March 25th, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
Let all who claim that single parenthood is “just another lifestyle choice” take note of this case (Associated Press, 3/23/13). Against all that’s right and just, against all the science on single-parent families and their kids, some people still argue that having a child without ensuring the presence of a father is an acceptable decision. It’s not. Decades of social science show it. By now, we shouldn’t even be having this discussion.
Laketha Moore, 36, of North Las Vegas, Nevada is being held in jail on $620,000 bond because of what she allegedly did to her daughter who is four. According to police and managers of the apartment she lived in, Moore kept the little girl tied to a bedpost and locked in her bedroom for up to 12 hours every day. The child had no food or water and Moore only gave her a plastic pail to use as a toilet. According to one neighbor, the child hadn’t been seen in over two months and Moore told her she was living with her grandmother in California. The pair lived alone in the apartment and Moore would leave the child alone while she was at work or church. (How a parent ties a child to a bed without food or water and then goes to church escapes me. What did she pray about?)
Moore said she kept the child tied up because she “would ransack the apartment when she was gone.” She also acknowledged beating the girl with a belt when she was angry.
No charges have yet been filed, but Justice of the Peace Eugene Martin told Moore she likely faces two charges of child abuse and 31 of neglect. The little girl is now in foster care.
Now, let me be as charitable toward this person as I can be. Let’s say she never intended to treat her daughter so brutally. Let’s assume events conspired to leave Moore alone without help in raising her child. My guess is that’s not true, but let’s assume it anyway.
The point is that this is what single parenthood looks like. Oh, I don’t mean all single parents tie their children to the bed or beat them with belts. Of course they don’t. But one of the chief reasons for not trying to raise a child alone is that, if you do, there is one and only one adult between that child and dire consequences. What if Mom gets sick or becomes disabled? Who cares for little Andy or Jenny? What if she loses her job? Or what if she just has to go to work as Moore did? Why didn’t Moore put the girl in daycare? We don’t know, but a safe bet is that she didn’t have the money.
And that of course is one of the main downfalls of the single parent. One person doesn’t earn as much as two and single parents are notoriously on the ragged edge of poverty. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the median single mother in this country earns a little over $23,000 per year. Of course that means that half of all single mothers earn less. The median single dad earns about $36,000. So, particularly in the case of mothers, the great majority of their children either live in poverty or are in real danger of falling into it. My guess is that Laketha Moore is a prime example of exactly that – trying to raise a child without the money to do so. She couldn’t afford day care and had no other resources, so she left the child alone all day. Imagine how dangerous that is. Any of a thousand things could have happened to injure the child or even take her life. So she ended up tying her to the bed in subhuman conditions.
About 42% of all children born in this country are born to unmarried mothers. But that figure doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s because only 8% of mothers with a college education, across all races and levels of income, have children outside of marriage. And a college education is a reasonable proxy for higher income. So the overwhelming number of births to single mothers are to those whose income is probably insufficient to raise a child properly.
Of course lack of income isn’t the only problem. Single parents are saddled with all the childcare plus all the earnings requirement for the family. So single mothers are left with less time and energy to be proper parents. That means that, as studies show, the relationships between single mothers and their children tend to be worse than those of married parents of either sex.
The awful case of Laketha Moore gives a good idea of just why the children of single parents tend to do worse on a range of measures of child well-being than do their peers in intact families. The lack of income is a huge problem, but hardly the only one. The lack of the other parent to take a share in the duties of parenting is another. The lack of that other parent’s extended family is yet another. Where were that father, where were those grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews when Laketha Moore was tying her child to the bedpost? They’re somewhere, just not available to prevent a child from being brutalized at the hands of her mother.
The people who defend the institution of single motherhood are all too often affluent, white and educated. They preach a gospel that their peers know to ignore. Meanwhile, the facts that never make it into their sermons are the all-too-frequent tragedies like the one that befell Moore’s daughter. Read the article and let me know if being raised by a single mother sounds like a good life.
Year after year, some 900,000 children are abused and/or neglected in this country. Mothers acting alone do 40% of that. Add a boyfriend of a single mother and the percentage leaps above 50. Children are far more likely to be abused or neglected if they’re not being raised in an intact family. That means that single mothers account for far more than their share of child injury, death and neglect.
Not all single mothers enter into that state willingly. Sometimes a father dies or goes to prison. That’s not her fault or her doing. But all too often single motherhood results from a pathology in which the daughters of single mothers become single mothers themselves. And of course institutions like courts and child welfare agencies do their parts to ensure that children are raised without fathers.
It’s a system that works doggedly to confound children’s legitimate claims to a decent life.