relevance for
African American fathers and other fathers of
color, who often face serious barriers to success in
the provider role, with deleterious consequences
for the ability to father (McLoyd, 1990; Taylor,
Leashore, & Toliver, 1988). At a conceptual level,
this connection between fathering and brcadwin-
ning demonstrates the importance of taking an
ecological approach to fathering (Allen & Con-
nor, 1997).
As for research on the kinds of father involve-
ment inside the home, early studies on father-
child interactions were dispersed into a variety of
content categories such as warmth, controL sex
role modeling, playfulness, and independence
training. Lamb, Pleck, Charnov, and Levine
(1985) then introduced the content-free dimen-
sions of paternal engagement (direct carcgiving,
leisure, or play), paternal accessibility (availability
to the child), and paternal responsibility (knowing
what the child needs and making decisions about
how to respond). Subsequently, research began to
focus on the extent of paternal involvement in
these three domains (especially the first two, be-
cause responsibility proved hard to operational-
izc). In addition to examining fathers' absolute
levels of involvement with their children, re-
searchers also concerned themselves with mea-
suring the proportion of the father's involvement
to the mother's involvement and assessing the
predictors and child outcomes of different levels
of paternal involvement with children of different
Lamb and Plcck also introduced an often used
model of the determinants of father involvement:
motivation, skills, social support, and institutional
practices (Lamb. l987a; Lamb et al., 1985). They
proposed that optimal father involvement will be
forthcoming when these four factors arc pres-
ent-that is, when a father is highly motivated,
has adequate parenting skills, receives social sup-
port for his parenting, and is not undermined by
work and other institutional settings.
Recently, the literature on residential father in-
volvement has been comprehensively reviewed
and analyzed by Pleck ( 1997) for the third edition
of Lamb's classic book, 71ze Role of the Father in
Child DePelopmellf. The following summary relies
heavily on Plcck's review.
Plcck's (l997) summary of studies during the
1980s and 1990s indicates that fathers' engage-
ment (in proportion to mothers) is cum:ntly some-
what over 40%, and their accessibility is nearly
two thirds rhat of mothers. (This indicates a level
of engagement that is less than half of mothers'
level; 100% means a level of involvement equal
to mothers.) These figures are higher than those
found in studies during the 1970s and early
I980s-by about one third for engagement and
one half for accessibility.
As for absolute levels of engagement and ac-
cessibility (distinguished from the proportion of
mother's involvement), Pleck (1997) reports that
the age of the child and the day of the week were
important factors in the available studies. For ex-
ample, McBride and Mills ( 1993), using a guided
interview to determine time of activities. found
that paternal engagement with young children was
from 2.0 to 2.8 hours per day, with 1.9 hours on
weekdays and 6.5 hours on weekends. According
to Pleck's review, hours with adolescents tend to
be lower. U.S. studies show a range from .5 to 1.0
hour on weekdays and from 1.4 to 2.0 hours on
Sundays. Fathers spent more time with sons than
with daughters. Accessibility estimates arc higher
across a number of studies, ranging from 2.8 to 4.9
hours per day with younger children and 2.8 hours
per day with adolescents (Pieck, 1997). Pleck
notes that these well-documented amounts of time
arc markedly different than the figure of 12 minutes
per day that is often cited in the media.
The best data on paternal accessibility arc de-
rived from federal surveys of child-care arrange-
ments of employed mothers. These studies indicate
that fathers arc a significant source of primary
child care when mothers urc working outside the
home. Fathers are as common a source as child-
care centers and family day care homes. Twenty-
three percent of families with a working mother
have a father who serves as the primary parent
while the mother works. These figures are up sub-
stantially from the 1970s. although recent find-
ings indicate that fathers' involvement as primary
caregivers changes in response to the larger U.S.
economy and the availability of jobs (U.S. Bureau
of the Census, 1996).
Overall, Plcck ( 1997) concludes that, in keep-
ing with the shift toward a cultural ideal of the
highly involved, coequal parent, there is evidence
of the increasing engagement, accessibility, and re-
sponsibility of fathers in the lives of their children
over the p a ~ t 20 years. However, there remains a
large gap between fathers' levels of involvement
and mothers' levels. Research on child ami so-
ciodemographic predictors of residential fathers'
involvement may be summarized from Plcck"s re-
view a ~ follows: Fathers tend to be more involved
with their sons than their daughters. particulnrly
with older children. Fathers are less involved with
older children than younger children. although the
decline of fathers' involvement as children get
older is proportionately less than the decline in
mothers' involvement. fathers with larger num-
bers of children arc more involved, although the
research in this area is somewhat mixed. Fathers
are more involved with firstborn than later-born
children and with infants born prematurely and
who have difficult temperaments; these trends are
true for mothers as well. Fathers' socioeconomic
characteristics and race and ethnicity have not
been found consistently related to their involve-
ment with their children.
Theory and research on residential fathers' in-
volvement with their children have not explicitly
Journal of Marriage ami the Family
used the framework of responsible fathering, al-
though this value-advocacy position comes through
in the literature. Indeed, engagement, accessibility,
and responsibility arc ways to opcrationalize
Levine and Pitt's (1995) notion of responsible fa-
thering as involving "continuing emotional and
physical care of their child" (p. 5). Unresolved is
the issue of the utility of comparisons between
mothers' and fathers' levels of involvement with
children. In much of the literature on fathers, the
behavior of mothers is the benchmark for evalua-
tion (Levine. 1993). This leads to what feminist
psychologist Vicky Phares ( 1996) termed a "matri-
centric" approach to parenting research, family
therapy, and parent education, in which mothers arc
considered the standard parent and fathers are either
ignored or studied for how they differ from mothers
or how they neglect or abandon children. What is
needed is a systemic, ecological approach to parent-
ing in which the behaviors and beliefs of children,
fathers, and mothers arc viewed within an interde-
pendent web of personal, relational, and community
intlucnccs (Bateson, 1972; Bronfenbrenner, 1979;
Park, 1996).
The fathering literature has been long on empiri-
cal studies and shon on theory. Researchers mostly
have adapted concepts from social sciences to lit
their particular area, but work is beginning on
overarching conceptual frameworks to guide re-
search and program development. In his review of
theory in fathering research, Marsiglia ( 1995)
ment.ions life course theory (which emphasizes
how men's experience of fatherhood changes
with life transitions), social scripting theory
(which emphasizes the cultural messages that fa-
thers internalize about their role), and social iden-
tity theory (which focuses on how men take on
the identity of a father in relation to their other so-
cial roles). Hawkins, Christiansen, Sargent, and
Hill (1995), Hawkins and Dollahite (1997), and
Snarcy ( 1993) have used Erik Erikson's develop-
mental theory in their work on how fathering can
promote gcnerativity among ndult men. Other
scholars have explored the utility of economic
theories to understand fathers' decisions to invest
in, or withdraw from, their children (Becker,
The most specific conceptual model frequently
used in the fatherhood literature is Lamb's and
Pleck's four-factor model of father involvement,
Case 2:13-cv-00217-RJS Document 44 Filed 10/11/13 Page 17 of 46
Although the model can depict fathers' indirect
influence on their children through their support
for the mother, the focus here is on direct father-
child interaction. And although the influences de-
picted in the model also can be viewed inlluenc-
ing the father directly. we prefer to focus on the
effects on father-child relations because enhancing
those relations and, therefore, the well-being of
children is· the ultimate goal of programs for fathers.
The research reviewed for this article supports
the notion that father-child relations arc more
strongly influenced than mother-child relations by
three of the dimensions of the model: the coparcntal
relationship, factors in the other parent, and larger
contextual factors.
Coparental Relationship
A number of studies have shown that the quality
of father-child relations both inside and outside
marriage is more highly cmTclated with the quality
of the coparcntal relationship than is true for the
mother-child relationship (Belsky & Volling, 1987;
Cox, Owen, Lewis, & Henderson, 1989; Feld-
man, Nash, & Aschenbrenner, 1983; Lcvy-Shiff
& Ismelashvili. 1988). Futhers appear to withdmw
from their child when they arc not getting along
with the mother, whereas mothers do not show a
similar level of withdrawal. This is one way to
understand the tendency of fathers to remove
themselves from their children's lives after a
breakup with the mother, especially if they have a
negative relationship with the mother (Ahrons &
Miller, 1993 ). As Furstenberg and Chcrlin (1991)
have asserted, for many men, marriage and parent-
hood arc a "package deal." Or one might say that
in American culture, a woman is a mother all of
her life, but a man is a father if he has a wife. Fur-
thermore, if he a wife but docs not get along
with her, he may be present as a father, but the
quality of his relationship with his children is apt
to suffer.
One reason that fathering is particularly sensi-
tive to the marital or coparental relationship is
that standards and expectations for fathering ap-
pear to be more variable than those for mothering.
There is more negotiation in families over what
fathers will do than over what mothers will do and
more dependence among fathers on the
quality and outcome of those negotiations (Back-
cu. 1987). As Lewis and O'Brien (1987) state.
men have a less clear "job description" as fathers
than women do as mothers. Therefore, fathers'
behavior is strongly influenced by the meanings
Journal of Marriage and the Family
and expectations of fathers themselves, as well as
mothers, children, extended family, and broader
cultural institutions.
One of the most sensitive areas of research on
fatheting is the importance of fathers being mar-
ried to the children's mothers. Because many fa-
thers arc not married to the mother, it can seem
prejudicial to these men and their children-and
perhaps to single-parent mothers-to emphasize
the importance of man·iage. On the other hand, an
implication of our review of the research and our
conceptual framework is that, for most American
heterosexual fathers, the family environment most
of fathering is a caring, committed,
and collaborative marriage. This kind of marriage
means that the father lives with his children and
has a good partnership with their mother. These
arc the two principal intrafamilial determinants of
responsible fathering.
Some of the controversy over the role of mar-
riage in responsible fathering can be circumvented
by specifying the quality of the marriage, as we
have done. It is the quality of the marital process,
rather than the legal or corcsidcntial status, that
most affects fathering. One might argue, then,
that being married is not important because co-
habiting couples could have the same qualities of
relationship. Although, in principle, this is true,
the best national research on cohabitation indi-
cates that cohabitation is a temporary arrange-
ment for most heterosexual couples; they eventu-
ally either marry or break up (Bumpass ct al.,
1991). We conclude that, in practice, the kind of
mother-father relationship most conducive to re-
sponsible fathering in contemporary U.S. society is
a caring. committed, collaborative marriage. Out-
side of this ammgemcnt, substantial barriers stand
in the way of active. involved fathering.
Mother Factors
Among cxtcmal influences on fathering. the role
of the mother bas particular salience because
mothers serve as partners and sometimes as gate-
keepers in the father-child relationship, both inside
and outside marriage (De Luceie, 1995). Mother
factors in the conceptual model, of course, interact
with the coparental relationship because the moth-
er's personal feelings about the father inilucncc the
copmental relationship. But there is also evidence
that, even within satisfactory marital relation-
ships, a father's involvement with his children,
especially young children, is often contingent on
the mother's attitudes toward, expectations of,
Responsible Fathering
and support for the father, as well as the extent of
her involvement in the labor force (De Luccie,
1995; Simons, Whitbeck, Conger, & Melby.
1990). Marsiglia (1991), using the National Sur-
vey of Families and Households data set, found
that mothers' characteristics were more strongly
correlated with fathers' involvement than fathers'
own characteristics were. Indeed, studies have
shown that many mothers, both inside and outside
marriage, arc ambivalent about the fathers' active
involvement with their children (Baruch & Bar-
nett. 1986: Cowan & Cowan. 1987). Given the
powerful cultural forces that expect absorption by
women in their mothering role, it is not surprising
that active paternal involvement would threaten
some women's identity and sense of control over
this central domain of their lives. The evolution
of a social consensus on responsible fathering.
therefore. will necessarily involve a consensus
that responsible mothering means supporting the
father-child bond.
Conlextual Factors
Research demonstrates the particular vulnerability
of fathering to contextual and institutional prac-
tices-from the establishment of legal paternity to
the greater impact of unemployment on fathering
than on mothering. Lack of income and poor occu-
pational opportunities appear to have a particularly
negative effect on fathering (Thomson, Hanson,
& McLanahan. 1994). The prevalence of the aban-
donment of economic and psychological responsi-
bilities among poor. unemployed men and among
other men who undergo financial and employment
crises is partly a function of the unique vulnera-
bility of fathering to perceived success in the ex-
ternal environment (Jones, 1991; McLoyd, 1989).
This analysis suggest-; that fathering is especially
sensitive to changes in economic forces in the
work force and marketplace and to shifts in public
policy. It also suggests that fathering suffers dis-
proportionately from negutivc social forces, such
as racism. that inhibit opportunities in the environ-
ment. McLoyd ( 1990), in a review and conceptual
anulysis of economic hardship in African Ameri-
can families, describes how poverty and racism
combine to create psychological distress, which
is, in turn, associated with more negative parent-
ing styles and more difficulty in the coparental re-
Our conceptual model also depicts the positive
contribution of ethnic and cultural factors to father-
ing. One aspect of responsible fathering, that of
economic support, is nearly universally expected
of fathers by their cultures (Lamb, 1987b ). La-
Rossa ( 1997), in his historical analysis, has
demonstmted how changing cultural expectations
in the first part of the twentieth century led to
more nurturing father involvement in the U.S.
Allen and Connor ( 1997) have examined how
role flexibility and concern for children in the
African American community create opportunities
for men to become involved in surrogate tilthcr re-
lationships with children who lack day-to-day
contact with their biological fathers. Unfortunately,
there has not been much empirical research that
examines fathering in its cultural context, using
representative samples of fathers to explore how
cultural meanings and practices influence fathers'
beliefs and behaviors.
The final contextual factor in the model is so-
cial support, which Belsky ( 1984) emphasized in
his theoretical model of parenting and which
Me Loyd ( 1990) documented as a crucial factor in
diminishing the negative effects of poverty on
parenting behavior. However, most of the research
on social support specifically for fathers has fo-
cused on mothers as sources of social support.
Plcck ( 1997) reviewed the limited research on ex-
trafamilial social support for fathering and found
the studies skimpy and inconsistent, except for
the pattern that highly involved fathers tend to en-
counter negative attitudes from acquaintances. rcl-
lltives, and fellow workers. Clearly, there is a need
for :>tudics that examine the sources and influ-
ences of social support on fathering, particularly
the role of other fathers.
From the perspective of both the contextual fac-
tors and the mother factors discussed thus far, fa-
thering can be conceptualized a ~ a more contextually
sensitive process than mothering is. Not that moth-
ering is not also contextually sensitive, but the cul-
tural norms arc stricter on the centrality and en-
durance of the mother-child dyad, regardless of
what is happening outside that relationship. Father-
child relations, on the other hand, are culturally de-
Jincd as less dyadic and more multilateral, requiring
a threshold of support from inside the family and
from the larger environment. Undemtining from the
mother or from a social institution or system may
induce many fathers to retreat from responsible fa-
thering unless their own individual level of commit-
ment to fathering is quite strong.
This point about the ecological sensitivity of
fathering is a principal conclusion of this article.
It suggests that fathering programs and policy ini-
tiatives that focus only on fathers will benefit
mainly fathers who already have a suppmtivc so-
cial and economic environment. Fathers whose
context is less supportive-for example, fathers
who do not live with their children, who have
strained relationships with the mother, or who arc
experiencing economic stress- will need more
extensive and multilateral efforts to support their
Cl!ifd Factors
Individual child factors arc included in the model
for completeness, but the child factors studied in
the research literature do not appear to be as im-
portant as the other dimensions in influencing fa-
thering. Fathers do appear to find it easier to be
more involved with their sons, especially older
sons, presumably because they identify with them
and arc more comfortable communicating with
them (Marsiglia, 1991 ). Most of the other child
factors, such as age, appear to intlucncc mothers as
much as fathers, although Larson (1993) and Lar-
son and Richards ( 1994) have documented how
fathers withdraw more from parent-adolescent
conflict than mothers do. More research is needed
on the influence of the child's temperament and
developmental status on relations with nonresi-
dential fathers. Similarly. research is needed on
how the child's beliefs about father invo.lvcment
intluence fathers' and mothers' expectations and
MOl her-Child Relationship Factors
We include this domain for theoretical complete-
ness, but we could find no research directly exam-
ining how the father-child relationship is affected
by the mother-child relationship. Such effects
may be t a p p ~ : d indirectly through other dimen-
sions in the model. such as the mother's attitudes
toward the father's involvemeut with the child.
For example, a close mother-child bond, combined
with an ambivalent maternal attitude toward pa-
ternal involvement, might lead to less closeness
of the father than a situation in which a mother
had the same attitude but. herself. was less close
to the child.
Father Factors
Fathers' role identification, skills, and commit-
ment arc important influences on fathering
(Baruch & BarneU, 1986; Ihingcr-Tallman ct al..
1995; Plcck, 1997). These three appear to Ouctu-
Journal of Marriage and the Family
ate from low to high levels along with a number
of interpersonal and contextual factors, such as the
mother' s expectations and the father' s residential
status with his children (Marsiglia, 1995; Ihingcr-
Tallman et al., 1995). In American culture, fathers
arc given more latitude for commitment to. identi-
fication with, and competence in their parental
role. This latitude brings with it the price of confu-
sion for many fathers about how to exercise their
roles (Daly, 1995).
The variability of the individual father factors
suggests two important implications of our con-
ceptual model: that the positive support from
mothers and the larger context can move men in
the direction of more responsible parenting even
in the face of modest personal investment, and
that strong father commitment, knowledge. and
skills arc likely to be necessary to overcome neg-
ative maternal, eoparental. and contextual influ-
ences. This latter point is similar to Lamb's
( 1987a) hypothesis that high levels of father moti-
vation can override institutional barriers and the
lack of social support.
As tor the father's experience in his own family
of origin, some research suggests that the father's
relationship with his own father may be a factor-
either through identifying with his father or com-
pensating for his father's lapses-in contributing
to his own role identification. sense of commit-
ment, and self-efficacy (Cowan & Cowan, 1987;
Daly, 1995). Snarey (1993), in a longitudinal
study, documented the role of multigencrational
connections between fathers.
The final father factors, psychological well-
being and employment characteristics. have been
studied extensively. Research examining psycho-
logical adjustment and parenting quality consis-
tently shows a positive relationship between fathers'
(and mothers' ) psychological well-being and their
parenting attitudes and skills (Cox ct al., 1989;
Lcvy-Shiff & lsraclashvili, 1988; Plcck, 1997).
The research on job loss and economic distress
generally has examined declines in psychological
well-being as mediating fuctors leading to poorer
fathering (Elder ct al., 1984; Elder ct al., 1985;
Jones, 1991 ). And fathers' work situations have
been shown to have mixed relationships with in-
volvement with children. Specific work schedules
arc not strongly related to involvement, but
greater flex time and other profamily practices arc
associated with more father involvement (Plcck,
1997). Indeed, consistent with other research on
fathering, mothers' employment characteristics
arc more strongly associated with fathers ' in-
ReJponsible Fathering
volvement than fathers' employment characteristics.
When mothers are employed, fathers' proportionate
share of parenting is greater. although studies arc
inconsistent about the absolute level of father in-
volvement (Picck, 1997).
Conceprual 01·erview
The conceptual mmlcl outlines multiple factors that
int1uence fathering, from individual and relational
to contextual. The factors can be viewed as additive.
For example, low identification with the parental
role, combined with low expectations from the
mother. would be strongly associated with low in-
volvement of the father in both residential and non-
residential contexts. High identification with the
parental role, combined with high expectations
[rom the mother, would lead to greater father in-
volvement in any residential context.
The factors in the model also can be viewed as
interactive. For example, high role identification
and good employment and income might be sufti-
cicnt to offset low expectations from the mother.
Similarly, not living with the child could be offset
by the father's strong commitment to his children
and the suppmt of the mother. And strong institu-
tional support through public policies could miti-
gate unmarried fathers' and mothers' reluctance
to declare paternity.
Although the conceptual fmmcwork is intended
to apply to the four domains of responsible father-
ing (paternity. presence, economic support, and
involvement), most of the research has focused on
one or another of these areas. Indeed, the bulk of
the empirical research has been on father involve-
ment. Researchers have tended to assume that
economic factors uniquely influence economic
support and that father !'actors uniquely influence
father involvement. Putting a range of factors into
one model challenges researchers to examine how
all the factors might influence all the domains of
responsible fathering. We acknowledge that some
of the model arc likely to int1uencc
some aspects of fathering more than others.
Finally, the model should be seen as depicting
a dynamic set of processes, rather than a set of
linear, detcnninistic int1ucnces. Systemic, ecolog-
ical models run the risk of reducing the target be-
havior-in this case, responsible fathering-to a
contextually dctcm1ined phenomenon stripped of
individual initiative and self-determination. We
want to emphasize the pivotal role of fathers,
Lhemsclvcs, in appropriating or discarding cultural
and contextual messages, in formulating a father-
ing identity and developing fathering skills with
their own children, in working out their feelings
about their own fathers, and in dealing collabora-
tively with their children's mother. The social
construction of fatherhood is an evolving creation
of all stakeholders in the lives of children, and
contemporary fathers have a central role in this
creation. The active construction of fathering by
fathers, themselves, is not a prominent theme in
the research literature, although it is crucial to
programs that work with fathers. More qualitative
research is needed to explore the kinds of identity
development and social negotiation that constitute
the experience of fathering.
This article delineates a conceptual model of int1u-
cnces on fathering that can serve as a stimulus for
future research, programming, and policy develop-
ment. The main premise, supported by a variety
of studies, is that fathering is uniquely sensitive to
contextual influences, both interpersonal and envi-
ronmental. Fathering is a multilateral relationship,
in addition to a one-to-one relationship. A range
or int1ucnces-including mothers' c.xpcctations
and behaviors, the quality of the coparental rela-
tionship, economic factors. institutional practices.
and employment opportunities-all have poten-
tially powerful effects on fathcting. These contex-
tual factors shape the major domains of responsi-
ble fathering discussed here: acknowledgment of
paternity, willingness to be present and provide
economic support, and level of involvement with
one's children. When these influences arc not
supportive of the father-child bond, a rnan may
need a high level identification with the father
role, strong commitment, and good parenting
skills to remain a responsible father to his chil-
dren, especially if he does not live with them.
This review and conceptual model deal with
factors that promote active, invoh'ed fathering,
not with the effects of that kind of fathering on
children. (Sec review by Plcck, 1997.) Nor do we
take a position on whether there arc essential
characteristics or fathering versus mothering or
whether having parents of two genders is neces-
sary for the well-being of children. The growing
literature on gay and lesbian parenting suggests
that these kinds of questions are more complex
than many scholars assumed in the past (Patter-
son. 1992; Patterson & Chan. 1997). However. it is
not necessary to resolve these issues in order to
address the factors that enhance and inhibit the
parenting of men in the role of father in the late
twentieth century.
A potentially controversial conclusion of this
article is that a high quality marriage is the opti-
mal context for promoting responsible father-
hood. This position moves opposite the trend in
contemporary family studies to disaggregate mar-
riage and parenting. We do not suggest that men
cannot parent adequately outside this context or
that children must be raised in a married house-
hold in order to grow up well adjusted. However,
we believe that the research strongly indicates
that substantial barriers exist for most men's fa-
thering outside a caring, committed, collaborative
marriage and that the promotion or these kinds of
enduring marital partnerships may be the most
important contribution to responsible fathering in
our society.
An encouraging implicmion of this systemic.
ecological analysis is that there are many pathways
to enhancing the quality of father-child relation-
ships. Fathering can be enhanced through pro-
grams and policies that help fathers relate to their
coparent. that foster employment and economic
opportunities if needed, that change institutional
expectations and practices to betier support fathers.
and that encourage fathers' personal commitment
to their children.
An earlier version of this article wns prepared as a report
for the U.S. Depnrtrnent of Health and Human Services
under contract HHS-100--93-0012 to the Lewin Group.
We would like to thank Linda iVIellgren, Office of the As-
sistant Secretnry for Planning and Evaluation, and Mark
Fuccllo, Administration for Children and Families. for their
invaluable support. We also would like to th;mk Bill Allen.
David Dollahitc, Ralph LaRossa, Theodora Ooms, Glen
Palm. Joseph Plcck, Dwaine Simms, and Dave Stapleton,
as well as of Vice President AI Gore's Father to
Father advisory group--Ken Canlield, Judy Carter, Bar-
bara Clinton. Don Eberly, Vivian Gadsden, Jim Levine,
Anne Peretz, Ed Pitt, Juan Sanchez. and Rick \Vciss-
bourtl-for their helpful comments on earlier dmfts. To ob-
tain a copy of the rccormncndations for t1tthcring programs
included in the original report for the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services. contact the flrst author.
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TAB 50

'l:llll ,\\'t:lllu:. N\\', Suli<! 100. Wa•hingt.HL DC
I'IH•Ilc 202·:lG2-ii.i$ll Fnx 2il:!·:lG2-ii:'i:l:l •
Marriage front a Child's Perspective: How Does Fa1nily Structure
Affect Children, and What Can We Do about It?
By Kristin Anderson Moore, Ph.D., Susan M. Jekielek, M.A., 11nd Carol Emig, M.P.P. June 2002
tt(!l'vi£•w Policie.c; and p!vpo.o;a/s to promote marriage have been in the public <.')'C for several years,
dt·iuen by concern. aver tlw large percentages of .American children growing up with just one parent.
The Bush Administration has proposed improving children's well-being as the ovcrarching purpose of
wcl/' reform, and its marriage initiative i.e; nne of its <'hie/' fin· doing so. In this <'c>ntext,
what docs research tdlus about the effects of family structure- and especially of growiug up with two
mart·iecl parents - on children?
This brief' reviews the research eviclence on the e/Teets n/' {amil:l structure on children, as well as key
trend.<: in f'nmily strttcture over the lastf(nv deeades. An e.:rtensive body of' research tells us tit at <·hildren
do best when thc.r grow up with both biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. At the same time,
research on how lu promote strong, low-conflict marriages is thiu at best. This brief alsu discusses
promising strategies for reducing births oulside of marriage and promoting strong, stable marriages.
This brief is one of a series prepared by
researchers at Child Trends to help inform
the public debate surrounding this year's
reauthorization of the Tempora.ry Assistance
for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, the
centerpiece of the 1996 welfare law.
Family Structure and
Child Well-Being
Research findings linking fi:unily stt·ucture ond
parents' marital status with children's well-being
are vc1-y consistent. 1'hc majority or children who
are not raised by both biological parents manage to
grow up without sel'ious problems, especially after
a period of acljustmeni for· children whose parents
Yet., on average, child1·en in single-parent
families are more likely to have problems than ore
children who live in intact families headed by two
biological parents.
Children born to unmarried mothers are more
likely to be poor, to grow up in a single-parent
family, and to experience multiple living
arrangements during childhood. These factors,
in turn, are associated with lower educational
attainment and a higher risk of teen and
non marital childbearing. :l
Divo•·ce is linked to academic and behavior
problems among childr·cn, including depression,
antisocial behavior, i m pulsi ve/ hypet·active
behavior, and school behavior problems.:! Men-
tal health problems linked to mat·ilal disr·uption
have also been identified among young adults.'
Children growing- up with stepparents ulso have
lower levels of well-being than childr·en growing
up with biological Thus, it is
not simply the presence or two parents, as
some have assumed, but the presence or
lwo biological parents that seems to support
children's development.
Of course, the quality of a marriage also affects
children. Specifically. children benefit ft•om u
low-conOict marriage. Children who grow up in
an intact but high-conflict murriuge have worse
emotional well-being than children whose par-
ents are in a low-conflict marriage.
domestic violence can be ve1·y destt·uctive to
children's development.
Although research is limited, when researchers
have compared marriage lo cohahitation, lhey
have found that marriage is associated with bet-
ter outcomes for children. One reoson is that
cohnbiting unions are generally more fragile
than marriage. This fragility means that chil-
dren born to unmarried, cohabiting parents are
likely to experience instability in their living
arrangements, and t·esearch shows that multiple
chungcs in family structure or living urmnge·
can undermine children's development.!!
'fhus research clearly finds that different family
st1·uctures can increase or decrease children's
l'isk of poor outcomes, for a vuriety of reasons.
For example, families are more likely to be poor
or low-income if they are headed by a single pat··
ent. Deyond this heightened risk of economic
dep1;vation, the children in these families have
poorer relationships with their pnrents, pm·ticu-
larly with their biological fathet·, and receive
lower levels of parental supervision and monitor-
ing. HI In addition, the conflict sunounding the
demise and breakup of a marriage or relationship
can be harmful to children.
Trends in Family Structure
and Children's Living
Given these consequences for children. it a
SO\trce of concern that an increasing percentage
of children have been growing up with just one
parent over recent decades. '!'his circumstnnce
has occurred for a variety of l'easons, including
rising rates of divorce, nonnu1rital childbearing,
and cohabitation.
Rising divorce rates accounted for the
initial incrense in single pnrenthood dur·
ing the latter half of the twentieth century.
Single-parent families formed by widowhood
were the initial impetus for providing welfare
and Social Security benefits for children in the
1930s. In the 1970s, however, divorce began to
supplant widowhood os the primary cause of sin-
gle-parent families.ll Divorce rates continued
to increase into the 1970s and early 1980s, before
stabilizing and then declining in the late 1980s
and 1990s.
Births to unmarried women increased
steadily during the post·war decades,
accelerating in the 1980s. 'l'his trend also
contributed to an increase in single parenthood.
Ovet· the last 40 years, an historic shift occurred
in the percentage of children living with u parent
who has never married. In the early 1960s, less
than 1 percent of children lived with a parent
who had never married. By 2000, nearly one in
ten children lived with a never-married parent.
In addition, today nearly one-third of all births
occur to unmarried women (including never·
married, divorced, and widowed women},
accounting for more than a million births
Contt·ary to popular perceptions, teenagers
account for less than three in ten nonmarital
births, with women in their twenties accounting
for more than half.
Moreover, nonmnrital
hil'ths ure not all first bjrths. Only ahout half of
all nonmarital births in 1998 were first births, IIi
and more than one-third of unmarried mothet·s
ah·eady have children by an earlier partner.1
Recent datu .indicate that the nonmarital birth
rate stubilized during the late 1990s. While this
development has been hailed m; good news, a
closer examination of the data reveals a more
complex pictw·e. 'l'he overoll decline in the non-
marital birth rate has been driven by declining
Tt·end data are less avoiluble on whether or not
childt·en in two-parent families are living with
both biological pat•ents nr in a stepfamily.
Recent data indicate that slightly less than two·
thirds of oil children live with both biological
parents (63.6 percent in 1999, according to data
from the National Survey of America's Families).
Welfare reform is only one factor
that might explain the slight decrease in
the percent of children living with only
one parent. The teen birth rate has been
declining since 1991, when it was at its peak, and
the nonmarita1 birth rate has been t·elatively sta·
ble since 1994. AJso, lnw levels of unemplnymC'nt
and the genet·ally strong economy that charac-
terized much of the late 1990s probably made
many men more attractive rnurriage partners.
These same factors may have increased women's
economic independence, however, lessening their
firumcial "need'' to many. Also, changes in the
Earned Income Tax Credit hove increased family
incomes, but the marriage penalty may discour-
age marriage. Rising male incarceration rates
hove also been cited as contt·ibuting to a dimin-
ished pool of"marriageablo" men.
Thus welfare reform is one of many factors that
may be contributing to changes in family struc-
ture, but it is not the only or even the most
important factor. Also, researchers will need to
follow this trend over time to determine whether
this recent, slight. decline of children liv.i ng in
single-parent families will continue.
Promoting Healthy Marriages
and Reducing Nonmarital
While research clearly indicates that children
benefit from up with both biological par-
ents in a low-conflict marriage, there has been
very little rigorous research on how to promote
and sustain healthy malTiages. This is paaticu-
larly the case for disadvantaged populations,
such as po.rcnts likely to be o.ffcctcd by
welfare reform.
App1·oximately eight in ten p•·egnancies to teens
and nevet·-married adults are unintended at the
time of conception,24 and pcll'ccnt of pregnan-
cies to formerly-marded adults are unintend-
ed.25 Helping couples avoid unintended pregnan-
cies is therefore one logical strategy for
increasing the likelihood that children are born
to two married parents who arc ready to assume
the responsibilities of parenthood. However,
while thet·e is a growing knowledge base about
how to discourage teen childbeat·ing, there is
not yet an equivalent body of reseal"ch about
how to •·educe bir·ths outside of marriage by
adult partners.
Preventing Teen Pregnancy. Several pt·eg-
noncy prevention programs targeted at teens
have been shown to be eiTeclive.
While pmely
informational sex education does not seem to
chunge sexual behavior, education about preg-
nancy, contraception, and sexually transmitted
diseases is more effective when it meets certain
criteria: it is focused on specific behaviors: it is
based nn theory; it gives a clew- message; it pro-
vides basic, accurate information; it includes activ-
ities, participant involvement models, and prac-
tice; it uses a variety of teaching methods; it helps
teens develop communication skills; 1t uses trained
staff; ond it uses approaches appropriate for the
culture, and experience of its students.
In additinn, programs that combine youth devel-
opment and sexuality education, and service
learning approaches that provide a sense of con-
nectedness and positive alternatives - such as
the Children's Aid Society progt·am in New York
City - have reduced adolescent sexual activity or
childbearing in a numbet· of sites. A similar
result is associated with two high-quality early
childhood intet·vention programs, notably the
Abecedarian program, which operated in North
Carolina, and the High/Scope Perry Preschool
Project of Ypsilanti, In light of this
evidence and strong public consensus for reduc-
ing teen childbeoring, policy attention to such
approaches for preventing teen pt·egnancy a.t"e
likely to be fmitful.:.m
Preventing Nonmarital Childbearing
among Adults. The majority of births outside
of muniage nrc to adults ages 20 and ove1·, not
teens. At this point, though, other than provid-
ing contraceptive set'Vices, little is known about
how to reduce nonmurital pregnancy among
adults. Accordingly, it seems prudent to conduct
studies of varied app1·oaches to reduce sexual
risk-taking, build relationships, and increase
contraceptive use among couples older than
twenty, Gfl well as among teens.
Helping Unmarried Parents to Marry.
Nearly half of nil the births that take place out-
side of maniage occur to cohabiting couples,ao
making them a likely target. of opportunity for
mal"riage pt·omotion efforts. Although many
cohabiting couples have one or more children,
the families they form are often fnll,rile, with less
than half of these relationships lasting five years
or more.:H Another kind of fragile family struc-
ture is what social scientists call a "visiting rela·
'l'lus refers to an unmarried mother
and fothet· who, while not living together, are
romantically involved and have frequent contact.
Analyses of data from the Fragile Families and
Child Wellbeing Study provide insights into both
types of unions.:J:I 'l'hc study follows a group of
appr·oximately 5.000 children born to moslly
unwed parents in urban areas at the turn of the
21st century. Of these children, half were born
to unmarried who were living with the
father ot the time of the birth, while another
third were in visiting relationships. In both situ-
ations, most fathers were highly involved during
the pregnancy and at"Ound the time of the birth,
and a majority of the couples were optimistic
about a future togethet·.:i:t Moreover, the study
found that many unmanied mothers and fathet·s
hold pt·o-mm·riage attitudes and want to marry
the: othe1· parent of their newborn children.!J
These insights suggest that unmarried parents
may be most receptive to marriage promotion
efforts immediately around the time of birth.
Successful to increase employment and
education among disadvantaged adults may also
indirecUy promote maniage. Non-expetimental
analyses of data from the Frabrile Families and
Child Wellbeing Study suggest that the ability of'
either the mother or the father to get and keep a
job (as indicated by levels of education and
recent work experience} increases the likelihood
that an unmanied couple with u child will
many. These sume anulyses also suggest that
the likelihood that n couple will marry decreases
1f the mother has a child by a previous parlner:l<i
-another reason to discourage teen childbeat·ing.
Eliminating or rcvet·sing the tux penulty for
married couples on the Earned Income Tax
Ct·edit and in the income tax code mny also
remove a disincentive to mnrriage.a
Strengthening Existing Marriages and
Relationships. The resenrch consensus is that
il "healthy marl"iage" - and not jusl any
marriuge- is optimal fm· child well-being. Mar-
riages that are violent ot· high conflict at·e cer·
tainly "unhealthy," for both children and
Research provides some guidance on
marital p1·actices that are highly predictive of
divorce, including negative communication pnt-
tet·ns such as criticism, defensiveness, contempt.
stonewalling, and t•ejectlon of a wife's
At this point, though, researchers are only begin-
ning to understand how to promole strong, sta·
ble matTiages. 'I'he knowledge gap is pat·ticular-
ly acute for highly diRadvantagcd couples, many
of whom have economic and social as well us
relationship problems. The Becoming a Family
PrQject is a rare instance of n man-iage promo-
tion effort thut has been rigorously evaluated
(though not for disadvantaged couples). Couples
were recruited for this project from the San
Francisco Bay Area. Results suggest that a pre·
ventive intervention can both enhance marital
stability and promote child well-being:W The
program was designed to support communication
between partners as they make the tt·ansition to
becoming parents (a period during which marital
sutisfuction often declines).
Results of an experimental investigation revealed
that couples who took part in the program
less decline in marital sutisfuction in the first two
years of parenthood than couples with no interven-
tion. There were no separations or divorces among
tho parents participating in tho couples J.•roups until
lhe childt·cu were three, 15 perccnl of Lhe
couples without the intervention had ah·cady sepa-
rutcd m· divorced.
The longer-term evuluution was
By the time the completed kinder-
garten, there was no difference in divorce rate
between the experimental and control groups, but
the intervention participants who had stayed
togethct· rnaintnined thcit· marital snlisfoction over
the whole period, while satisfaction of couples in the
control group continued to decline. These results
suggest that the potential positive effects of an early
intervention for partners becoming parents might
be maintained longer with periodic "booster
The Preuention and Enhancement. Pro-
gram (PREP) hus received considerable aHention in
policy cirdes, in part because it is at the heal't of
Oklahoma's much-publicized promotion
effot·ts. PREP is on educational upprouch available
both to mat·ried and unmm·l'icd couples that empha-
sizes strategies that help marriages succeed. Non-
ex:perimentul studies of PREP suggest that couples
who plan to marry can be recruited to pat·ticipate in

and that such coupleR who complete
the program can improve theit· t·elationship
The National Institute of Mental Health is
cun·ently funding a rigorous, large-scale evaluation
to test the program's effectiveness.
Providing Premarital Counseling. Unmunied
couples with plans to marry may be stronger targets
for strengthening relationships than those without
plans to marry. Compared to unmarried parents
with low expectations of marrying, unmarried par-
ents with a greater likelihood of marrying have
higher levels of agreement in their relationships,
t·egordless of their living arrangements. Both
groups, however, rate lower on al!recmcnt thuu
munied couples. However, couples with plans to
murry are similar to mm·ried couples when it comes
to incidents of abuse and levels of supportiveness.
Relationship counseling might help couples decide
whether to marry and also help them to strengthen
their relationship. F.inally, evidence that unman·ied
couples whu marry have higher levels of acquired
skills and education suggests that efforts to provide
job training and education for fathers, as well as
mother.s, may enhance their marriage prospects.
Implications for Public Policy
Marriage, divorce, and childbearing (particulal'ly
childbearing by teens and unmarried women) are
highly controvc1·sial social issues in the nntion
toduy. They are also intensely personal and
profound individual decisions. with the potential to
alter - for better or worse - tho life trajectories of
adults and children. Not surprisingly, then, there is
relutively little societal consensus on the role of
public policy - the role of government - in
this arena.
At least tht·ee conclusions dmwn from research may
help shape a productive public dialogue on
these issues.
First. research clearly demonstrates that family
structure matters for childt·en, and the family stt·uc-
ture that helps children the most is a family headed
by two biological parents in a low-connict marriage.
Children in single-parent families, children born to
unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or
cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor
outcomes than do children in intact families headed
by two biological parents. Purental divot·ce is also
linked to a range of poorer academic and hehavioro.l
among children. There is thus value for
children in promoting strong, sto.ble marriages
between biological parents.
Second, while there may not be societal consenRus
on nonmarital childbearing, there is consensus that
childbearing by teens is undesimble - for the teen,
for her hahy, and for the larget' society. There is
ulso mounting evidence that a variety of programs
and interventions are etTective at discouraging teen
preRTiancy. While specific interventions (such
as sex education, abstinence education, nnd
the provision of contraceptives} may be con-
troversial, the knowledge that a variety of
effective approaches exist to prevent teen
childbearing should help parents, communi-
ties, and government make progress on this
front. In particular, pt·ograms that combine
youth dcvl:'lopmcnt and S(;'-"unlity education,
und community service upproaches ure effec·
Further, evidence indicates that high-
quality early childhood programs can prevent
adolescent childbearing a decade or more
Finally, there is not yet a proven approach for
building strong nltWt'.ingcs, particula1·ly for dis·
advantaged unmarried couples - only promis·
ing insights from research studies and exist-
ing programs. 'l'his is an area in which
carefully designed and dgorously evaluated
demonstration programs could inform both
private decisions and public policies.
Child Trends, founded in 1979, is on independ-
ent, nonpartisan research center dedicated to
improving the lives of children ond families by
conducting research and providing science-
based information to the public and
Child Trends gratefully acknowledges the John
D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for
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Dovid and lucile Packard Foundation for support
of this brief. Additional support for Child Trend$'
communications efforts is generously provided
by Annie E. Cosey Foundation.
Editor: Harriet J. Scorupo
Research Assistant: Krisly Webber
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TAB 51

Original research article
Unintended pregnancy in the United States:
incidence and disparities, 2006
Lawrence B. Finer

, Mia R. Zolna
Guttmacher Institute, New York, NY 10038, USA
Received 22 July 2011; accepted 28 July 2011
Background: The incidence of unintended pregnancy is among the most essential health status indicators in the field of reproductive health.
One ongoing goal of the US Department of Health and Human Services is to reduce unintended pregnancy, but the national rate has not been
estimated since 2001.
Study Design: We combined data on women's pregnancy intentions from the 2006–2008 and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth with
a 2008 national survey of abortion patients and data on births from the National Center for Health Statistics, induced abortions from a
national abortion provider census, miscarriages estimated from the National Survey of Family Growth and population data from the US
Census Bureau.
Results: Nearly half (49%) of pregnancies were unintended in 2006, up slightly from 2001 (48%). The unintended pregnancy rate increased
to 52 per 1000 women aged 15–44 years in 2006 from 50 in 2001. Disparities in unintended pregnancy rates among subgroups persisted and
in some cases increased, and women who were 18–24 years old, poor or cohabiting had rates two to three times the national rate. The
unintended pregnancy rate declined notably for teens 15–17 years old. The proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion
decreased from 47% in 2001 to 43% in 2006, and the unintended birth rate increased from 23 to 25 per 1000 women 15–44 years old.
Conclusions: Since 2001, the United States has not made progress in reducing unintended pregnancy. Rates increased for nearly all groups
and remain high overall. Efforts to help women and couples plan their pregnancies, such as increasing access to effective contraceptives,
should focus on groups at greatest risk for unintended pregnancy, particularly poor and cohabiting women.
© 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Unintended pregnancy; Reproductive health; Disparities; Abortion; Demographics; United States
1. Introduction
Preventing unintended pregnancy is a personal goal for
most couples, and reducing the national level of unintended
pregnancy is one of the most important reproductive health
goals identified by the US Department of Health and Human
Services [1]. Women who have an unintended pregnancy are
also at risk for unintended childbearing, which is associated
with a number of adverse maternal behaviors and child health
outcomes, including inadequate or delayed initiation of pre-
natal care, smoking and drinking during pregnancy, premature
birth and lack of breast-feeding, as well as negative physical
and mental health effects on children [2–9].
While the unintended pregnancy rate in the United States
decreased between the late 1980s and mid 1990s [10], it
stalled by 2001, the last year for which estimates are available
[11]. Recent decreases in births and abortions have occurred
among some population subgroups (e.g., teens) [12], but it is
unclear if unintended pregnancy rates have also changed. The
recent release of new data on pregnancy intentions has made
it possible to determine the incidence of unintended
pregnancy for 2006. We calculated unintended pregnancy
rates for all women of reproductive age and for key
population subgroups, including race and ethnicity and
relationship status, because previous studies indicate strong
associations between unintended pregnancy and these groups
[11]. We also present information on outcomes of unintended
pregnancy, including the percentage of unintended pregnan-
cies that ended in abortion and the rate of births that followed
unintended pregnancy. These estimates are some of the most
Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485

Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 212 248 1111; fax: +1 212 248 1951.
E-mail address: (L.B. Finer).
0010-7824/$ – see front matter © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
essential indicators in the field of reproductive health, and
periodic trend assessments provide valuable information for
public health officials and policy makers who monitor
progress toward reducing unintended pregnancy.
2. Materials and methods
2.1. Overview
For all US women and by key population subgroups (age,
educational attainment, race and ethnicity, income, relation-
ship status, parity and religious affiliation), we determined the
number of pregnancies that ended in birth, induced abortion
and miscarriage
; calculated the proportion of each of these
outcomes that were unintended; and then divided the total
number of unintended pregnancies by the population of
women aged 15–44 years to obtain an unintended pregnancy
rate per 1000 women.
2.2. Counts and intendedness of pregnancies by outcome
2.2.1. Births
We relied on data from the National Center for Health
Statistics (NCHS) [13–15] to obtain the number of US births
that occurred in 2001 and 2006 overall and by the mother's
age, educational attainment, race and ethnicity, relationship
status (not including cohabitation) and parity (2006 only).
We distributed births by other subgroups (including
cohabiting status) using the National Survey of Family
Growth (NSFG), a nationally representative survey of US
women aged 15–44 years conducted by the NCHS.
Women's pregnancy intentions were obtained from the
NSFG, which asked women a series of retrospective questions
to determine whether each of the pregnancies they had had
were intended or unintended at the time it occurred. Intended
pregnancies were those that occurred to women who wanted a
baby at the time they became pregnant or sooner or who were
indifferent about conceiving; unintended pregnancies were
conceptions that were mistimed (i.e., the woman wanted to
become pregnant at some point in the future, but not when she
conceived) or unwanted (i.e., she did not want to become
pregnant at the time of conception nor in the future). We
focused on the births in the 5 years preceding the 2006–2008
(n=2044) and 2002 (n=2618) interviews.
2.2.2. Abortions
The total number of surgical and medication abortions
performed in 2001 and 2006 came from a census of US
abortion providers [16] conducted by the Guttmacher
Institute. Counts by age came from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention's 2001 and 2006 abortion surveil-
lance reports [17,18], and estimates for all other subgroups
were based on interpolations of distributions from two
nationally representative Abortion Patient Surveys (APS)
conducted by the Guttmacher Institute in 2000 (n=10,683)
[19] and 2008 (n=9493) [20].
Abortions are underreported in the NSFG. Therefore,
pregnancy intentions among women obtaining abortions for
both 2006 and 2001 were based on distributions from the
2008 APS, which, for the first time, asked women the same
set of questions that were used in the NSFG. Use of these
data enabled us to identify the proportion of abortions that
followed intended pregnancies, rather than assuming that all
abortions followed unintended pregnancies, an approach
used in previous analyses.
2.2.3. Miscarriages
There is no “gold standard” count of miscarriages.
Official statistics are limited to fetal deaths at 20 weeks of
gestation or later [21] and, hence, miss those that occur
earlier in pregnancy. We estimated the number of mis-
carriages for 2006 by calculating the ratio of miscarriages to
births [22] overall and by subgroup that occurred in the 7
years preceding the last two NSFG rounds (2002 and 2006–
2008) and multiplying that ratio by the total number of
US births in 2006 overall and by subgroup. Women in their
teens and those 40 years or older had relatively fewer preg-
nancies, so we increased the sample size by including data
from a third round of the NSFG (1995) to improve the
validity of the estimate.
To estimate the number of mis-
carriages for 2001, we applied the same ratio calculated from
all three NSFG surveys combined to the 2001 birth counts.
Information on the intendedness of pregnancies ending in
miscarriage came from miscarriages in the 5 years preceding
the 2006–2008 (n=560) and 2002 (n=729) NSFG interviews.
In previous analyses, we relied directly on women's reports
of intendedness, but subgroup sample sizes for 2006 were
inadequate. Because miscarriages are pregnancies that would
otherwise end in either birth or abortion, we would expect
that the proportion of miscarriages that were intended would
fall between the proportion of births that were intended and
the proportion of abortions that were intended. For the entire
NSFG sample, this assumption was accurate.
Therefore, for
subgroups, we calculated the proportion of miscarriages that
were intended by constraining it to fall between the proportion
of births and abortions intended.
2.3. Population denominators and calculations
Denominators for pregnancy, birth and abortion rates for
all women aged 15–44 years and by age and race and
Miscarriage refers to spontaneous fetal loss or stillbirth.
This change resulted in lower unintended pregnancy estimates for
2001 than were previously reported [11].
The ratio of miscarriages to births has not changed much between
1995 and 2006, so use of earlier 1995 data should not be problematic.
In 2006, 57% of miscarriages followed intended pregnancies,
compared with 64% of births and 5% of abortions.
For example, in 2006, the proportion of miscarriages that were
intended within each subgroup was calculated as A+(0.884×[B–A]), where
A is the proportion of abortions in that subgroup that were intended, B is the
proportion of births in that subgroup that were intended and 0.884 is (57%–
5%)/(64%–5%), based on the overall proportions for the sample population
mentioned in the previous footnote.
479 L.B. Finer, M.R. Zolna / Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485
ethnicity were obtained from population estimates pub-
lished by the US Census Bureau [23]. Population distri-
butions by educational attainment, poverty and relationship
status came from the Annual Social and Economic Supple-
ments of the Current Population Survey. The population
distributions for women by cohabitation status, religious
affiliation and parity were based on interpolations of the
1995, 2002 and 2006–2008 NSFG. Distributions by edu-
cation were limited to the population of women 20 years
and older who were likely to have completed or mostly
completed schooling.
When calculating the percentage of unintended pregnan-
cies that ended in abortion, we excluded miscarriages from
the denominator in order to better represent pregnancies with
outcomes decided by the woman.
3. Results
3.1. Proportion of unintended pregnancies and unintended
pregnancy rates
There were 6.7 million pregnancies in the United States in
2006 (Table 1), up from6.4 million in 2001 (data not shown).
Some 3.2 million pregnancies were unintended in 2006,
compared with 3.1 million in 2001 (data not shown). The
percentage of pregnancies that were unintended increased
slightly between 2001 (48%) and 2006 (49%), and the
unintended pregnancy rate also increased during this time
period: In 2006, there were 52 unintended pregnancies for
every 1000 women aged 15–44 years, compared with 50 in
2001. In other words, about 5% of women of reproductive
age had an unintended pregnancy in 2006. When looking at
unintended pregnancy by timing, 29% of all pregnancies
were mistimed and 19% were unwanted (data not shown).
The intended pregnancy rate stayed nearly the same, and the
overall pregnancy rate increased.
3.1.1. Age
The proportion of pregnancies that were unintended
generally decreased with age, with more than four out of
five pregnancies unintended among women 19 years and
younger. Between 2001 and 2006, this percentage decreased
for women aged 15–17 years and increased or stayed nearly
the same for all other women. The unintended pregnancy rate
was highest for women 20–24 years old due to an increase
between 2001 and 2006.
3.1.2. Educational attainment
Women with the fewest years of education had the highest
unintended pregnancy rate, and rates decreased as years of
education attained increased. Unintended pregnancy rates
increased the most among women with no college experience.
3.1.3. Race and ethnicity
Black women had the highest unintended pregnancy rate
among all racial and ethnic subgroups, more than double that
of non-Hispanic white women. Rates changed little between
2001 and 2006.
3.1.4. Income
Poor and low-income women's unintended pregnancy
rates increased substantially, while the rate for higher-
income women decreased. The rate for poor women was
more than five times the rate for women in the highest
income level. While there was little difference by education
among women in the highest income bracket (Fig. 1A),
minorities had the highest unintended pregnancy rates
regardless of income level (Fig. 1B).
3.1.5. Relationship status
Unintended pregnancy rates increased among cohabitors
and formerly married women. Cohabiting women exhibited
both the highest rate and the greatest increase among all
individual subgroups measured in this analysis. Rates were
even higher among cohabiting women who were under
25 years old (Fig. 2A), poor or low-income (Fig. 2B).
3.1.6. Parity
Women with one previous birth had an unintended
pregnancy rate that was roughly twice as high as the rate for
women who had never given birth and women with two
or more previous births.
3.1.7. Religious affiliation
Women with no religious affiliation reported the highest
unintended pregnancy rate, followed by Catholics, Protes-
tants, and women with other affiliations.
3.2. Outcomes of unintended pregnancies
Forty-three percent of unintended pregnancies ended in
in 2006, a decline from 47% in 2001 (Table 2). In
2006, the unintended birth rate
was 25 per 1000 women
aged 15–44 years, up from 23 in 2001.
3.2.1. Age
Between 2001 and 2006, the proportion of unintended
pregnancies ending in abortion increased for women aged
15–17 years and declined or stayed the same for all other
women. The greatest declines were exhibited among women
aged 18–24 years. As a result, the unintended birth rate
decreased for women aged 15–17 years and increased the
most for women aged 18–24 years. Rates for women aged
18–24 years were more than twice the national rate.
3.2.2. Educational attainment
Women with some college but no degree were most likely
to end an unintended pregnancy by abortion; these women
were also more likely to still be enrolled in school. Those
without a high school diploma were most likely to continue an
As described above, this calculation excludes miscarriages.
The phrase “unintended birth rate” is shorthand for the rate of births
that followed unintended pregnancies.
480 L.B. Finer, M.R. Zolna / Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485
unintended pregnancy, and had an unintended birth rate that
was almost twice the national rate and nearly four times the rate
for college graduates.
3.2.3. Race and ethnicity
The proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in
abortion decreased across all racial and ethnic subgroups,
with black women most likely to end an unintended
pregnancy by abortion. Hispanic women had the highest
unintended birth rate, and minority women had rates that
were more than twice that of white women.
3.2.4. Income
Compared with higher-income women, poor and low-
income women were less likely to end an unintended
pregnancy by abortion. Consequently, poor women had a
relatively high unintended birth rate. While lower-income
women experienced an increase in the unintended birth rate,
Table 1
Number of pregnancies, percentage of pregnancies unintended and pregnancy rate by intention for all women and by demographic characteristics
Characteristics No. of pregnancies
(000), 2006
Percentage of
Total pregnancy
pregnancy rate
pregnancy rate
Total Unintended 2001 2006 2001 2006 2001 2006 2001 2006
All women 6658 3240 48 49 104 108 54 55 50 52
Age (years)
b15 21 21 98 98 3 2 0 0 2 2
15–19 769 629 82 82 82 74 14 13 67 60
15–17 263 209 89 79 47 42 5 9 42 33
18–19 505 420 79 83 133 124 28 21 105 103
20–24 1716 1094 59 64 172 168 72 61 101 107
25–29 1751 715 40 41 171 174 102 103 69 71
30–34 1334 440 33 33 131 139 88 93 43 46
35–39 832 230 28 28 68 80 49 58 19 22
≥40 235 112 49 48 18 21 9 11 9 10
Educational attainment
Not HS graduate 853 445 49 52 146 154 74 74 72 80
HS graduate/equivalent 1709 826 47 48 113 122 60 63 53 59
Some college/associate degree 1565 813 52 52 90 94 43 45 47 49
College graduate 1742 459 24 26 105 113 80 84 26 30
Race and ethnicity
White non-Hispanic 3471 1392 40 40 87 89 52 53 34 36
Black non-Hispanic 1193 805 67 67 138 136 45 44 93 91
Hispanic 1551 824 54 53 147 155 67 72 80 82
Income as a percentage of poverty
b100% 1970 1221 61 62 196 214 77 82 120 132
100%–199% 1786 1026 54 57 146 157 66 67 79 90
≥200% 2902 993 37 34 74 70 46 46 28 24
Relationship status
Currently married 3404 966 28 28 120 122 86 88 33 35
Never married and not cohabiting 1265 1029 78 81 57 56 13 10 45 46
Formerly married and not cohabiting 388 264 59 68 74 78 30 25 44 53
Cohabiting 1601 981 65 61 194 248 68 96 126 152
No previous births 2670 1260 u 47 u 100 u 53 u 47
1 2030 933 u 46 u 193 u 105 u 88
≥2 1959 1048 u 53 u 79 u 37 u 42
Religious affiliation
Protestant 3022 1456 u 48 u 101 u 52 u 48
Mainstream 1546 774 u 50 u 110 u 55 u 55
Evangelical 1476 682 u 46 u 92 u 50 u 42
Catholic 1901 862 u 45 u 120 u 66 u 54
Other 578 207 u 36 u 96 u 62 u 34
None 1158 717 u 62 u 116 u 44 u 71
Note: Numbers may not sum to group totals due to rounding. u denotes unavailable; HS, high school.
Rates are per 1000 women aged 15–44 years.
The population denominator for the rates for women aged b15 years is women aged 10–14 years; the denominator for the rates for women aged
≥40 years is women aged 40–44 years.
Among women aged ≥20 years.
Excludes women who self-identify as other non-Hispanic race/ethnic groups.
481 L.B. Finer, M.R. Zolna / Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485
this rate remained relatively stable for women in the highest
income category.
3.2.5. Relationship status
Married and cohabiting women were much less likely
than other women to end an unintended pregnancy by abor-
tion. The rate of unintended births among cohabiting women
increased sharply and was more than three times the rate
for other women.
3.2.6. Parity
Women with exactly one previous birth were least likely
to end an unintended pregnancy by abortion, and their
unintended birth rate was more than twice that of the
other groups.
3.2.7. Religious affiliation
Women with no religious affiliation were most likely to
end an unintended pregnancy by abortion; they also had the
highest unintended birth rate, followed closely by Catholics
and Protestants. Evangelicals were least likely to terminate
an unintended pregnancy.
4. Discussion
The US unintended pregnancy rate increased slightly
between 2001 and 2006, a worrisome trend, and remains
significantly higher than the rate in many other developed
countries [24]. Population shifts — for example, increases in
groups with high rates, such as poor and minority women —
may have contributed to the overall increase. In addition, the
overall increase could have occurred if the trend toward later
childbearing [25] has led to a longer period before child-
bearing when relatively less-effective methods are used [26]
and a shorter period post-childbearing when use of highly
effective long-term methods is more common.
Fig. 1. (A) Unintended pregnancy rates for poor women were inversely
related to educational attainment, but rates among women in the highest
income bracket varied little across education levels. (a) Rates for
educational attainment are among women aged 20–44 years. (b) Rates
for college graduates at b100% and 100%–199% of poverty are com-
bined to account for small sample sizes. (B) Among poor women,
Hispanics had the highest unintended pregnancy rate, and among the
low- and higher-income groups, black women had the highest rate. Note:
This figure excludes women who self-identify as other non-Hispanic
race/ethnic groups.
Fig. 2. (A) Teens had relatively high unintended pregnancy rates among
married and cohabiting women, but noncohabiting teens had a lowunintended
pregnancy rate. (a) The rate for married women aged 15–19 years is not
available. (B) Women in lower-income groups had relatively high unintended
pregnancy rates regardless of relationship status. Cohabiting women had the
highest rates across all income levels, and among them, poor or low-income
women had very high rates. Notes: Unmarried women include never-married
and formerly married women. Cohabiting women were not married.
482 L.B. Finer, M.R. Zolna / Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485
During the same period, the overall proportion of women
ending an unintended pregnancy by abortion decreased.
These changes may have been due to decreased access to
abortion in some areas, increased stigmatization of abortion
or both.
Among all the subgroups for which we present data, only
women aged 15–17 years saw notable improvements since
2001; both their unintended pregnancy rate and unintended
birth rate declined by roughly one quarter.
Many disparities among subgroups, already large, grew.
In particular, cohabiting women exhibited very high and
increasing unintended pregnancy and unintended birth rates.
Like married women, cohabiting women are regularly
sexually active but are less likely than married women to
desire pregnancy and, thus, are at a very high risk for unin-
tended pregnancy. They are, however, more likely to carry a
pregnancy — including an unintended pregnancy — to term
than unmarried noncohabiting women, perhaps because
they have more partner support. In addition, the decline in
the proportion of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion
may have been related to increased normalization of child-
bearing among these couples. These findings represent con-
sequences of broad demographic trends — specifically,
fewer married women and a greater proportion of child-
bearing to unmarried women — and also help to explain
those trends by showing that cohabiting couples, regardless
of marital status, have high pregnancy rates and that a large
proportion of those pregnancies are unintended.
Poor and low-income women also experienced some of the
greatest increases and highest rates of unintended pregnancy.
This finding is consistent with numerous studies that document
the association between disadvantage and higher risk for
unintended pregnancy [27–29]. While reasons behind this
relationship are not fully understood, they are related to the
significant life challenges facing many of these women [30,31].
The upward trend in their unintended pregnancy rate has
continued for over a decade [10]. During this time, publicly
funded family planning clinics—which have been shown to
helplowincome womenachieve their childbearing goals [32]—
were only able to meet about 40% of the need for publicly
subsidized care [33]. This gap in services, along with rising
unintended pregnancy rates, underscores the need to expand
programs that could enable low income women and couples to
be more consistent and effective contraceptive users.
The disparities by parity are probably explained by the
desire for families with two children. In other words, the
high intended and unintended rates for women with one birth
compared with childless women or those with two or more
births may be due to the fact that women reporting only
one birth may be more likely to have a second birth but are
less likely to progress to a third birth [34]. At the same
time, their high unintended pregnancy rate suggests that
mothers have difficulties timing births, and their high unin-
tended birth rate suggests less concern about continuing an
unintended pregnancy compared with other women.
This is an aggregate-level analysis incorporating data from
multiple data sets, which makes statistical testing difficult.
One test that can be performed is a comparison based on a
subset of our data: the proportion of pregnancies ending in
birth (i.e., excluding abortions, which are underreported, and
miscarriages) that were unintended in 2006 and 2001. The
Table 2
Percentage of unintended pregnancies ending in abortion and unintended
birth rate for all women and by demographic characteristics
Characteristics Percentage of
ending in
birth rate
2001 2006 2001 2006
All women 47 43 23 25
Age (years)
b15 50 49 1 1
15–19 39 37 35 32
15–17 37 41 21 16
18–19 40 35 54 57
20–24 47 41 47 56
25–29 49 46 31 33
30–34 47 45 20 22
35–39 56 56 7 7
≥40 47 46 3 4
Educational attainment
Not HS graduate 34 32 41 46
HS graduate/equivalent 43 40 26 30
Some college/associate degree 59 56 17 19
College graduate 54 49 10 12
Race and ethnicity
White non-Hispanic 42 39 17 18
Black non-Hispanic 57 52 35 37
Hispanic 40 38 42 45
Income as a percentage of poverty
b100% 40 43 63 66
100%–199% 48 38 36 46
≥200% 51 49 11 10
Relationship status
Currently married 24 22 21 23
Never married and not cohabiting 59 61 16 15
Formerly married and not cohabiting 66 60 12 17
Cohabiting 53 39 53 79
No previous births u 44 u 22
1 u 40 u 45
≥2 u 46 u 19
Religious affiliation
Protestant u 38 u 25
Mainstream u 44 u 26
Evangelical u 32 u 24
Catholic u 44 u 26
Other u 47 u 15
None u 51 u 30
Note: u denotes unavailable; HS, high school.
Pregnancies exclude spontaneous fetal losses and stillbirths.
Rates are per 1000 women aged 15–44 years.
The population denominator for the rates for women aged b15 years
is women aged 10–14 years; the denominator for the rates for women aged
≥40 years is women aged 40–44 years.
Among women aged ≥20 years.
Excludes women who self-identify as other non-Hispanic race/
ethnic groups.
483 L.B. Finer, M.R. Zolna / Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485
overall percentage increase, from 35% to 36%, was
not significant, although the increase among women aged
20–24 years, from 45% to 53%, was significant at the pb.10
level. Nonetheless, we do see substantively significant
changes in unintended pregnancy rates in several subgroups.
This argues that the limited tests on a subset of our key
statistic do not capture the whole picture, and their results
should not be considered conclusive.
In conclusion, the United States did not make progress
toward its goal of reducing unintended pregnancy between
2001 and 2006. To better understand what drove these rates
up, we are currently conducting a demographic analysis of
changes in population composition and reproductive health
behaviors that have historically affected them. However,
given the nation's increasingly high unintended pregnancy
rate and the fact that 11% of the population at risk does
not use birth control [26], reducing the unintended pregnancy
rate requires that we focus on increasing and improving
contraceptive use among women and couples who want to
avoid pregnancy. Increased use of long-acting and cost-
effective contraceptive methods such as the intrauterine
device (IUD) could play an important role in such an effort. In
particular, the age at which childbearing begins has increased
[25], and the length of time from first intercourse to first birth
is, on average, 8 years; this is a period of potential risk for
women and couples and should be seen as an appropriate time
to use long-acting methods. The American Congress of
Obstetricians and Gynecologists has indicated that such
methods should be “first-line” choices for young women, and
coupling IUDs with condoms for additional protection may
have the potential to reduce unintended pregnancy even
further [35,36]. Although these methods are highly cost-
effective over time, even women with health insurance may
have difficulty paying for these methods because some plans
do not cover the high upfront costs or other charges women
often incur to use them [37]. Research indicates that when
financial barriers are completely removed and comprehen-
sive information is provided on all methods, women choose
long-acting, highly effective methods in large numbers [38].
The authors would like to thank Stanley Henshaw, Rachel
Jones and Megan Kavanaugh for reviewing the manuscript,
as well as Jacqueline Darroch and Susheela Singh for pro-
viding guidance on study methodology. This study was sup-
ported by award R01HD059896 from the Eunice Kennedy
Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development (NICHD). The content is solely the responsi-
bility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the
official views of NICHD or the National Institutes of Health.
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485 L.B. Finer, M.R. Zolna / Contraception 84 (2011) 478–485

TAB 52

centage of nonmarital births among teen women,
however, has declined substantially, as have teen
birth rates. The decline in birth rates among teen
women has been attributed to a combination of
delays in sexual initiation and increased use of con-
Increases in nonmarital births have been
more dramatic among white and Hispanic
women than among black women. Although
the proportion of nonmarital births remains high-
est among black women, the proportion of births
occurring outside of marriage has increased the
most for white and Hispanic women. This trend
may be explained partly by greater economic
strains, growing acceptance of nontraditional fami-
ly forms, and increased barriers to marriage, partic-
ularly among people of lower socioeconomic sta-
tus.3·5·14 In fact, some researchers suggest that
disadvantaged white and Hispanic women are
merely following the pattern of nonmarital child-
bearing set by disadvantaged black women in
earlier decades.
The rise in the number of children being
born outside of marriage-among all
groups---is linked to broader changes in fami-
ly structure, most notably cohabitation. More
than one-half of all nonmarital births occur to cou-
ples who live together in one household, but are not
legally married. In fact, much of the increase in
nonmarital childbearing since the 1980s reflects a
shift from births to married couples to births to
cohabiting couples, rather than an increase in
births to women who are either in dating relation-
ships or are single. 7,8 However, although cohabiting
couples with children have very high expectations
of marriage, the likelihood that these couples will
marry remains low.
Additionally, cohabiting
unions generally fail to provide the same level of
economic security that marriages do and tend to be
of shorter duration than marriages
Thus, chil-
dren born to cohabiting parents are more likely
than are those born to married parents to be poor
and to see their parents' union end.
Births that occur outside of marriage are
often second- or higher-order births. More
than one-half of all babies born to unmarried cou-
ples are not firstborns. Some of these babies repre-
sent repeat births to the same unmarried
couple. However, many children born outside of
marriage do not share the same father as their
siblings. In fact, research finds that two-thirds (66
percent) of new unmarried mothers with more than
one child had at least one child who was fathered by
© 2011 Child Trends
someone other than the father of the new baby.
This type of family complexity can introduce addi-
tional stresses and strains into family life.
Births that occur outside of marriage also
are often unintended. Child Trends' findings
indicate that many nonmarital births are unintend-
ed, that is, the woman did not intend the baby at
that time and maybe did not want to have a baby.
Such circumstances, in turn, are associated with
negative outcomes for children. For example, chil-
dren born to women who did not intend to get preg-
nant have been found to have lower birthweight,
poorer mental and physical health, lower educa-
tional attainment, and more behavioral problems
than do children whose births were intended
Reducing nonmarital childbearing and promoting
marriage among unmarried parents remain impor-
tant goals of federal and state policies and pro-
grams designed to improve the well-being of women
and children and to reduce their reliance on public
In general, research suggests that
marriage would bring some economic advantages to
unmarried women (and their children), particularly
for those from the most disadvantaged back-
grounds. 8,l4 However, research also finds that when
unmarried mothers do marry, their marriages are
relatively unstable, with particularly negative
economic outcomes for women and children if they
do dissolve-"
Some existing government programs, such as The
Healthy Marriage Initiative, aim to promote
healthy marriages among currently married cou-
ples and couples contemplating marriage by foster-
ing effective communication, respect, and conflict
management skills
For those couples who do not
marry, programs focused on promoting healthy
relationships may still enhance children's well-
being. For example, research finds that the better
the quality of the biological parents' relationship at
birth, the better the parenting skills they demon-
strate one year after the birth; and this pattern
holds across all relationship types, even among par-
ents who do not live together.
Similarly, positive
co-parenting behavior-a component of healthy
relationships-is associated with increased involve-
ment of nonresident fathers in children's lives.
It is likely that many children will continue to be
born outside of marriage into a variety of living
situations. Given this likelihood, it is in everyone's
best interest to encourage the promotion of healthy
relationships among all family members, including
those living outside the household, and for the
research community to continue to explore factors
associated with the positive development of children
born to unmarried parents. In addition, efforts to
help couples prevent unintended pregnancies con-
tinue to be critical; and these efforts need to recog-
nize that many of these couples are not teens-but
young adults.
Child Trends thanks the William and Flora Hewlett
Foundation for its support of the research on which
this Research Brief was based, as well as the
writing, editing, production and dissemination of
this publication. The authors also thank Carol
Emig, Kristin Moore, and Marci McCoy-Roth for
their careful review of and helpful comments on
this brief.
Editor: Harriet J. Scarupa
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Could enhancing CQUple relationships also improve parenting? Social Service
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Carlson, M., McLanahan, S., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (2008). Coparenting and
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TAB 53

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