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Fatherlessness: A Common Factor in Mass Shootings

February 26, 2018

Fatherlessness: A Common Factor in Mass Shootings
Nationwide Shared Parenting Reform Works to Help Combat Crisis

In the wake of the Parkland mass shooting tragedy, it’s largely unmentioned that the Florida shooter grew up fatherless, like many of the other young men behind recent mass shootings. This has usually been due to divorce, separation or single-parenting-by-choice.

“This observation leads to a likely remedy for this alarming problem. Child development research shows that children who have shared parenting that includes fathers in their lives, instead of single parenting, have much lower rates of behavioral disorders, delinquency and lawbreaking,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Board Chair of National Parents Organization.

As CNN reports in its list of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, nearly a third of these shootings have been carried out by men under 30 years of age – and a strong majority of these individuals did not have a biological father present during childhood.

“As usual, the national dialogue is again turning into a heated and stalemated debate over the limits of the Second Amendment vs. the culpability of disturbed individuals. While this is an important conversation, it has caused deadlock for decades,” Dr. Holstein said. “Implementing shared parenting instead of single parenting in the family courts can be done immediately and without cost.  Benefits in education and substance abuse would begin immediately, and hopefully, a drop in mass shootings within a few years. As a society, we can no longer ignore this important factor that goes to the root of this national crisis – and that’s fatherlessness.”

As The Washington Post recently reported, 25 states in the past year have considered legislative proposals that combat the sole custody status quo by embracing shared parenting – where a child spends as close to equal time as possible with mom and dad.

The impact of fatherlessness on our youth is significant. According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised in single-parent households account for:

·         85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders;

·         63% of teen suicides;

·         70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;

·         71% of high school drop-outs;

·         75% of children in chemical abuse centers;

·         85% of those in prison; and

·         90% of homeless and runaway children.

At the same time, child development research consistently favors shared parenting. A study published in January by Linda Nielsen, a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University, analyzed about 60 scientific studies spanning many decades, numerous countries and millions of children. It concluded that shared parenting is best for children on multiple measures when parents divorce or separate.

“We know youth desperately need both, not just one, of their parents in their lives,” Dr. Holstein said. “As we take steps toward the goal of preventing another horrifying mass shooting, our list of pressing actions should include asking lawmakers in each state to support shared parenting to prevent the next generation of shooters.” 

Shared Parenting Data

Single Parenting Data

According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:

  • 63% of teen suicides;
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
  • 71% of high school drop-outs;
  • 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
  • 85% of those in prison;
  • 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
  • 90% of homeless and runaway children.

National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bonds with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting, bringing in research scholars from 18 countries to share their results on shared parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at


Dr. Ned Holstein is Founder and Chair of the Board of National Parents Organization. He was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts to the Massachusetts Working Group on Child-Centered Family Law, and he was previously appointed by a Massachusetts Chief Justice to a task force charged with reviewing and revising the state’s child support guidelines. A graduate of Harvard College, Holstein also earned a Master’s degree in psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His medical degree is from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, where he later served on the faculty as a teacher and researcher.

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