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The rise of single-parent homes

The number of children living in single-parent households has increased dramatically since the 1960s. Approximately 9% of children under 18 lived with a single parent in 1960;[1] by 2007 this rate increased to nearly 32%.[2] The largest growth occurred between 1970 and 1985, when the growth of single-mother families leveled off.[3] This shift is attributed to a variety of widely recognized social changes that occurred in American society in the 1960s and 1970s: changing sexual morals increased the prevalence of sexual activity outside of marriage and decreased the stigma surrounding out-of-wedlock births; American attitudes about marriage and divorce changed; and women made economic gains that increased their independence and ability to leave unhappy marriages. While the social science community of the 1960s and 1970s initially regarded single-mother households as “just another alternative family form,” evidence began to surface in the late 1970s demonstrating that children raised in households where the father was absent were disadvantaged relative to other children.[4]

In 2008 in the United States there were an estimated 24 million children growing up in households without fathers.[5]

The rise of the responsible fatherhood movement in the U.S.

Along with the changes in family formation in the latter part of the twentieth century, the issue of healthy, responsible fatherhood also began to gain attention. In 1975, Dr. James A. Levine published Who Will Raise the Children? New Options for Fathers (and Mothers). [6] In this report, "Levine suggested that the long-term goal of equal opportunity for women in American society would never be achieved without serious and meaningful recognition of the significance, interest, and responsibility of fathers in children's lives. Levine called for changes in major social institutions, changes in how families raise boys and girls, and changes in the mutual expectations of men and women as they form families."[7]

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, a national responsible fatherhood movement began to take form in the United States. "Within this 'movement,' one may discern a range of groups with competing masculinities and contesting claims and grievances....[T]he Fatherhood Responsibility Movement seeks to overcome barriers of income, race and politics."[8]

As the responsible fatherhood movement has matured, educational and social service programs have grown to meet the needs of fathers across the country. For example, in 1981, the Ford Foundation infused the first large-scale U.S. funding for responsible fatherhood programming through The Fatherhood Project, initially at Bank Street College of Education in New York and expanding across the nation at various other sites.[9] In 1985, the National Urban League began its Male Responsibility Project, focusing on fatherhood among teen parents.[10] By 1988 the U.S. federal Family Support Act included a provision that allowed states to use Welfare-to-Work funds, intended to help single mothers on welfare, to increase contact between noncustodial fathers and their children.[11] In 1991, the nation's first fathers' resource center was launched in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The number of services and supports for fathers continues to expand.

In the first years of the twenty-first century, there has been a growing awareness about the importance of healthy father-child relationships. "Among these benefits are higher levels of school performance and increases in healthy behaviors... For example, children raised with significant positive father involvement display greater empathy, higher self-esteem, increased curiosity, higher verbal skills, and higher scores of cognitive competence."[12] Increasingly, the responsible fatherhood movement has defined itself by focusing on the development of healthy father-child relationships. A separate branch of the men's movement has been that related to Fathers' rights movement. The responsible fatherhood movement embraces healthy motherhood and seeks to encourage stronger supports for mothers and fathers to grow as healthy parents.


  1. ^ Sigle-Rushton, W. and McLanahan, S. "Father Absence and Child Well-being: A Critical Review" (October 2002), p. 2. Online. Available: Accessed: June 7, 2004.
  2. ^ Kids Count Indicator Brief: Increasing the Percentage of Kids Living in Two-Parent Families
  3. ^ Sigle-Rushton, W. and McLanahan, S. "Father Absence and Child Well-being: A Critical Review" (October 2002).
  4. ^ Dafoe Whitehead, B. “Dan Quayle Was Right,” Atlantic Monthly vol. 271, no. 4 (April 1993); Sigle-Rushton and McLanahan, "Low-Income Fathers and Child Support", pp. 1-2.
  5. ^ May 7, 2009 page 44
  6. ^ Levine, James A., Who will raise the children? : New options for fathers (and mothers), 1976 ISBN 978-0397011209
  7. ^ Sylvester, K. and Reich, K. Making Fathers Count. (Washington, DC: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2002): 4. [1]
  8. ^ Gavanas, A. "The Fatherhood Responsibility Movement: The centrality of marriage, work and male sexuality in resconstructions of masculinity and fatherhood" in Making Men into Fathers. Editor Barbara Hobson. (Cambridge University Press, 2002).
  9. ^ Sylvester, K. and Reich, K. Making Fathers Count. (Washington, DC: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2002): 5.
  10. ^ Sylvester, K. and Reich, K. Making Fathers Count. (Washington, DC: Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2002): 6. [2]
  11. ^ Garfinkel, I. and McLanahan, S. “The effects of the child support provisions of the Family Support Act of 1988 on child well-being”. Population Research and Policy Review. (Volume 9, Number 3 September, 1990)
  12. ^ Pruett, K. Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child. (New York: Broadway Books, 2000): 40-54 in Minnesota Fathers & Families Network. Do We Count Fathers in Minnesota? (Saint Paul, Minnesota: Author, 2007): 7. [3]


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