LIFE WITHOUT FATHER: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society by David Popenoe

LIFE WITHOUT FATHER: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""massive erosion"" in the role of the father is to blame for drug abuse, violence, depression, and juvenile delinquency, according to Popenoe (Sociology/Rutgers Univ.), and nothing can substitute for the biological, mother-and-father, nuclear family. The alarming epidemic of vanishing fathers has come about, writes Popenoe, because of skyrocketing divorce rates and ""a veritable explosion"" of unwed motherhood. While he decries divorce and single-parenting as exemplified by television's Murphy Brown, he rejects the notion that there are acceptable substitutes to the presence of the biological father. According to data (whose source he does not cite), ""a child is better off in terms of the chances for overall success in life with a dead rather than a surrogate father."" Active fatherhood was crucial to human evolution, and fathers, Popenoe contends, have a unique, essential role to play in parenting. Children, he stresses, ""need a committed male and female couple,"" and marriage must be reestablished as a strong social institution. The role of fatherhood itself must be redefined by rethinking what he says are traditionally negative male attitudes toward gentle nurturing, housework, cooking, doing laundry, and other once-womanly chores. Men must strive for an active role as parents, but at the same time they must eschew the idea of role reversal. Popenoe looks toward tax and governmental policies that reward men who stay married and calls for revamped welfare programs intended to actively promote marriage. He doesn't explain how to go about it but wants divorces to be more difficult to obtain when there are children. Vacuous and warmed-over solutions aside, his contention that the two-parent, nuclear family is the only healthy familial unit denies both history and reality.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Free Press