Sunday, July 22, 2007

Melbourne study backs dads

Does the role of fathers within families matter? Very much so, according to a recent study:

Adolescent education expert Bill Jennings said the growing epidemic of "fatherlessness" – where dads were increasingly absent either physically or emotionally – had led to negative patterns in young men, such as suicide, violence and drug abuse.

Mr Jennings studied 434 male students across two Victorian schools in year 10 and again in year 11.

His interim findings showed boys' self-confidence was raised when their dads showed interest and were involved in their lives.

With self-confidence came long-term success, Mr Jennings said.

"Boys are more likely to prosper if they have a male role model in their corner, and ideally that's their dad," Mr Jennings said.

The obvious conclusion to be drawn is that our ideal of family life, the one that we aim for as a society, should include fathers. Fathers should be considered an integral part of family life.

Whilst on the topic of family, there were several articles in Saturday's Age on falling marriage rates in Australia. I found two aspects of these articles striking. The first was the finding that women who marry nearly always have children: only 8% of married women don't have children, and this is mostly due to infertility. In contrast, a quarter of women in de facto relationships don't have children:

Dr Birrell says the social relationship for a female in a couple family — marriage or de facto status — is an important indication of fertility levels.

The data shows striking differences between fertility of wives — who have more children — and live-in partners, which suggest a different calibre of relationship might be struck in those relationships.

Between 40 and 44, nearly a quarter of women in de facto relationships, for example, had no children. Only 8 per cent of wives in this category, however, were childless and this was likely to reflect infertility rather than choice, according to the research.

And again:

Building on previous studies on partnering using earlier census data, Birrell and co-researcher Genevieve Heard stress the continuing strong linkage between fertility and marriage, pointing to the almost near-universal outcome for married women to give birth, bar medical infertility, by the time they reach their early 40s.

In contrast, their analysis found women of similar age in de facto relationships not only had fewer children than those who were married, but had much higher proportions of childlessness. Between 40 and 44, nearly a quarter of women who were co-habiting had no children.

The other striking aspect of the articles was the information on the number of people remaining single:

Stunningly, as their biological window to give birth without the aid of IVF was closing, more than a quarter of women aged 40 to 44 were neither smug marrieds nor in de facto relationships.

When one of these single women is profiled she is described as having "noticed the diversity of people's living circumstances these days". I think this is too blase a way to put things. We aren't really dealing with more options here, but with frustrated instincts to partner. The statistics don't give a sense of the personal loss involved.


  1. Some of these university studies seem to have been conducted in the department of "Well..Duh!".

    It's probably only in liberal-academic environments that stating the idea of having a father as a positive thing is a controversial and requires statistical evidence. The rest of us just KNOW this.

    The real problem is that government policies which assume the exact opposite will continue unaffected. Liberals are never going to accept facts which don't fit their theory.

  2. This is true,

    Which is why, as I argued previously ('Why doesn't paid leave raise birth rates?', OzConservative (17 July 2007; entry of Saturday, 21 July 2007 11:27:00 PM EST et sequentes)), traditionalists have to start getting involved in the political process.

  3. This certainly reinforces the notion that marriage is really about the having and raising of children.