Fatherless Homes and School Shootings: The Connection

Suzanne Venker, author of  five books on marriage, feminism and gender politics, has written an interesting article about the connection between school shooters and fathers or, more to the point, the lack of fathers in the lives of children. Venker points out that, “A majority of school shooters come from fatherless homes; and a study of older male shooters (think Steven Paddock of the Las Vegas massacre) produces similar results. Indeed, the consequences of fatherlessness are simply staggering.” In her article, Venker provides a link to another by sociologist W. Brad Wilcox that also addresses the risks to boys who grow up without fathers.

Both Venker and Wilcox point out that children who grow up without fathers face greater risks of delinquency, of living in poverty, of suffering substance abuse, of being sexually promiscuous and becoming pregnant or siring a child out of wedlock, of becoming involved in crime, of achieving lower academic success, or of enduring physical or emotional ill-health.

Here are some sobering statistics from #FatherlessNoMore:

85% of men in prison today grew up in fatherless homes

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes

71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes

90% of all homeless and runaway kids are from fatherless homes

80% of rapists motivated by displaced anger grew up in fatherless homes

75% of adolescents in drug abuse centers are from fatherless homes

70% of juveniles in state institutions come from fatherless homes

72% of adolescent murderers come from fatherless home

We can now add this sad statistic:

96% of the deadliest mass murderers were from fatherless homes

Critics will raise the point that most boys raised without fathers, in fact the vast majority, grow up to do just fine. That, of course, misses the point entirely and is a poor attempt at avoiding the problem by pretending it doesn’t really exist. Typical of this attitude is that of Richard Fowler who appeared recently with Shannon Bream on Fox News at Night. Fowler dismisses the problem by pointed out that he and his brother were raised by a single mother and have done well. Bully for him! So, Fowler’s response to the decades of research demonstrating that children raised in fatherless homes have significantly increased risks of seriously adverse social and personal consequences is: “Hey, I’m doing well!” Of course, true to form, Fowler’s answer to all of our social problems, including fatherless homes, is government intervention. How the government is going to keep fathers in the homes is a wonder, though I might suggest transforming certain social welfare programs that literally force fathers out of homes and away from their children and prison reform so that black men are not incarcerated for twice the amount of time as white men who commit the same crime. Yes, that would be a good start for government.

I was raised from the age of ten by a single mother. Brad Wilcox was also raised by a single mother. We both turned out fine. Of course, I had the advantage of having a strong male figure in my life to guide me in growing up to be a mature, healthy man. I first met my Big Brother, Nick Borst, when I was ten years old, only a few months after my father had died. Along with my Catholic faith, I credit Nick with saving me from a life of poverty and despair. I suspect Wilcox also had influential men in his life.

It is not an all-or-nothing proposition: either all men raised in fatherless homes will turn out horribly, or they’ll turn out fine. The point is: boys and girls raised in fatherless homes face greater risks to growing up to be mature, well-adjusted, successful adults.

But, fatherlessness is an epidemic in this country.

According to an article on Yale Global Online:

“In the United States … significant differences in out-of-wedlock births exist among major social groups. While the national average for the United States in 2014 is 40 percent, the proportions of births out of wedlock for whites are 29 percent; Hispanics, 53 percent; and blacks, 71 percent. The proportions of such births for those groups were lower 50 years ago.”

It’s true that the number of out of wedlock births started declining in 2009 and has since leveled-off. It’s also true that the majority of children born out of wedlock (58%) are born to co-habitating couples. But, this doesn’t change some critical facts. The children born after the decline started in 2009 are not yet ten years old. They’re not the one’s shooting-up schools. It also doesn’t change the fact that we have a huge number of children, 20 to 25 million, who are living in fatherless homes. Neither does it change the fact that the majority of co-habitating couples, in fact, never marry and break up by the time their child is twelve. It’s also true that more than 50% of births to all women under the age of 30 are out of wedlock. Finally, of course, it doesn’t change the fact that the great majority of boys (they’re almost always boys) who are shooting-up schools are from fatherless homes.

Much of the focus after each school shooting has been on matters that I, frankly, think will have little impact on stopping school shootings, especially efforts to enact tougher gun control laws. Those with the intent to commit these sort of crimes, and investigations usually conclude that the attacks are not spontaneous but planned, will manage to get their hands on a gun, despite tougher gun control laws. We already know that. Why, then, do so many activists, politicians, and the mainstream media continue to focus on gun control? I think it’s because adopting stricter gun control laws is a relatively easy answer to a difficult problem, and that it helps these people convince themselves and, in the cast of politicians, hopefully, others, that they are serious about school shootings. That such laws prove ineffective is a moot point, because the goal is not to actually stop school shootings, but to win the admiration of the crowd and re-election. Too cynical? I don’t think so.

What will we do, as a society, to address the fact that fatherlessness is at the root of so much of the delinquency, anger, and misguided choices of the young men who attack schools, and of older men who go on shooting rampages?

My prediction? Nothing. Why? Because it’s too politically and socially controversial and uncomfortable. We have had at least two generations of boys and girls being taught that men count for little and that marriage has little to nothing to do with children, but is for the benefit of the grown-ups. The money quote in Suzanne Venkers article is this:

“The root of fatherlessness rests in two things: our culture’s dismissal of men as valuable human beings who have something unique to offer, and its dismissal of marriage as an institution that’s crucial to the health and well-being of children.”

Until we get to the root of the problem and start fixing our families, all the gun control laws passed, all the drug laws passed, all the prison reform laws passed, and all the social welfare programs created will amount to nothing.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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