Fathers are important even before the child is born. During the early school years, children whose fathers regularly interact with them have fewer behavior problems. Dads also make important contributions to their children’s language skills. Since moms usually spend more time with kids, we might expect them to have more influence on a toddler’s language development. But that isn’t the case—Raeburn cites studies that show that fathers have a greater effect on vocabulary acquisition than mothers do. An involved father can have a powerful influence on a teenage daughter’s sexual behavior. There’s a strong association between absent dads and pregnant teenagers. Girls with involved fathers are less likely to have sex at a young age.
Most of this may seem unremarkable, but some reviewers are reacting to Raeburn’s book with surprise. For a long time, psychology has assumed that fathers aren’t particularly relevant, and that’s a narrative that’s been picked up and encouraged by feminists who have spread the falsehoods that the genders are interchangeable and that two moms are just as OK as a mom and a dad. The modern assumption is that women can do just as well by themselves. But that’s not true.
We should stop celebrating single motherhood, and we should also rethink the many child custody arrangements that assume fathers are less important than mothers. And we should certainly recognize that the idea of gays and lesbians raising children is a disaster—a child needs both a mother and a father, not two of the same thing.
Listen to the radio commentary here: