Research - USA
• 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless
homes. U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census.
• 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come
from fatherless homes. Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol
14, p. 403-26, 1978.
• 60% of repeat rapists grew up without fathers. Raymond
A. Knight and Robert A. Prentky, "The Developmental Antecednts
of Adult Adaptations of Rapist Sub-Types," Criminal Justice
and Behavior, Vol 14, Dec., 1987, p 403-426.
• 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. US Dept.
of Health & Human Services press release, Friday, March
• 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. US
D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census.
• 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come
from fatherless homes. Center for Disease Control.
• 90% of adolescent repeat arsonists live with only
their mother. Wray Herbert, "Dousing the Kindlers,"
Psychology Today, January, 1985, p.28.
• 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
National Principals Association Report on the State of High
• 75% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse canters
come from fatherless homes. Rainbows for all God`s Children.
• 70% of juveniles in state operated institutions have
no father. US Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept. 1988.
• 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.
Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections,
• 75% of prisoners grew up without a father. Daniel
Amneus, The Garbage Generation, Alhambra, CA: Primrose Press,
• Fatherless boys and girls are: twice as likely to
drop out of high school; twice as likely to end up in jail;
four times more likely to need help for emotional or behavioral
problems. US D.H.H.S. news release, March 26, 1999.
• 43% of US children live without their father. US Department
• Two years after divorce, 51% of children in sole mother
custody homes only see their father once or twice a year,
or never. Guidubaldi, 1989; Guidubaldi, 1988; Guidubaldi,
Perry, & Nastasi, 1987.
• 42% of fathers fail to see their children at all after
divorce. Frank F. Furstenberg, Jr. and Christine Winguist
Nord, "Parenting Apart," Journal of Marriage and
the Family, vol 47, no. 4, November, 1985.
• 90% of father disengagement is caused by obstruction
of access by a custodial parent anxious to break the father-child
ties. Kruk, 1992, cited by Prof. John Guidubaldi in his Minority
Report and Policy Recommendations of the US Commission on
Child & Family Welfare, US Code Citation: 42 USC 12301,
1996. Same cause identified by Braver, Wolchik, & Sandler,
1985, without incidence values.
"All our institutions, particularly government, must
reexamine the ways in which they affect families... We've
passed programs in housing that have helped to destroy neighborhoods.
We've enacted tax policies that discriminate against families
of average and lower income. And we've done most of this in
a mindless way, not deliberately, but often unconsciously.
All of us in public life must begin to examine the effect
of proposed and existing laws and programs on family life."
Vice President, Walter Mondale (1977)
Our Commission began its deliberations in January, 1995, with
a dedicated staff and a collaborative spirit, accepting a
noble mission to enhance children's access to both parents'
financial and emotional resources. However, in our short tenure,
we have had to cope with thorny issues that lie at the heart
of gender conflict, family disruption, and the abdication
of individual autonomy to the ever more cancerous intrusion
of our judicial system. Frustrated attempts to resolve our
disparate points of view sometimes led to political expediency
and watered down recommendations. On several critical issues,
rather than offering the President, and Congress clear suggestions
for change, the Commission majority made only small steps
in the necessary direction. One could accept this posture
on most issues, acknowledging that the wheels of government
do indeed grind slowly. However, the issues facing this Commission
are so central to children's mental health that impatience
is a necessary virtue.
Commissioner Harrington's minority report to this Commission,
and a prior minority report to the U.S. Commission on Interstate
Child Support by Don Chavez, provide excellent extensive analyses
of central issues in our national family disruption crisis,
and offer a number of cogent remedies. This minority report
is intended to amplify and extend these analyses from my own
professional perspective as a clinical and research psychologist.
This report identifies flaws and biases in Commission procedures
and addresses the Commission's failure to critically evaluate
testimony, particularly with regard to the interpretation
of empirical research on the relationship of father involvement
to healthy child development. It then offers perspective on
several issues and central propositions that were either minimized
or entirely excluded from consideration by the Commission
majority. Finally, recommendations are proposed for legislative
initiatives to supplement those offered in the majority report.
Some of the problems of this Commission were no doubt attributable
to the minimal funding available. For example, with only $250,000
allocated from a much larger initial authorization, the Commission
was limited to three public hearings, and no Commissioner
was permitted to participate in more than two hearings. At
the hearings, Commissioners were limited to five minutes in
questioning each panel and further limited to one question
for individual witnesses. Severe restrictions on travel support
precluded testimony from several witnesses who had a great
deal to offer and were willing to donate time but were unable
or unwilling to fund their own travel expenses. Following
our last meeting in September 1995, Commissioners were not
involved in the creation of the final report and were not
even provided with a draft until six months later in March,
1996. At that point we were offered our only opportunity to
review the draft report, but were not provided with the critiques
of other Commissioners. During that period of time, from September
to March, and subsequently from March until July, 1996, the
Commission staff worked solely with the Commission Chair ,
Mary Cathcart. Individual Commissioners were not consulted
at all regarding material to be included, omitted or emphasized.
At no time in our deliberations as a group did the Commission
afford staff and the chair such wide latitude in determining
the ultimate nature of our report.
Beyond the liabilities of limited funding, this Commission
failed on at least three other counts. First, the majority
frequently minimized attention to its primary Congressional
mandate to address issues of parental access. For example,
although divorce and unwed motherhood are the central reasons
for parental absence, almost no attention was directed to,
the specific societal factors that have created a nation of
single parents. The majority report makes brief mention of
family economic deficits, but no acknowledgment of the sweeping
tide of individualism and accompanying values deficits. Consequently,
only feeble preventative recommendations are observable in
the final report. The Commission should have considered such
issues as the financial and personal incentives to divorce,
the reduction of social sanctions for divorce, the role of
the "no-fault" legal standard the explosive growth
of the "divorce industry", the diminishing standards
of personal accountability, the effects of government subsidy
on the increase in unwed motherhood, and the deterrents to
marriage inherent in our legal procedures for determining
financial and child custody awards.
The second major omission was the Commission's unwillingness
to critically evaluate the relative merits of conflicting
testimony and submitted materials. Rather than exercising
their responsibility to weigh the evidence when issues were
contentious, the majority simply listed those in favor and
those opposed. No attention was paid to the rigor of research
methodology or the quality of empirical foundations underlying
witness testimony. The Commission report notes that it was
necessary to "retreat from" the responsibility to
formulate a recommendation where Commissioner disagreements
were apparent, exceptions to a rule existed or research evidence
appeared to be contradictory. I strongly disagree with this
posture and believe that the Commission "retreated"
from its responsibility to invest effort in the discernment
of truth. For example, no consideration was given to documents
submitted by this Commissioner examining the validity of two
fallacious arguments in opposition to joint custody -- one
of which argues that joint custody should not be awarded where
conflict exists between the parents, and the second argues
that there is no bias in the courts against fathers since
they are highly likely to be awarded custody when they request
it. In each of these cases, the Commission was provided with
clear and objective analysis of these false claims that exposed
the absolute inadequacy of the data base supporting such blatant
An even more grievous problem is the exercise of bias in the
reporting of research evidence bearing on the central issue
of shared parenting. Although our agreed upon mission statement
focuses on children's access to both the financial and emotional
resources of each parent, the majority refused to endorse
any guideline for a presumption of shared parenting after
divorce. Even with strong provisions for exceptions based
on spousal violence, substance abuse, or other impediments,
the Commission was unwilling to endorse a recommendation for
a marginal 30% - 70% time share standard. The bias against
a presumption of joint custody was observable in several Commission
actions. For example, bias was clear in the uncritical acceptance
of testimony opposing joint custody, the attempt to limit
testimony of those in favor, and the ignoring of substantial
supportive documents. Commission procedure for each hearing
was to create "balance," resulting in the search
for those who would d speak against shared parenting, typically
using the subterfuge of conflict or spousal violence. While
the word "balance" appears to connote our even-handedness,
this approach reinforced a polarization of the Commission,
subverting our Congressional mandate and dilution our efforts
to maximize children's access to their fathers. Rather than
seeking testimony that would, suggest ways to expand post
divorce father involvement, the Commission solicited a considerable
amount of testimony to preserve the sole-mother- custody status
quo in divorce, while focusing on increasing father involvement
in unmarried rather than divorced conditions.
Another exercise of bias was the Commission's inconsistency
about the linkage between payment of child support and access
to children. On the one hand, on pages 12 and 13, the Majority
Report notes that child support payments are much more likely
when children have contact with their noncustodial parent,
whether that parent is the mother or the father. Yet on page
14, the report asserts that "...payment of child support
and access to children are separate and distinct issues."
The attempt to artificially separate two forms of parental
support that ordinarily go hand in hand is a distortion of
modern society. Rather than allowing direct support from a
caring parent, it requires one parent to pay a middleman (often
an adversarial one) financial support (with no accountability)
in order to care for the child. Joint custody presents an
interesting dilemma to those who promote sole custody. If
the child enjoys both greater financial support and greater
emotional assistance from both parents, how can one justify
continuation of sole mother custody? Yet, if joint custody
becomes widespread and fathers are directly supporting their
children, how can one justify payment of full child support
awards to mothers?
In the final report, only two authors were cited in favor
of a presumption of joint custody and five others were cited
as opposed. An objective characterization of the full range
of testimony would have included the support of several outstanding
researchers and child development experts, including strong
endorsement from an extensive review of literature submitted
by Division 16 of the American Psychological Association.
Acknowledging that all research evidence is probabilistic,
it is nonetheless quite possible to arrive at conclusions
to guide public policy based on the currently available research
literature. This Commissioner generated the Commission recommendation
that the government should sponsor needed research to clarify
critical issues regarding the family and child welfare. However,
I do not believe that government officials should delay legislative
action in anticipation of future research findings. To do
so would jeopardize the well-being of at least two million
children who experience either divorce or unwed motherhood
each year, as well as countless others who are currently struggling
to cope with the confusion and adversity foisted on them by
misguided adults. We now have had the advantage of approximately
20 years of research studies to inform our legislative decisions.
It is time to act on this accumulated wisdom.
What We've Done For 20 Years Has Not Worked In The "Best
Interests Of The Child"
Widespread and well recognized evidence now documents the
decline in socially responsible behavior of our nation's youth.
This decline markedly coincided with the rapidly, escalating
divorce rate from the mid-sixties and with the movement toward
a matriarchal society. I first heard the alarm bells when
Senator Birch Baye's Senate Subcommittee issued its report
on juvenile crime and violence more than 20 years ago. The
1975 Subcommittee report described unprecedented increases
in several areas of juvenile crime over a three-year period,
1970-73. For example, serious assaults on peers increased
by 85.3%, serious assaults on teachers by 77.4%, rapes and
attempted rapes by 40.1%, and homicides by 18.5%. Drug and
alcohol offenses on school property increased by 37.5% and
the number of weapons confiscated in schools increased by
54.4%. The divorce rate was in the process of doubling between
1965 and 1978.
Simultaneously, new research by Wiley (1977) had illustrated
a steady decline in nationally administered standardized test
scores, beginning in the mid-sixties and becoming more pronounced
in the late seventies. According to Wiley, these substantial
declines in a wide array of measures, from SAT and ACT tests
for high-school seniors to Iowa Tests of Basic Skills for
middle-elementary students, could not be explained by differences
across the years in pupil composition or alterations in tests.
Having reviewed these data, in 1980 I concluded a special
issue of the School Psychology Review, entitled "Families:
Current Status and Emerging Trends" with the following
We are beginning to recognize the impact of pervasive family
disruption on a wide range of children's school behaviors.
We are becoming uncomfortably aware that the increasing divorce
rate isn't just a passing fad or a temporary artifact of the
post World War II baby boom. Most importantly, we are beginning
to understand that the growing lack of commitment to child-rearing
may be one of the most significant societal changes in our
lifetimes. (pp. 378, 379)
Continuing evidence of socialization failure was cited seven
years later by U.S. Secretary of Education, William J. Bennett,
in an issue of the American Psychologist (1987). After describing
massive expansion of federal spending during the 1960's and
1970's to improve the well-being of American children, Bennett
asks, "How did American children fare during those 20
years of unparalleled financial commitment?" He then
reported that the birthrate for unwed teenagers rose 200%,
the rate of homicide among young people more than doubled,
juvenile arrests more than doubled, and that there was no
way to even estimate the proliferation of drug use (p. 247).
Bennett concluded that the absence of fathers was a likely
cause of these juvenile problems.
To illustrate these trends from my own state level perspective,
during the period when the divorce rate and subsequent father
absence was more than doubling from the 1970's to 1990, Ohio
experienced a 35% increase in cases of child and adolescent
serious emotional disturbance, a 158% increase in learning
disabilities cases, a 65% increase in state facilities' juvenile
confinement rate for crime and violence, and a 175% increase
in confinement rate in Private facilities for juveniles. More
recent information from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Kids
Count Data Book, 1994) documents that, in the very brief period
from 1985 to 1991, we Ohioans experienced a 74% increase in
juvenile violent crime arrest rates, a 31% increase in births
to single teenagers, and an 8% increase in teen violent deaths.
During that same six-year time period, the percent of Ohio
children in single parent families rose 9% to a current level
of 22.5% of all Ohio families.
We have been witnessing these horrific increases in problems
of children and youth without relief for at least two decades.
They are not conveniently explained away by demographic bulges
in the size of the youth population. Yet, we have steadfastly
adhered to the same adversarial gender-biased judicial procedures
with preferential maternal custody and disgruntled absent
fathers as the rule. Our Commission recommends movement in
the corrective direction, but timidly shies away from the
needed endorsement of gender equity.
From a scientific point of view, statistics demonstrating
what now amounts to 30 years of strongly parallel increases
in divorce rate, single parenting, father absence, and children's
maladjustment are highly suggestive but not definitive in
determining causal relations. However, it would be foolhardy
and against all rules of common sense to ignore such a strong
association. Moreover, a wealth of research studies have now
been conducted to strengthen the conclusion that divorce,
single parenting, and father absence are strongly related
to adverse child and adolescent outcomes.
From the perspective of child psychology, what does the accumulated
research evidence conclude? First, it is abundantly clear
that existing divorce procedures have not worked "in
the best interests of the child." Repeatedly, in study
after study since the mid 1970's, divorced-family children
have been shown to function more poorly than children from
biologically intact two-parent families on a wide range of
academic, social, and emotional measures. My own research
studies, on the first nation wide sample of 699 children from
38 states, strongly confirm the substantial decrements in
performance of divorced family children on standardized tests,
self-reports, and independent ratings by parents and teachers.
(eg., Guidubaldi, 1989; Guidubaldi, 1988; Guidubaldi, Perry,
& Nastasi, 1987) These results are also confirmed at two
follow-up periods in subsamples from the original study --
one that included 220 subjects at 2 and 3-year follow-ups
and another that included 81 adolescents and young adults
in a 7 and 8-year follow-up study. This study also concluded
that (a) the effects of divorce are not temporary stressors
but rather long-term influences, (b) boys have more difficulties
adjusting to divorce, particularly as they approach adolescence,
(c) contrary to the position of some professionals (ego Bane,
1979) the decline in socioeconomic status after divorce is
not a sufficient explanation for children's decreased performance,
and (d) authoritative child-rearing style and structure in
home routines such as bedtimes, mealtimes, and television
viewing habits relate to better child outcomes. One of the
most striking findings was that 51% of children from sole
mother custody families see their fathers "once or twice
a year or never." In our smaller 7 and 8-year follow-up
sample we found that even after an average of 11 or 12 years
following the divorce event, adolescents who have good relationships
with their noncustodial fathers have fewer teacher-ratings
of behavior problems, fewer attention or aggression problems,
higher grades in Language and Social Studies, and are less
likely to abuse drugs or alcohol according to their own self-ratings.
In the only other nationwide study, Furstenberg and Nord found
almost the exact percentage (50%) of father absent cases.
One can speculate whether this high incidence of absence stems
from fathers' selfish interests in pursuing less responsible
lifestyles, or whether their parenting efforts are thwarted
by restrictions imposed by custodial moms or gender biased
court orders. This interpretation is supported by Kruk (1992)
who notes the most frequent reason for fathers' disengagement
(90%) was obstruction of paternal access by the child's mother
and her desire to break contact between father and child.
Interestingly, this explanation is not even considered in
the Commission's listing of possible reasons on page 14 of
the majority report. Fathers also mentioned that they ceased
contact because of their inability to adapt to the constraints
of the visiting situation (33%). Regardless of interpretation
of motives, the fact remains that sole maternal custody relates
strongly to ultimate father absence.
Another salient research issue is the highly replicated finding
that boys fare much more poorly than girls in post-divorce
households. Since more than 88% of divorced-family children
are in sole mother-custody homes, and as explained earlier,
half of these have almost no contact with dads, it is clear
that many boys are being reared without benefit of a same-sex
parental figure. Thus father absence may reasonably be hypothesized
as an explanation for the strong gender differences in post-divorce
child adjustment -- a condition not easily ameliorated by
the school environment which is populated by female role models
for at least the first seven years of formal schooling.
The relationship of father absence to child adjustment in
unmarried mother households presents additional evidence for
a policy of shafed parenting. In our studies of urban children
in special education (eg., Guidubaldi & Duckworth, 1996),
we find that 70% of children (mostly boys) with severe behavioral
handicaps have no father contact at all according to the mothers'
ratings. These children and adolescents are often the most
disturbed or potentially dangerous students in school. One
is compelled to ask how many of them would exhibit more cooperative
behavior if their fathers were available and influencing their
daily lives. Research summaries previously provided to Commission
members document an impressive array of significant relationships
between father involvement and better child adjustment for
the total sample of urban children in special education, including
categories such as learning disability, mental retardation,
severe behavior problems, and sensory handicaps. Once again,
the Commission majority failed to respond to highly pertinent
The overwhelming weight of testimony and printed material
presented to the Commission supports the notion of increasing
the involvement of both parents in the child's life. Our mission
statement embodies this challenge to ensure that children
receive not only financial support but also emotional support
from both parents. We have heard consistent support for more
father involvement from respected researchers and child development
specialists such as Sanford Braver, Joan Kelly, Richard Warshak,
Henry Biller, Nicholas Zill, and others. Why then is there
still Commission opposition to a recommendation that would,
by definition, increase father involvement opportunity for
those seeking to maintain parenting roles after divorce? As
Richard Warshak's testimony indicates, no study has found
that joint physical custody is disadvantageous to children.
Where researchers have found significant differences, they
favor the joint custody arrangement.
Only a few empirical studies raise any concerns at all about
joint custody and these have been given an unwarranted anti
joint custody "spin." These studies merit a closer
look. For example, Janet Johnston's work has been cited as
opposing joint custody. She notes in her article, "Court-ordered
joint physical custody and frequent visitation arrangements
in high-conflict divorce tend to be associated with poorer
child outcomes, especially for girls" (High Conflict
Divorce, 1994, p. 165). A closer look at her definition of
high conflict families reveals that she estimated the incidence
from Maccoby and Mnookin's California study where 25% of the
divorcing families where judged to have high conflict, but
only 10% of these (2.5%) show an association between joint
custody/frequent visitation access and poorer child adjustment.
Clearly, such an extreme population should not serve as the
basis for policy that affects the welfare of the other 97.5%
of the population. Johnston, herself, acknowledges that joint
physical custody and frequent visitation are not detrimental
to the majority of children. She notes that, "In some
cases, especially where parents are cooperative, they are
more beneficial" (p. 176).
Maccoby and Mnookin's work is also sometimes cited as evidence
against joint custody. However, closer scrutiny of their article
about joint legal custody (Albiston, Maccoby, & Mnookin,
1990) reveals no negative effects and, conversely, a positive
effect between joint legal custody and decreasing discord
between the parents for families in which the children visited
both parents. The authors conclude that, "Thus the retention
of joint legal custody as an nation for its affirmation of
the involvement of nonresidential parents and its potential
impact on perceptions of gender roles may be warranted"
In addition to Maccoby's conclusion that joint custody provides
a "symbol of the expectation that both parents are to
continue in their role as parents after the divorce,"we
should recognize that the presumption of joint custody has
another equally powerful anticipatory effect. Mindful of the
fact that equality of parenting privilege will be the cornerstone
of court decisions, parents are likely to be far more cooperative
in pre-trial mediation, and may avoid litigation all together.
If on the other hand, either of the potential litigants forecasts
an advantageous position in court, their involvement in meaningful
mediation may be severely compromised, and the efforts of
even the most skilled mediators may be thwarted.
Political extrapolations have sometimes resulted in the conclusion
that where there is conflict at the time of divorce (when
isn't there?) joint custody should be precluded. If this conclusion
were allowed to stand, it would serve as incentive to promote
conflict by those desiring sole custody. Conflict is certainly
present in most divorcing situations, but it usually subsides
with time. Temporary anger is common in reaction to such a
powerful psychosocial stressor. It is not ordinarily indicative
of pathology and should not result in an abrogation of parenting
rights. Moreover, the expansion of the definition of spousal
abuse has further confused the issue. Rather well defined
rules of evidence pertaining to occurrences of physical abuse
provide necessary safeguards against false claims, as well
as protecting those who are truly victims. However, in recent
years, more amorphous claims of "psychological abuse"
have been elevated to the same level of consequence and have
become widespread in divorce actions. Often rules of evidence
are cast aside, and the simplistic "guilty until proven
innocent" orientation is exercised by confused judges
who have limited ability to distinguish between truly menacing
verbal behavior and harmless verbal expressions of anger (which
flow both ways in marital discord). These distortions have
fueled the controversy over what might otherwise appear to
be an obviously fair proposition -- that neither parent should
lose parenting privileges or responsibilities as a result
A frequently heard rationale for sole mother custody concerns
the issue of pre-divorce parenting role performance serving
as a precedent for post-divorce parenting roles. In response,
it should be noted that during the marriage, traditional role
complementarily provides for efficient childrearing, wherein
one of the parents usually serves as the primary bread-winner,
providing for the child's food, shelter, clothing, etc. while
the other parent's main focus is on utilizing these resources
in providing direct services for the child. Neither contribution
should be denigrated in determining post-divorce childrearing
privileges or responsibilities. Since both roles were essential
for child welfare, since both parties may be presumed to have
had at least a tacit agreement to these role divisions, and
since in many families the roles are not mutually exclusive
and may involve a considerable amount of overlap, the pre-divorce
parenting roles should not be the basis for post-divorce parenting
time and should not place either parent at a disadvantage
in custody conflicts.
Furthermore, it is blatantly clear that post-divorce lifestyles
are markedly changed for all parties concerned, and a consequent
redefinition of roles and privileges is essential. For example,
to expect mothers to be dependent economically on their divorced
spouses neglects their capabilities to become self-sufficient,
productive wage earners, and in fact may promote attitudes
of learned helplessness. To expect fathers to continue to
provide for the child's well-being through child support payments
to their ex-spouses neglects the father's capacity to contribute
directly to the child's well-being, and may promote anger,
resentment, and a sense of "taxation without representation.
For many fathers, the orientation is that of a second class
citizen placed outside the child's mainstream, useful only
as a source of continued financial support. For many mothers,
this unequal post-divorce situation results in the feeling
of continued economic dependency, a need to support the child
on a reduced financial base since two households must now
be maintained, and the inability to move forward into new
employment opportunities because of the heavy childrearing
burden essential in sole custody.
Another argument frequently heard against joint
custody is that children are unable to make transitions from
one parent's home to another. No evidence is brought to bear
on this assumption, and indeed ample evidence exists to support
the alternative conclusion that developmental capabilities,
of even young children, enable them to make healthy transitions
from one environment to another (as in movement from home
to daycare, babysitter's residence, and grandparent's homes).
On what basis then, should we conclude that even young children
cannot make the transition from one loving parent to another?
Do the minor inconveniences outweigh the positive contributions
of a highly involved caring parent?
Considering the controversy over the issue of joint custody
and the distortions of research findings in the service of
preserving the sole-mother custody status quo, I asked two
officials of the American Psychological Association, who gave
testimony, to provide the Commission with an objective analysis
of this body of research. I requested this openly in the Cleveland,
Ohio Commission hearing on April 20th, and no objections were
raised by other Commissioners. Following its approval by the
Division 16 Operating Committee, the subsequent report was
submitted on June 14, 1995 by Beth Doll, the Division Vice
President for Social Council and Ethical Responsibility and
Ethnic Minority Affairs. It began with the following statement:
A search of the empirical research specific to joint custody
was conducted. Major data-based studies available at the time
of this review have been individually summarized and evaluated
relevant to findings and adequacy of the methodology as requested.
While flawless studies on such a complex subject are extremely
rare as indicated by the evaluations, the goal of this report
is to provide a synthesis so that the Commission's policy
recommendations may be predicated on the best available empirical
base. To minimize some of the confusion in such a highly charged
area of study, this review focused on the weight of evidence
as determined by both replication of findings and consideration
of methodological rigor.
This document then reviewed results from 23 studies, providing
abstracts of each and summary findings according to criteria
of (a) father involvement, (b) best interests of the child
standard, (c) financial child support, (d) relitigation and
costs to the family, and (e) parental conflict. On each of
these criteria, the report supports the conclusion that joint
custody is associated with favorable outcomes. Regrettably,
this objective analysis from the world's largest organization
of psychologists was ignored in our Commission meetings and
in our final report. As an authoritative source of information
on the social and emotional well-being of our citizenry, the
APA has consistently promoted standards of gender equity.
In its Council meeting in 1977, almost 20 years ago, it recognized
the centrality of these issues:
Be it resolved that the Council of Representatives recognizes
officially and makes suitable promulgation of the fact that
it is scientifically and psychologically baseless, as well
as a violation of human rights, to discriminate against men
because of their sex in assignment of children's custody,
in adoption, in the staffing of child-care services, and personnel
practices providing for parental leave in relation to childbirth
and emergencies involving children and in similar laws and
Any meaningful attempt to reestablish stability of marital
relationships must begin with a careful analysis of cultural
factors that contributed to the etiology of family disruption.
The Commission failed to address these issues, and thus its
report, replete with recommendations, lacks a conceptual core.
At a minimum, we must comprehend and adhere to rights guaranteed
by our U.S. Constitution. Secondly, we need to examine historically
the events that psychologically predisposed many to view marriage
as an unnecessary obstruction of their freedom, and thirdly,
we must consider those factors that currently serve as enticements
to divorce and unwed motherhood. A comprehensive analysis
of these issues cannot be offered in this brief report; however,
excerpts to illustrate the rights of parents and the erosion
of traditional fatherhood provide prerequisite elements.
The primacy of parenthood has been safeguarded by the United
States Constitution as illustrated in the following citations:
The rights of parents to the care, custody and nurturance
of their children is of such character that it cannot be denied
without violating those fundamental principles of liberty
and justice which lie at the base of all our civil and political
institution, and such right is a fundamental right protected
by this Amendment (First) and Amendments 5, 9 and 14. Doe
a. Irwin, 441 F Supp 1247; U.S. D.C. of Michigan, (1985).
A parent's right to care and companionship of his or her children
are so fundamental, as to be guaranteed protection under the
First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States
Constitution. In re: J.S. and C., 324 A 2d 90; supra 129 NJ
Super, at 489.
Federal courts (and State Courts), under Griswold can protect,
under the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness"
phrase of the Declaration of Independence, the right of a
man to enjoy the mutual care, company, love and affection
of his children, and this cannot be taken away from him without
due process of law. There is a family right to privacy which
the state cannot invade or it becomes actionable for civil
rights damages. Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479, (1965).
The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that a "parent's
right to custody and companionship of a natural child has
been specifically accorded protection under the Constitution."
Smith v. Organization of Foster Families 431 US 816, 53 Led
2d 14, 97 S ct. 2094 (1977); Stanley v. Illinois supra; Caban
v. Mohammed 441 US 380, 99 S ct. 60 Led 2d 296 (1979).
In the face of a father's constitutional guarantees of parental
rights, as well as clear psychological research evidence documenting
the benefits to the child of continuing father involvement,
regardless of marital status, how has it come to pass that
father absence now characterizes the lives of millions? Our
Commission report appears to suggest that the failure of marriage
in American culture is largely the outcome of low wages, unemployment,
and general economic difficulties. However, as noted by Islamic
authors at a recent inter-religious colloquium in Rome:
Several studies in the U.S.A. prove that the divorce rates
declined in times of economic depression and rose during the
time of economic prosperity. The depression of 1932 to 1933
had the lowest rate of divorce and the highest rate in the
1980's during the period of economic achievement. Mothers
are leaving home to earn money for a better living, but in
many cases at the cost of a very high price. Money is definitely
essential for the maintenance of a family. But one should
not forget that money can buy a bed but not sleep, finery
but not beauty, a house but not a home, medicine but not health,
luxuries but not culture, sex but not love, and amusements
but not happiness. (1995, p.74)
Our search for underlying causes of family disintegration
and father absence must begin with an acute awareness of a
process we might describe as the "dethronement of authority."
That process had its inception during the tumultuous 1960's
and flourished in the 1970's. Its theoretical roots were in
the humanistic psychology movement that taught self actualization,
in Kohlberg's rejection of the boy scout bag of virtues in
favor of moral reasoning, and in the process of civil disobedience
that led to success of the civil rights movement. In each
case, the authority of traditional mores was challenged. The
exposure of abuses and deceptions by authorities in the Vietnam
War, Watergate, and other scandals to follow, nourished antiauthority
sentiment which was expressed in a generalized manner to such
divergent targets as the President of our country, university
officials, policemen, clergy, and to fathers who traditionally
represented the ultimate authority within the family. Time
and time again, traditional authority was characterized as
outdated, insensitive, and so dedicated to self preservation
that it was not open to needed change. On the other hand,
the impatience of change agents oversimplified the virtues
of change and ignored the society's need for a well anchored
foundation of tested values. Gender role complementarity gave
way to role redundancy; parental authority roles were undermined
by declining religious influence, desensitizing of taboos
by the rock music industry, and by the new phenomenon of widespread
divorce. Confrontation politics reigned and "Times were
Several corollaries to this anti-authority movement soon became
obvious and ultimately assumed the mantle of political correctness.
Slogans such as "I'm OK, you're OK, " "Do your
own thing," "Don't worry, be happy," and "Different
strokes for different folks" all reflected the new legitimacy
of socially approved egocentrism. America's traditional sympathies
for the underdog mutated into a fetish of inflated entitlements,
and millions of Americans compromised their dignity for nurturance.
Accountability for personal failures was conveniently transplanted
to the educational system, the nation's economy, and to a
disease model that provided convenient exoneration from guilt
for sins of excessive indulgence. This was the context in
which cultural civility declined, family stability began to
erode, and socialization of our children failed. It is not
surprising that the father's traditional role as head of household
was severely challenged by their children who were encouraged
to be more rebellious by permissive media, negative peer group
models, and on occasion, by mothers who were themselves alienated
from their spouse or ex-spouse.
Equally undermining paternal authority was the new "liberated"
woman's role. Several factors contributed to increased autonomy
from the homemaker and mother roles. Expanding maternal employment
opportunities and a new movement to provide "equal pay
for equal work" brought about greater economic independence.
Simultaneously, widespread use of the birth control pill brought
about greater independence from child-rearing, permitting
women to govern their own fertility. In the absence of compelling
social mores, and with declining influence of religious prescriptions,
marital loyalty bonds were seen as less obligatory. These
were the circumstances existing when "no-fault"
divorce rulings emerged. Coupled with economic independence,
fertility control, and cultural permissiveness, the "no-fault"
divorce option provided the enabling legal vehicle for quick
and easy exits from unfulfilling marriages. Henceforth, parents
could leave their spouses with minimal guilt using the convenient
rubric of incompatibility. However, if children were involved,
and if they too must be left behind, divorce-initiating parents
could be overwhelmed by guilt. Thus, in order to psychologically
manage the termination of a marriage, the initiator must have
some assurance of continued salience as a parent. The judicial
sole-mother custody award enabled millions of mothers to divorce
In today's world, if one investigates the simple question,
"Who initiates divorce?" we find from Monthly Vital
Statists Report, May 21, 1991, that from 1975 to 1988, in
families with children present, wives filed for divorce in
approximately two-thirds of the cases each year. In 1975,
71.4% of the cases were filed by women, and in 1988, 65% were
filed by women. While these statistics alone do not compel
a conclusion that women anticipate advantages to being single
rather than remaining in the marriage, they do raise that
reasonable hypothesis -- one that the Commission majority
refused to consider. If women can anticipate a clear gender
bias in the courts regarding custody, they can expect to be
the primary residential parent for their children. If they
can anticipate enforcement of child support by the courts,
they can expect a high probability of support monies without
the need to account for their expenditures. Clearly, they
can also anticipate maintaining the marital residence, receiving
half of all marital property, and gaining total freedom to
establish new social connections and intimacy relationships.
Weighing these gains against the alternative of remaining
in the marriage with a spouse who may, in the wife's judgment,
be oppressive, unfaithful, or just plain boring, could result
in a seductive enticement to obtain a divorce. Solutions to
this hypothesized scenario are elusive, but without question,
should include reconsideration of the ease with which divorces
are granted when children are involved.
Once the decision to divorce is seriously considered, a powerful
set of forces that enable and promote this process is brought
to bear. Some have referred to this as the "divorce industry."
It includes judges, attorneys, psychologists, social workers,
property appraisers, accountants, and others who stand ready
to make a profit from the misfortunes of the divorcing couple.
The divorce industry is now so vast and so profitable that
it may be impervious to change without major legislative intervention;
yet, lawyers are typically the most influential forces in
drafting legislation. To date, our tripartite government has
defaulted on this topic to a monopolistic judiciary. Even
with ample evidence of violations of Constitutional rights,
Congress has been reluctant to act in defense of children's
right to their fathers' nurturance. Does this inaction result
from a fear of alienating the entire female electorate? If
asked, this myth would easily be dispelled by the paternal
grandmother who has lost her grandchildren; the new wife who
must cope with excessive child support payments to an ex-wife,
as well as her husband's frustrated attempts to see his children;
the daughter who is now grown, but remembers vividly the pain
of father loss; and the many women who want to marry and have
children, but find men unable to make a commitment.
Of all the parties in the divorce process, domestic court
judges clearly play the most influential roles. In an era
when half of the married population may be expected to divorce,
the procedures for electing and assigning judicial personnel
to domestic court responsibilities need to be examined. Domestic
court judges, at this moment in our history, are extremely
powerful persons, controlling the most important decisions
of childrearing privilege and asset distribution for millions
of families. An individual's basic rights of parenting his
or her own offspring, and enjoying the fruits of his or her
own labor, have been seriously compromised in our society.
The courts entrusted with these potentially earth-shattering
decisions are among our lowest status courts, and judicial
personnel are often elected without regard to their level
of knowledge and understanding of family dynamics, home economics,
or child development. Moreover, they are often on the bench
for extended periods of time, and have little likelihood of
public criticism from attorneys in their communities since
these players in the divorce game depend on the goodwill of
their local judges to ensure their success rate and financial
livelihood. Finally, their decisions -- good or bad, fair
or unfair -- are largely impervious to modification.
Appeals courts are yet another expensive layer of judicial
bureaucracy for litigants, and even if litigants are not deterred
by financial, mental energy, and exorbitant time costs, the
likelihood of appeals court reversals are minimal given the
use of the ambiguous and extremely broad, "abuse of judicial
discretion" test. Successful modification of trial court
judge's rulings in state supreme courts is an even more unlikely
Thus, citizens desperately require a more effective set of
remedies for bad judicial decisions, and a more efficient
and viable procedure for removal of judges who repeatedly
abuse their power. Regardless of whether the abuse stems from
gender bias, idiosyncratic or whimsical personality preferences,
ignorance, or indifference, judges must be held accountable
for the drastic changes they mandate in the lives of their
Throughout the past 20 years, my experiences as a Licensed
Psychologist and Counselor have provided a first-hand view
of family disruption and afforded the opportunity to witness
dozens of cases of severe judicial abuse. From my professional
experience, it seems that the combination of sympathy for
the perceived underdog and envy for those more successful
than ourselves has led to a Robin Hood approach that pilfers
funds from those with deep pockets, extracts an exorbitant
commission, and distributes the rest to those considered too
weak to fend for themselves. A few brief examples (with modified
names for anonymity) may illustrate the greed, exploitation,
and injustice that occur in courts across this country on
a daily basis:
While serving as a counselor for Gordy, the owner of an auto
body repair shop, his new wife informed me that she falsely
accused her ex-husband of sexually abusing their eight-year-old
daughter. After his arrest, she dropped charges, but only
after he agreed not to be involved in the daughter's life,
and to not meddle in her new marriage.
A ten-year-old boy, Billy, and his 12-year-old
sister, Vera, were brought by their mother to my office because
of severe school discipline problems. They had recently experienced
the divorce of their parents and both were severely alienated
from their father. When dad came to visit, they would refuse,
slamming the door in his face and cursing with the ugliest
of epithets. Mother supported their abusive behavior and explained
that father was only getting what he deserved since he had
been sexually unfaithful with his secretary.
Paul was going through a divorce process, but on the advice
of his attorney, was living in the family home under a temporary
separation order. He was contesting custody of his twin 5-year-old
boys and had previously seen three psychologists, spending
more than $6,000 for court ordered psychological assessments
of himself, his wife, and their children. One evening, without
warning, his wife hit him over the head with a heavy scotch
tape dispenser, knocking him unconscious. When he regained
consciousness he caged an ambulance. In the emergency ward,
as he was receiving 26 sutures, he told the medical staff
what happened. They laughed.
Gino, who owned several restaurants, was divorced from his
wife. Later, he impregnated a woman he was dating and offered
to marry her. She refused saying she didn't love him. After
the baby was born, Gino established paternity and regularly
paid $1,500 per month child support. Five years later, the
child's mother brought Gino to court stipulating that because
his income was higher than the maximum used in state child-support
guidelines, he should pay the same percentage but based upon
his actual income so that the "child" could be kept
in the style he would have been entitled to if a marriage
had occurred. Her motion demanded $1,000,000 in back child
support, interest, and attorney's fees, as well as $100,000
per year in future child support.
Jim, who had custody of his daughter, came to counseling because
he was considering a second marriage, but could not rid himself
of the fear of financial exploitation, which he experienced
at the hands of his first wife. His ex-wife had two college
degrees, was in good health, and received a large cash settlement
in the divorce. She claimed she could not obtain a job commensurate
with her credentials, but had filed only four applications
in nine years. At the divorce trial, Jim had been ordered
to pay $1,300 per month alimony. He was still paying that
amount nine years and three appeals later. The appeals court
continued to rule that circumstances had not changed and that
the trial court judge was operating within his "breadth
of judicial discretion."
Marvin is an Orthodox Jewish man who had married Svetlana,
a Russian immigrant. She fell in love with another man and
would not return from her nightclub singing job until morning.
She filed for divorce and was moving to another state with
her new man. She insisted on taking their 5-year old son with
her. Marvin refused, asserting that the son, Sheldon, had
many ties in the Orthodox community where he lived. Svetlana
won custody and moved from St. Louis to Tacoma.
Sam is a self-made millionaire, having developed patents for
innovation of manufacturing procedures in a major industry.
He married late in his forties, and had a prenuptial agreement.
Four years and two children later, his wife filed for a divorce.
Sam had bought a house for her and the children, was paying
private school tuition for both children, and had established
a substantial enrichment fund for the children's use in travel
and recreational activities. A long 9-year period of court
battles ensued over the issue of child support, his ex-wife
demanding more than the $6,000 per month she was currently
receiving, as well as more than $120,000 for her own legal
expenses. Sam refused, was thrown in jail, and humiliated
on the T.V. news as a millionaire "deadbeat dad."
His children watched the T.V. coverage of their father's incarceration.
The Commission has stated 23 recommendations. Operating on
the assumption that 10% of a loaf is better than none, all
of these are further endorsed by this minority report. This
Commissioner contributed to the framing of several of these
recommendations, but believes that the Commission majority
has strayed from its original mandate, omitted major issues,
and moved only marginally in other areas. The recommendations
by Commissioner Don Chavez, in his aforementioned minority
report to the Interstate Child Support Enforcement Commission,
are also endorsed as substantial remedies to the financial
plight of children from divorced and unwed parent families.
Most pertinent of all are the extensive array of 53 well-conceived
recommendations drafted by Commissioner Bill Harrington in
his minority report from this Commission. These recommendations
are jointly endorsed by this Commissioner, including especially
Harrington's recommendations: (#1) establishing a White House
"Council on Father Involvement;" (#14) Congressional
hearings on the "Campaign of Misinformation" regarding
punitive child support schedules and standards for alimony
payments; (#20) abolishing father-excluding welfare policies
and creating welfare policies to encourage family togetherness;
(#24) establishing a three-year plan designed to provide incentives
to earn a living and to remove the child from welfare dependency;
(#27) establishing a new policy of rebuttable presumption
of shared parenting/joint custody for AFDC cases; (#36) establishing
statewide commissions on the status of fatherhood and child
welfare; (#43) establishing education and sensitivity training
for judicial officers and support staff regarding anti-father
gender bias; (#44) establishing rules of professional conduct
for lawyers that reduce the tendency to over-litigate for
family law clients; and (#46) promoting and encouraging men
to be elementary school teachers.
1. In order to maximize children's adult nurturance and safeguard
both parents' constitutional rights of parenthood, thus increasing
the attractiveness of marriage by assurance of fair treatment
in the event of marriage failure, the President and Congress
should promote legislation to ensure gender equity in divorce
and unwed-parent child custody and financial settlements.
This legislation should incorporate a rebuttable presumption
of joint legal and physical custody, and should include provisions
for determining fair child support awards to eliminate the
phenomenon of disguised alimony.
2. In order to provide needed reforms in our domestic courts,
the President and Congress should promote legislation to improve
the accountability and responsible decision making of domestic
court judges, including term limits, annual reviews by superior
courts, and measures to make the appeals process less costly
and less time consuming for litigants. Specifically, this
minority report recommends:
A. That a system of state supreme court routine monitoring
of local domestic court judges be implemented.
B. That a standardized procedure be made available for monitoring
of local domestic court judges by citizen groups, with reports
given to state supreme courts for remedial action where warranted.
C. That the term of office for domestic court judges be limited
to four years, with option for renewal by election or reappointment
not to exceed two consecutive terms.
D. That each domestic court judge be required to keep an independent
file of all rulings relating to children in divorce, paternity,
or adoption proceedings. Such file should be available for
public review as an expected part of judicial accountability.
E. That the "breadth of judicial discretion" standard
be modified to require domestic court judges to issue rulings
based on the preponderance of established evidence. Accountability
should ensure that rulings are not predicated on hearsay or
unfounded character assassination. Findings of fact and conclusions
of law should be reviewed by appellate court judges to ensure
that rulings are consistent with established evidence.
3. Considering the child's right to enjoy the support of both
parents, and also the strong relationship between effective
child rearing and the culture's level of civility and socially
responsible behavior, the President and Congress should enact
legislation that places restrictions on the use of "no-fault"
divorces when children are involved.
4. Acknowledging that American Public Schools have been historically
entrusted with the tax supported mission to enhance both the
academic capability and the good citizenship of our children,
and recognizing the efficiency of utilizing a well established
agency of government rather than generating a new bureaucracy
to address a critical societal problem, the President and
Congress should enact legislation that restores the school's
ability to work effectively with parents as partners in the
socialization process. Such legislation should include restoration
of neighborhood schools, incentives for effective school-based
parent organizations, utilization of school mental health
professionals to assist families in distress, and effective
school-based parent education programs.
5. In order to restore responsibility as a prerequisite to
parenting, the President and Congress should enact legislation
that would remove incentives and provide deterrents to the
selfish practice of reproduction without obligation. Both
fathers and mothers should be held to a standard that requires
diligent effort on behalf of their children, rather than relying
on taxpayers and governmental compensation for their own delinquency.
6. In order to address more specifically the declining popularity
of marriage and pervasive father absence, the President and
Congress should establish a new Commission to explore ways
to reinforce stable co-parenting relationships in the interests
of our nation's children.
In closing this report, I have sought the counsel of a friend
from inside the beltway. I respect him greatly for he has
been one of the most eloquent spokespersons for children's
and fathers' rights during the past decade. Hearing only a
few passages of this report by phone, he has advised me to
soften my tone, expressing not anger, but sorrow at the Commission's
missed opportunity to rectify major societal problems. His
well-intentioned advice is politically sound and it has given
me pause, but being neither attorney nor politician, I find
it difficult to stifle my passion about these problems. They
are of such magnitude that they are strangling the potential
of a whole generation of Americans. The strident voices of
some of us informed observers need to be heard above the slow
hum of politics as usual. Passion and a sense of urgency must
guide our nation's lawmakers, for the lives of children truly
hang in the balance.
To preempt the potential critic who is forever searching for
personal information to defuse another's logical argument,
I'll close by sharing a few personal experiences that have
indeed shaped my thinking -- in the direction of realism.
My own father was hospitalized when I was five years old,
and he never returned. My mother, who had only an eighth grade
education, struggled with low level laboring jobs to rear
all four of us children. Her religious values, hard work ethic,
and her personal qualities of honesty and nurturance toward
others provided each of her children with a strong foundation
to meet our own challenges. Some may claim this proves the
case for sole mother custody; however, my mother defied the
odds, and my father loss was through illness and death, not
divorce or unwed motherhood. More powerfully, I can personally
attest to the many years of grieving for his lost guidance
and support, and I know first-hand the vulnerability to male
peer group influence as a compensatory source of masculine
The greatest of my personal adult challenges was my own divorce.
When my longterm wife decided that she wanted her "freedom,"
I learned first-hand what so many of my male clients had grieved
about in my private psychologist office -- the absolute loss
of power to control the two most important things in one's
life, parenting privilege and the fruits of one's own labor.
I was fortunate, because of my daughter's choice, to have
the privilege of Mr. Mom status for the past nine years and
I know full well the nurturing capability of fatherhood. I
also understand how financial injustice, imposed by judicial
injustice, can generate a legacy of bitterness that places
unnecessary long-term burdens on both adults and their children.
As I write my final sentences, I'm preparing to leave for
the hospital, here in Tallahassee, to visit my newly arrived
second granddaughter and baby sit with my first. Please Mr.
President and members of Congress, do all that you can to
restore civility and justice to this society so that the children
of this new generation will be stable and secure. Do this
for all our nation's children and especially for Bailey Page
and Madison Emma.
John Guidubaldi, D. Ed., L.P.,L.P.C.C.
Commissioner, U.S. Commission on
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