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Mizzou psychologist explains how education affects crisis of fatherless homes

Children need fathers, and fathers need a good education

One way to improve the issue of fatherlessness is to make it easier for men to attend college or gain trade certification, a University of Missouri psychologist recently argued. The U.S. must also reform a culture that is too often toxic to masculinity.

“Children who grow up without fathers are at higher risk of engaging in myriad delinquent and criminal behaviors that undermine their own long-term prospects in life, and disrupt the wellbeing of the communities in which they reside,” University of Missouri psychologist David Geary wrote recently in Quillette.

Endemic fatherlessness is linked to “increases in alcohol and drug abuse, criminal behavior, and poor educational and thus long-term economic outcomes,” Geary wrote.

The problem is worsening. Since the 1960s, the U.S. has shifted “from approximately one in 10 children raised outside of two-parent families to nearly one on three,” Geary wrote. Living with married biological parents is “the best situation for most children.”

Even more, “although relationships with both parents are important, a good relationship with dad is more protective against engagement in delinquent behaviors than is a good relationship with mom, especially for boys,” according to Geary.

Geary suggests specific reasons for the crisis of fatherlessness.

First, the decline in men’s college attendance and graduation “could disrupt family formation,” because more women than men complete college, and women prefer to marry men who match or exceed their educational level, Geary stated.

“At the close of the 2020-21 academic year, women made up 59.5 percent of college students, an all-time high, and men 40.5 percent, according to enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse,” the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Men in higher education “trail female college students by record levels,” the paper stated.

Male labor force participation has also declined steadily since 1960, to the point where 53.3 million men have been lost from the prime-age workforce. Most of these men are college dropouts or did not complete college.

Male educational decline is linked to this rise in unemployment, as more and more jobs require a post-secondary certificate or degree. That means we have fewer and fewer men unequipped to support and commit to families.

Fatherless can be addressed by better education and a better culture

A straightforward solution to the problem of fatherless, then, is boosting male educational attainment beyond high school, whether in solid college programs, industry apprenticeships, corporate-sponsored educational programs or post-secondary training programs.

Apprenticeships and training programs lead to good technical and trade jobs, which are abundantly available. Indeed, thousands of high-paying blue-collar jobs that don’t require a college degree sit empty because too many people think college is necessary, according to a February article in the left-leaning Hechinger Report.

Technical and trade jobs, which are more popular with men, should be widely promoted in high schools and elsewhere as an alternative to college.

Many dropouts could be prevented by men enrolling in a program that suits them rather than in a college degree that offers an ideologically dominated program and few skills.

More mentorship programs and initiatives that welcome men to campus may also help prepare men for both careers and family life. Queensborough Community College’s recently announced plans to open a “Male Resource Center” next fall to increase the enrollment and retention of college men is a good start, and other colleges should track its performance.

However, as Forward Party founder Andrew Yang argued in an op-ed in the Washington Post last year, cultural change is also crucial.

Colleges should to do what’s in their power to temper the alienating (to men) “feminization of the university,” noted by conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald in a recent essay in City Journal

Mac Donald defines this phenomenon as an over-representation of women among students and administrators (66 percent female in 2021). She links this it to a college culture increasingly imbued with typically female traits.

“Females on average score higher than males on the personality trait of neuroticism, defined as anxiety, emotional volatility, and susceptibility to depression,” Mac Donald wrote.

This increased neuroticism on campus be connected to the “constant mantra of campus leaders promising students safety — and their near-equal constant claim that their universities are steeped in hate, toxic masculinity and racism,” she continued.

Additionally, the endless rhetoric of misogyny and “toxic masculinity” must be replaced by an honest and fair accounting of the relations between the sexes, including the ways in which both masculinity and femininity can be “toxic.”

Classic literature and art provide abundant examples of both good and bad men as well as women; it should be taught with an eye towards morally forming both sexes.

While badly formed masculinity can be deadly, we must resist condemning men as a class. Educating good men is both possible and necessary.

Despite the admirable rise in female educational achievement, future fathers need to be prepared to support their families financially if and when their female partners need it.

Supporting the trades, resisting the over-feminization of the university, and encouraging positive masculinity are good places to begin.

MORE: Consider a skilled trade career, Chicago Public Schools tells students

IMAGE: Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

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