Fatherlessness: An Economic Disaster

September 11, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Fathers4Justice founder Matt O ’Connor here presents an excellent nutshell argument for shared parenting (The London Economic, 9/9/16). There are many compelling arguments in favor of keeping both parents in children’s lives post-divorce, and Connor summarizes them neatly. His piece would make an excellent quick-reference guide to the issues.

Shared parenting is good for the economy. Adults who were brought up with two parents tend to make more productive and reliable employees. That helps the economy. So do lower crime rates, better educational and mental health outcomes. So do lower levels of drug and alcohol abuse.

While the debate around the fatherless society is normally framed by emotional and legal arguments, few have considered the seismic impact this has on our economy.

The devastating cancer of family breakdown and fatherlessness isn’t just laying waste to families, it also comes at a punitive human and economic cost to employers and the taxpayer.

The numbers involved are jaw dropping.

According the Relationships Foundation ‘Cost of Family Failure Index’, the economic cost of family breakdown in 2016 was £48bn or £1,820 for every taxpayer.

That’s more than our entire defence budget, which was pegged at £35.1bn in 2016.

£48bn isn’t chump change for any economy, much less one whose entire governmental expenditures are expected to be about £772 billion for the fiscal year 2016-17. But that £48bn may be a significant underestimate.

Some claim the costs are even higher. In 2010, Iain Duncan Smith estimated the costs to society as a whole through truancy, anti-social behaviour, teenage crime, addiction, lost productivity and tax revenues to be £100bn.

Even allowing for the paucity of research and the difficulty in quantifying the true financial cost of family breakdown, if you add the human cost to the economic cost, you have something which by any definition is a full-blown crisis.

Whatever the true cost of fatherlessness, it’s fair to say, as I have before, that it’s one of the top two most important social problems we face. To me, that’s good news at least in one respect. When a country can attack so many serious social problems with a single fix, it’s a situation that cries out for exactly that fix. Moreover, unlike so many other remedies for what ails us, putting fathers back in children’s lives comes at virtually no cost to the public purse. It costs no more for a judge to order shared parenting than primary or sole parenting. And the decrease in parental conflict with which shared parenting orders are associated would further reduce costs.

Meanwhile, the costs of fatherlessness just keep going up.

But isn’t just families and businesses affected by the impact of family breakdown, it’s our communities.

According to the Centre for Social Justice in 2011, 62 per cent of families in Camden, London, had no father, and a further 236 areas across England and Wales had at least 50 per cent of households consisting of families where there was no dad present.

These “men deserts” have become a fertile breeding ground for gang violence. In 2015, 15 teenagers were killed in knife attacks in London and there were 6,200 victims of serious youth violence…

The Mayor of London’s office reported in 2014, that of the 250 active gangs in London, 70 per cent of members are aged 17-23 and 57 per cent had been convicted before their 16th birthday.

In 2010, the cost of young offending was put at £11 billion by the National Audit Office, with reoffending rates in 2013/14 at the highest level for more than a decade. In 2007 the Centre for Social Justice reported that 70 per cent of young offenders came from broken homes.

As I and so many others have argued for so long, the problem of fatherlessness fairly screams for an effective response by policy makers. Returning fathers to children’s lives is such an obvious, fair, kind and effective thing to do. With shared parenting, literally everyone wins. Everyone. But governments routinely believe the problem to be relatively unimportant and so easily defer to the demands of the narrowest of interest groups – family lawyers and anti-dad feminists.

The current, self-inflicted crisis is part of a wider political malaise where a wall of silence surrounding family breakdown and fatherlessness suffocates democratic debate.

Iain Duncan-Smith once told me that these issues had become a “political taboo” amongst politicians, desperate to appeal to who they believe are the largest constituency of floating voters, single mothers.

In doing so, fatherlessness has become the elephant in the room of our democracy.

By way of distraction, the government has ruthlessly demonised dads as “deadbeats”. Absent fathers have been declared as bad as “drink drivers” for cheap political capital and in the process been reduced to the status of cashpoints and sperm banks.

It’s the same here in the U.S. where politicians like President Obama at most gesture idly in the direction of father involvement. According to them, the reason for fatherlessness is that fathers are worthless louts who take every opportunity to go walkabout from their kids. As Michelle Obama said, “Men need to be better.” Simple as that.

But of course the plague of fatherlessness owes far more to public policy and the courts than to paternal lack of character. Most fathers want to be an integral part of their children’s lives, but, when they divorce, they find every imaginable obstacle placed in front of them. So, while Obama’s misplacing responsibility on fathers instead of his own policies and those of the states, he’s also – irony of ironies – avoiding responsibility for making the situation better by advocating for change in policies that promote family breakup and fatherless kids.

Our current economic and social policies on family breakdown and fatherlessness are, by Einstein’s definition, insane. We keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, and still expect a different outcome.

These policies are damaging and harmful not just to children and families, but pose a threat to the economic well-being of our country.

That’s why it’s in everyone’s interests to embrace shared parenting as a common sense economic policy that adds up for everyone.

As Edward R. Murrow used to say, “And that’s the way it is.”




National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

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