THE VANISHING FATHER

THE VANISHING FATHER

For more than a third of all American children, life without father is now the norm. Pushed to record levels by divorce and, more recently, the rise of childbearing outside of marriage, fatherlessness afflicts whites and blacks, rich and poor—virtually every group in the population. Affliction is not too strong a word for the phenomenon. While fatherhood has not fared well in a popular culture that celebrates freedom from both authority and obligation, more and more evidence shows that growing up without a father is even worse for children than folk wisdom suggests—and that it may be a root cause of a surprising array of social ills, from crime to academic failure to the decline of compassion.

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For more than a third of all American children, life without father is now the norm. Pushed to record levels by divorce and, more recently, the rise of childbearing outside of marriage, fatherlessness afflicts whites and blacks, rich and poor—virtually every group in the population. Affliction is not too strong a word for the phenomenon. While fatherhood has not fared well in a popular culture that celebrates freedom from both authority and obligation, more and more evidence shows that growing up without a father is even worse for children than folk wisdom suggests—and that it may be a root cause of a surprising array of social ills, from crime to academic failure to the decline of compassion.