Myths About Divorced Fathers
Arizona State University psychologists Sanford Braver and Diane O'Connell have researched and written a book that shatters many of the myths about divorced fathers that have saturated the popular media and our popular culture. Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths (Penguin Putnam), written by Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver with Diane O'Connell, is a powerful and well-documented brief in defense of divorced fathers . Braver, who has conducted an eight-year study of parents after divorce, knocks down the stereotypes one by one.
MYTH NO. 1: Men are the ones who want to leave the marriage and initiate most divorces and it is usually because of an extramarital involvement.
REALITY: The reality is that women initiate between 65% and 80% of all divorces over the objections of their husbands. Further, among all causes for divorce an affair ranks sixth. Abuse - whether alcohol, violence, or drug-related - doesn't show up until the eleventh cause. When a wife divorces her husband for reasons such as a "gradual growing apart" or "serious differences in lifestyle" (the top two reasons!) and takes the kids with her, her ex-husband truly has been disenfranchised - and left powerless.
At least two-thirds of the time, the mother is the one who files for divorce and who wants out of the marriage. And it's usually not because the father beats her, drinks or cheats. Most commonly, mothers cite such reasons as "growing apart" or "not feeling loved or appreciated."
MYTH NO. 2: Divorced fathers desert their children emotionally and financially.
REALITY: The great majority fathers who are steadily employed consistently pay child support (their record is especially impressive if one looks not only at mothers' reports, on which most statistics are based, but at fathers' own reports) and work to stay in their children's lives. So-called "runaway dads" are often "driven-away dads" whose ex-wives keep them away. This causes many a divorced father to experience total alienation from their own children, and deprives children from having the love and nurturing of two loving parents.
Even if you ask mothers how often fathers desert their children emotionally and financially, only 12 percent attempt to claim that their ex-husbands voluntarily refuse to visit and spend time with their children. If you ask fathers, only three percent claim that they voluntarily miss time they should have with their children. In fact, a quarter of mothers admit they interfere with or deny entirely the children's father's access to their kids!
The truth is that only one in six fathers get the custodial arrangements they wanted, according to a study done by Sanford Braver, PhD (Arizona State University). A study done by Stanford University in the late 1980s showed the same thing - close to 70% of fathers wanted either joint or sole physical custody.
Statistically speaking, fathers don't abandon their children - they are forced out following divorce by the mothers of those children, usually without justification or legally-relavent cause.
MYTH NO. 3: Divorced fathers benefit economically from divorce.
REALITY: The famous factoid from Lenore Weitzman's 1985 book " The Divorce Revolution: The Unexpected Social and Economic Consequences for Women and Children in America" that women's standard of living drops 73 percent in the year after divorce, that of men goes up 42 percent--was exposed as erroneous years ago.
This work has been thoroughly discredited - not only were there simple mathematical errors in her calculations but her methodology was fatally flawed. Yet it took her eleven years to publicly admit to these mistakes - an event that finally occurred in 1996 in American Sociological Review. The problem with this is that a huge number of states - virtually all - have upwardly revised their child support guidelines by using and citing this work - a work which was and is an admitted fraud! But her critics' alternative calculations still showed a drop for women and a rise for men. All those researchers, Braver shows, made one big mistake: they didn't factor in the tax code, which favors the single custodial parent. They also omitted such things as the father's spending on children during visitation. After these adjustments, the economic effects of divorce are similar for both sexes; mothers may even have a slight advantage.
Indeed, even today we see people cite this book as "proof" that child support awards are too infrequently collected and too small to begin with. Not one major media outlet has paraded the truth about this "study" - that is was and is patently incorrect both in its methodology and simple command of mathematics.
MYTH NO. 4: Deadbeat Dads are common - most men don't pay their child support.
REALITY: Somewhere between 80 and 100% of men who are employed pay all their ordered child support, depending on who you ask. Even mothers (who are clearly biased against honest reporting in this area) report that 80% of fathers who are employed pay all that they owe. One must ask, of course, how you can expect a man who doesn't have an income to pay child support.
The huge majority of men who do not pay their child support are either (1) unemployed, (2) in prison, or (3) dead - literally. It is impossible, of course, to collect child support from any of these men, as they are unable to pay. Florida discovered this when they spend more than $4 million and collected a paltry couple of hundred thousand - proof positive that you can't enforce payment in the event that the obligor simply doesn't have the money - or isn't even breathing.
Weitzman and other feminist scholars have claimed that divorce settlements are tilted
in favor of fathers because men are favored by a male-dominated system and are more
aggressive negotiators. Yet on average, mothers are more satisfied with
divorce settlements than fathers. Ten percent of mothers in Braver's
sample thought the system was slanted in favor of fathers, while 75 percent of fathers
thought it was slanted in favor of mothers--and more than a quarter of mothers
MYTH NO. 5: Divorce settlements are tilted in favor of fathers.
REALITY: Weitzman and
other feminist scholars have claimed that divorce settlements are tilted in favor of
fathers because men are favored by a male-dominated system and are more aggressive
negotiators. Yet on average, mothers are more satisfied with divorce
settlements than fathers. Ten percent of mothers in Braver's sample
thought the system was slanted in favor of fathers, while 75 percent of fathers thought it
was slanted in favor of mothers--and more than a quarter of mothers agreed!
MYTH NO. 6: Men make up the bulk of domestic abusers and thus all allegations of domestic violence against them are credible.
REALITY: WOMEN are in fact the majority of domestic abusers. The percentage is not very different - 55% women to 45% men, according to the most credible and recent studies in both the US and Australia. Further, controlling for the severity of violence (ie: hit with hand, used weapon, threw object, etc) women still out-abuse men by a small percentage. Yet, virtually all domestic violence "programs" and laws suggest - and often outright state - that women simply don't perpetrate any domestic violence! This is pure propaganda for the sake of "political correctness".
(The "dirty little secret" in all of this is that the highest incidence of domestic violence is among lesbian couples. By definition there isn't a man in those households. If men were in fact the perpetrators of most domestic violence we would expect to see virtually no violence in lesbian households. Rather, on a percentage-of-household basis, they account for the largest percentage of such incidents among all household compositions.)
MYTH NO. 7: Children are most often physically and sexually abused by their fathers.
REALITY: Children are most likely to be physically abused by their mothers, and are more than twice as likely to be killed by their mothers than their biological fathers. They are most likely to be abused sexually by their stepfathers or mother's boyfriends - men who were invited into their home by their mothers! We could eliminate the majority of sexual abuse of children by refusing to allow a child to reside in his mother's home if she has a live-in lover or remarries.
However, unlike many "pressure groups" we do not advocate separating kids from their biological parents under any circumstance unless it can be proven that they are in actual danger of harm.
MYTH NO. 8: Child Support is for the children and has to be spent on their health, well-being and care.
REALITY: Not one state in the US requires recipients of child support to actually prove that the amounts received are:
A number of states, in fact, actually document in their laws that part of the purpose of child support is to protect the standard of living of the custodial parent - almost always the mother - which would have existed had the divorce not taken place. If child support were actually for the children then a payer would be able to demand documentation that 1) the amount paid was actually necessary for the children's needs, and 2) was actually spent exclusively on the children.
In fact, one may reasonably wonder just what "child support" is really for, especially in the case where parents have joint physical custody. In most states, the presence of Joint Custody has very little, if any, impact on the award of child support - even though such practices appear to fly in the face of logic and the divorce statutes as written in many of these situations.
We welcome your input on this subject as there are
other myths to be exposed.
Please write to us at the e-mail address below with your comments.
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