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Home > Importance of Fathers > Article
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The Case for Father Custody

It is fatherhood that makes childhood possible.
by Daniel Amneus

father custody
© Elena Elisseeva - Fotolia.com All rights reserved.

A judge will try a divorce case in the morning and place the children in the mother's custody. He will try a criminal case in the afternoon and send a man to prison for robbing a liquor store. The chances are three out of four that the criminal he sends to prison grew up in a female headed household just like the one he himself created that morning when he tried the divorce case.[1] He can't see any connection between the two cases. The time lag prevents him: the kids he placed in the mother's custody were toddlers and the criminal he sent to prison was in his teens or twenties. Toddlers don't rob liquor stores.

Besides, most fatherless boys don't grow up to rob liquor stores and most fatherless girls don't grow up to breed illegitimate children. Therefore what? Therefore the legal policy of giving custody to mothers is OK? Therefore we can ignore the increased probability that fatherlessness will create delinquency?

This is the "safe drunk driver argument." Most drunk drivers don't get in accidents. They get home safely and sleep it off. Therefore drunk driving is OK.

It's not OK. And exiling fathers from families is not OK. The fact that will not go away is stated by sociologist David Popenoe in his book Life Without Father:

The negative consequences of fatherlessness are all around us. They affect children, women, and men. Evidence indicating damage to children has accumulated in near tidal-wave proportions. Fatherless children experience significantly more physical, emotional, and behavioral problems than do children growing up in intact families.

Why do Judges routinely award custody of children to mothers when they try a divorce case? Two reasons. The first is that motherhood is more solidly based in biology. Motherhood is a biological fact, as Margaret Mead says, fatherhood merely a social invention. Mammals and motherhood originated two hundred million years ago, when the dinosaurs were young. Fatherhood in the sense of major male participation in reproduction is, from the point of view of evolution, a recent development. Fatherhood in the sense of male headship of the stable patriarchal families which make civilization possible is only about five thousand years old, as feminist Dr. Gerda Lerner has shown in her book The Creation of Patriarchy. Prior to the Patriarchal Revolution human reproduction followed the ghetto pattern, where the mother was the primary parent, and the father was a mere boyfriend who could be discarded when the mother got tired of him.

The second reason why judges favor mother custody is their recognition that women and children are dependent creatures. This was formerly understood to mean they needed husbands and fathers. But husbands and fathers require authority if they are to function as providers and protectors. ("He shall rule over thee," God says to Eve, Genesis 3:16.) Without the sexual loyalty of wives there can be no family. Patriarchal civilization depends on female chastity. Without it men cannot have families and children cannot have fathers.

This is the hitch, the reason we have a feminist revolution: Females dislike sexual regulation. Feminists say "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle," "A woman has a sacred right to control her own sexuality," "End human sacrifice! Don't get married!" Women's primary object, according to feminist Anne Donchin, is to create a society in which "women can shape their reproductive experiences to further ends of their own choosing."

This is the feminist program. It's succeeding. Marriage is becoming meaningless. "Family law," says Brenda Hoggett, former British law commissioner responsible for family law,

no longer makes any attempt to buttress the stability of marriage or any other union. It has adopted principles for the protection of children and dependent spouses which could be made equally applicable to the unmarried. In such circumstances, the piecemeal erosion of the distinction between marriage and non-married cohabitation may be expected to continue. Logically we have already reached a point at which, rather than discussing which remedies should now be extended to the unmarried, we should be considering whether the legal institution of marriage continues to serve any useful purpose.

The emphasized sentence means marriage no longer grants the husband any rights whatever--only the obligation of giving up his children and accepting slavery--laboring for the benefit of another person, his ex-wife. (Or equally his ex-girlfriend, since marriage makes no difference.) "The courts have abandoned," says Ms. Hoggett,

the concept of breach of matrimonial obligations--and their powers of adjustment of property interests in the long term are now so extensive that ordering one spouse from his own home no longer seems so drastic. Far from ordering spouses to stay together, courts are increasingly able and willing to help them separate.

This is the female kinship system, matriarchy, the condition of the ghettos--made tolerable for the female by the male's acceptance of slavery.

A Georgia judge named Robert Noland shows how the legal system thinks: "I ain't never seen a calf following a bull. They always follow the cow. So I always give custody to the mammas." The reason Judge Noland never saw a calf following a bull is that cattle don't live in two-parent households. If we want to live like cattle, Judge Noland has the right idea. But human beings differ from cattle and the difference is created by fathers.

A green turtle--a reptile--begins its existence as an egg and never learns it has a mother or a father. Its mother's participation in its existence consists of conceiving and gestating it and burying the resulting egg in the sand. After remaining there and maturing awhile, it emerges from the sand and waddles down to the water to find a meal--or to become a meal for some other creature. It is self contained and lives on its own inherited resources or it dies.

Mammals came into existence during the Age of Reptiles. Mammalian mothers cherish their young, feed them from their own body, protect them, educate them. If you have a cat with kittens you can witness how mammalian motherhood works--how meaningful motherhood is, and how irrelevant merely biological fatherhood is once the father has performed his minuscule sexual function. Motherhood enables the kitten to have an infancy. This is the relationship which Judge Noland understands and seeks to preserve by awarding custody to mothers.

The kitten has no childhood. After a rather short period of helpless infancy, the kitten is almost suddenly a mature adult capable of fending for itself like the baby turtle after it emerges from its egg.

It was John Fiske, the nineteenth century American historian and philosopher, who pointed out what made human beings special-- and more successful than other mammals: the prolongation not only of infancy, but the creation of a whole additional era of life, childhood, something unknown in any other species--so that human children can enjoy an enormously long period during which they are protected, cherished, educable, playful, exploratory, sensitive and aware, a period during which they can reach out and learn about and come to love the world they live in.

It is fatherhood which makes childhood possible. It is father absence which creates ghettos and gangs and messed-up kids--boys trying to find their identity through violence, girls trying to find their identity through sexual promiscuity, which will lead to the violence of the next generation. They need real fathers, "sociological fathers," not mere studs interested in sharing a one- night stand with Mom.

Sociological fatherhood is real fatherhood, as Margaret Mead says, "a social invention." In the ghettos the biological fathers are seldom sociological fathers. They aren't good for much because Mom's sexual disloyalty denies them the role of sociological fatherhood. Lawmakers and politicians don't understand what Margaret Mead tells them, that fatherhood is a social invention, that it must be created and maintained by society. They suppose, as Judge Robert Noland supposes, that humans can live like cattle, without fathers.

Until lawmakers and judges see that they must support the father's role because it is the weak link in the family we will have more matriarchy--along with its familiar accompaniments: crime, educational failure, illegitimacy, teen suicide, gangs and the rest.


1. 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home Fulton Co. Georgia Jail Populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections, 1992. Statistics from other states show similar results.

Read Dan Amneus' book, The Case for Father Custody

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