AmyTuteurMD

AmyTuteurMD
Bio
Dr. Amy Tuteur is an obstetrician-gynecologist. She received her undergraduate degree from Harvard College and her medical degree from Boston University School of Medicine. Dr. Tuteur is a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School.

FEBRUARY 23, 2009 8:30PM

Are fathers optional?

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father and son

Judging by their behavior, American women appear to think that fathers are optional. According to the recently published birth statistics (Births: Final Data for 2006), the proportion of births to unmarried women has reached 38.5%, the highest rate ever recorded.

… [T]he proportion changed relatively little during the years 1998–2002, but has since climbed sharply, reaching 38.5% compared with 34.0 in 2002. While the overwhelming majority of teenage births have long been nonmarital .., these proportions have risen very steeply for women aged 20 years and over. For example, among women aged 20–24 years, the proportion increased from 37% in 1990 to 58% in 2006. Similar increases are seen for other age groups ... The proportions of nonmarital births among population subgroups ranged widely: … 26.6% for non-Hispanic white, 49.9% for Hispanic, … and 70.7% for non-Hispanic black births.

  In other words, more than ¼ of white children, ½ of Hispanic children, and almost ¾ of black children were born to mothers who did not feel that marriage was necessary. Since marriage reflects the commitment of mother and father to stay together permanently, it means that a large proportion of women chose to give birth without taking steps to make sure that the father would live with his child and be a permanent presence in his or her life.

Fathers are not optional, though. On almost every possible parameter of child well being, children with resident fathers are far better off than those with absentee fathers. A concerted push is being made, particularly within the black community, to alert fathers to their responsibilities. Everyone from Bill Cosby to Barack Obama (who was deeply affected by growing up without his father in his life) has been exhorting black men to be a part of their children’s lives. Obama, in a particularly blunt campaign speech, delivered in an African-American church declared:

We know that more than half of all black children live in single-parent households, a number that has doubled - doubled - since we were children. We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it…

… [W]e … need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one.

Both Cosby and Obama are correct. Black men owe it to their children to be present in their lives. All men owe it to their children to be present in their lives. More importantly, all children deserve to have a father who is an active participant in their lives, preferably one who lives with them and their mother.

However, as the birth statistics demonstrate, the problem is not simply one of abandonment. Women are actively conceiving and bearing children in the knowledge that their fathers will almost certainly not be living with them throughout childhood. Simply put, women are behaving as if fathers are optional.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Having an active, involved, resident father is the birth right of every child. It is not the birth right of every mother to have children simply because she wants them. It is morally imperative for women to recognize that if marriage is unappealing or inconvenient, they shouldn’t be having children. It doesn’t matter how much they want them, and it doesn’t matter that they can financially provide for them. A child is owed a father, and any woman who is unable or unwilling to provide one is making a self indulgent, selfish choice to conceive a child.

Nadya Suleman, the poster child for irresponsible pregnancy, did not think it was necessary for her children to have any father, let alone an absent father. Hollywood stars and athletic icons of both sexes seem to think that fatherhood is optional. And large swaths of our society apparently believe that a resident, involved father is a luxury that they need not provide.

Absent fathers represent a serious social problem, and a serious moral problem. Children deserve to have an active, involved, resident father in their lives. While it is important to exhort men that fatherhood does not end at conception, it is equally important to exhort women that fatherhood does not end at conception. Children cannot be conceived without fathers, and although, they can be raised without them, it is wrong to deliberately embark on such a plan.

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Dr. Amy: you seem to be naturally gifted poking the hot button issues! Anyways- I seldom agree with you, but I have to give a qualified nod here. Two incomes is better than one income. That's the bottom line. By that same token though, women who are financially stable and mature enough to make that choice, shouldn't be stigmatized if they want to have children without marriage. However, it's clear from the statistics that those women are in the minority by far and away.
icemilkcoffee:

"shouldn't be stigmatized if they want to have children without marriage."

I'm going to take this from "hot-button" to radioactive.

Actually I believe that women should we stigmatized if they want to have children without marriage, because it is a self indulgent, selfish choice.

Children deserve a resident father. Women do not deserve to have children simply because they want them.
Well that was heteronormative and anti-adoption. So much for millions of gay and lesbian couples who would happily raise children.
Bursa Vortex:

"Well that was heteronormative and anti-adoption. So much for millions of gay and lesbian couples who would happily raise children."

Hetero is normative. That doesn't mean the gay is unacceptable, but let's not get ridiculous.

I said nothing about adoption. I am talking about deliberately conceiving children who will not have a mother AND a father. Both are every child's birthright, and no adult has the moral right to take them away.
This is one thing that has bothered me for years, I do not understand why a woman would want to raise a child alone on purpose? Single parenthood is hardly glamorus and childern deserve TWO loving parents.
LadyMiko:

"I do not understand why a woman would want to raise a child alone on purpose?"

I can understand why a woman would want a child, but I cannot understand a woman putting what she wants ahead of what a child needs.
"Hetero is normative. [...] I am talking about deliberately conceiving children who will not have a mother AND a father."

You're saying that gay men who conceive children through surrogacy and raise them without mothers are bad parents? You're saying lesbians who raise children conceived via sperm donors are bad parents?
Bursa Vortex:

"You're saying that gay men who conceive children through surrogacy and raise them without mothers are bad parents? You're saying lesbians who raise children conceived via sperm donors are bad parents?"

I'm afraid so. There's a difference between what adults want and what children need, and children's needs trump adults' wants.
"It is morally imperative for women to recognize that if marriage is unappealing or inconvenient, they shouldn’t be having children."

So what you are saying is that only when a woman is married can and should she have children. My girlfriend of 5 years and I have lately been discussing having a child. I am deeply in love with her, and 100% committed to her. We are not going to get married in the foreseeable future. By your words, since she is not married to me, we shouldn't be having children. That's absolute nonsense.


"Actually I believe that women should we stigmatized if they want to have children without marriage, because it is a self indulgent, selfish choice."

Do what now? The choice to have a child is not hers (my girlfriend's) alone. For us it is a mutual decision. There are couples like us that are in love and 100% committed to each other yet see no reason to get married. Having gone through a divorce before I can tell you that marriage is in no way a guarantee that a relationship will last. I can tell you another thing. Even though we are not married I will be as involved a father in our child's upbringing and welfare as any other loving father.


"Children deserve to have an active, involved, resident father in their lives. "

I agree with you on that one. But again, the father does not have to be married to the mother to be "an active, involved, resident father". Not at all.
wnchiker:

"So what you are saying is that only when a woman is married can and should she have children."

Yes, that is absolutely 100% what I am saying.

"There are couples like us that are in love and 100% committed to each other yet see no reason to get married. "

I understand, but my point is that it isn't about what you want, it's about what a child needs. Children whose parents are married do better in every possible measure of child well being.
I'm jumping in the hot water with you. I agree.
"I'm afraid so. There's a difference between what adults want and what children need, and children's needs trump adults' wants."

Tell that to Max Mutchnick. There's nothing intrinsically better about the mother-father pairing. It's about a stable and loving parenting arrangement (no matter what that looks like exactly). I'd take two gay dads who love their kid and want to be parents over the vast majority of married straight couples in this country.
Bursa Vortex:

"There's nothing intrinsically better about the mother-father pairing"

Actually, there is. It's a child's birthright, and no adult has the moral right to take it away from a child simply to satisfy his or her own preferences.
BursaVortex and AmyTuteur said:
"'You're saying that gay men who conceive children through surrogacy and raise them without mothers are bad parents? You're saying lesbians who raise children conceived via sperm donors are bad parents?'

I'm afraid so. "

Wait, really? I thought such evidence as is available (and yes, there have been difficulties with appropriate controls) indicates that the children of same-sex couples tend to do about as well as socioeconomically matched children of hetero couples--

http://www.apa.org/pi/lgbc/publications/lgpchildren.html

I agree about the two-parent household being easier on everyone concerned, but the available data don't seem to say that the genders of the parents matter.
pontificatrix:

"Wait, really? I thought such evidence as is available (and yes, there have been difficulties with appropriate controls) indicates that the children of same-sex couples tend to do about as well as socioeconomically matched children of hetero couples--"

We can debate the research findings and they are important, but my argument is primarily a moral argument.

All children have a mother and father, but in the case of gay couples the biological parent substitutes someone he or she likes better. That may be nice for the biological parent, but it is not fair to the child.
"All children have a mother and father, but in the case of gay couples the biological parent substitutes someone he or she likes better. That may be nice for the biological parent, but it is not fair to the child."

Why not? Is it because one parent won't have a biological tie to the child? That suggests nobody should ever adopt children.

What's the moral principle at work here, anyway? I'm not sure I see one. I agree that the well-being of the child should be paramount, but I suspect most kids would do better with two daddies who love each other than with a mommy and a daddy who fight all the time.
Man married to six wives; relationships are hetero and sex is one-on-one, always; active, involved, resident father in childrens' lives. Polygamists. Go.
Dr Amy : "I understand, but my point is that it isn't about what you want, it's about what a child needs. Children whose parents are married do better in every possible measure of child well being."

Well ... married couples do want children before they have them. They don't magically appear when you get married. So if I understand this correctly because we're not married we shouldn't even be having the thought of having a child, we shouldn't want to have a child. I'm sorry, but that is one of the dumbest things I have heard lately. And what makes you think my girlfriend and I couldn't be loving parents? What makes you think I could not be a loving and involved father? Because we're not married? Marriage alone has absolutely nothing to do with how good a couple will be as parents. There is by far more involved than that.


Pontificatrix: "What's the moral principle at work here, anyway? I'm not sure I see one. I agree that the well-being of the child should be paramount, but I suspect most kids would do better with two daddies who love each other than with a mommy and a daddy who fight all the time."

I, too, like to know what the moral principle is here. If the moral principle is that parents have always been married (that's how it was, and that's how it should be) and therefore only married couples should have children ... well ... that, in my opinion, is rather outdated thinking. I also think that kids would do better with same sex parents than with straight parents who hate each other yet stay together "because of the kids".

My girlfriend is a child protective social worker. She could tell you stories about how screwed up parents are, and what it does to their children. That goes for both married, and unmarried couples. As I said, marriage is no guarantee whatsoever that a relationship lasts, and that you will do the right thing as a parent.
In an ideal world, neither fathers or mothers should be considered optional. However we do not live in an ideal world. Not all men are good fathers, and not all women are good mothers.

Children should have a parent or parents that first and foremost want them. I can't prove this, but I presume that parents who want children are more likely to put their children's needs ahead of their own, more likely to express love, and more likely to raise children who are contributing members of society with a strong sense of self-esteem.

Man cannot live on love alone, and I do think that women and men have an obligation to ensure they can provide adequately for a child in terms of food, shelter, education and health care.

Ideally a child is born into a loving family that has made a lasting commitment to the family unit. But I don't think that family is necessarily only, or even best, defined by a man and a woman being married. There are many potential partnerships that can benefit a child as much as or better than marriage: cohabiting heterosexuals, married homosexuals, cohabiting homosexuals, extended families living under one roof.

While of course it is preferable that a child have strong role models of both genders, a male parent and a female parent are not the only source of such role modeling.

I've simply seen too many bad mothers, bad fathers, bad marriages to sign up to the idea that marriage guarantees a child the best start in life.
Better buckle your seat belt Dr. Amy, I think you're in for a rough ride with this column. You've just uncapped a big old can of whupass, but I'm sure you knew that when you posted this, you naughty troublemaker!
sandra no longer miller said: "Ideally a child is born into a loving family that has made a lasting commitment to the family unit. But I don't think that family is necessarily only, or even best, defined by a man and a woman being married. There are many potential partnerships that can benefit a child as much as or better than marriage: cohabiting heterosexuals, married homosexuals, cohabiting homosexuals, extended families living under one roof."


That is exactly my point. Thank you.
Dr. Amy, I admit I read your post in the firm presumption that I would be annoyed - but like others here, I surprised myself by agreeing! Unfortunately the original topic - fatherhood as cultural lifelong imperative rather than necessary biological function - has been lost in a discussion about the Family.

The Levi-Strauss view of the family as essential building block of structural anthropology remains valid, however many new forms or shapes or sizes the family unit has assumed today. The fundamental conjugal unit - mother, father, child - is still the essential triangle. None of these terms is gender-sensitive, so just as a gay/lesbian couple may refer to each other as husband/wife, they may assume the complementary mother/father roles. LS stipulates that the family is based on marriage, yes. But he elaborates his definition, describing an anthropological construct whose union is supported by extended family/community, the legal system, and a defined framework of economic, sexual and religious (cultural) rights and obligations and prohibitions to each other. Therefore, the family may have changed but not unrecognisably. Rather, the problem is that society (laws, institutions) is lagging behind the cultural adaptations of the conjugal unit.
(Deep breath) So, let's bring this debate back on track. The family unit - for the propagation of the species, to bring up children - requires triangulation. Whether Lacanian, Freudian, or Bowenian this fact prevails - a child needs two carers.
The structural paradox of the family - that we beget, in order to get rid of, children - requires an opposing pair, one of whom will force the relinquishment of attachment, so that the child may leave and - the ultimate true purpose of Family - create his/her own family in turn, by bonding with the issue of another Family.

Apologies for the length of this - but you know you meant to provoke this, Dr. A!
pontificatrix:

"Why not? Is it because one parent won't have a biological tie to the child? That suggests nobody should ever adopt children."

The former does not suggest the latter. Adoption is entirely different because in the case of adoption, the child has no parents, and it is better to have one than none.

Every child HAS a mother and father, and can only be deprived of them (short of death) by the ACTIONS of a mother or father. And those actions invariably are because abandoning the child (or removing the child from the other biological parent serves the interests of the PARENTS, and ignores the needs of the child. My claim is very straightforward: The child's needs come before the parent's desires.

I realize that placing children's needs above parents' wants is not politically correct. That's because, in our society, children are treated like accessories, not like actual human beings.
wnchiker:

"So if I understand this correctly because we're not married we shouldn't even be having the thought of having a child"

You can think anything you want, but you shouldn't have a child UNLESS and UNTIL you can commit to being resident in that child's home permanently. That might not be convenient for you' that might not meet your needs; that might not make you happy. Too bad.

Your wants pale in comparison to your child's birthright. Children are not accessories of you. They are not collectibles who exist for your amusement. They are people and they are morally entitled to have their needs met. You are not morally entitled to pursue what you want, simply because you want it.
wnchiker:

"My girlfriend is a child protective social worker. She could tell you stories about how screwed up parents are, and what it does to their children."

Sorry, the fact that some people are horrible parents does not give you the moral right to be a mediocre parent, or, indeed, anything except the best parent that you can be.

That argument is equivalent to claiming that it is okay to be a racist, because some people commit genocide.
sandra no longer miller:

"In an ideal world, neither fathers or mothers should be considered optional. However we do not live in an ideal world. Not all men are good fathers, and not all women are good mothers."

The "world" into which a child is born is created by the parents. It is not a random event like the weather. Every child has both a father and a mother. Short of death, they can only be taken away by the actions of one or both parents.

What constitutes an "ideal" world for the parent, can be, and often is, entirely different from what constitutes a good world for a child. When those two are in conflict, the adults ought to suck it up and deal, instead of tearing apart a child's life to further their own aims.

"I can't prove this, but I presume that parents who want children are more likely to put their children's needs ahead of their own, more likely to express love, and more likely to raise children who are contributing members of society with a strong sense of self-esteem."

There is absolutely no evidence for this, nor should we expect there to be any. Most children who are poor and most children who are neglected were wanted children. Wanting a child, and being able to raise one are two entirely different things. It is irresponsibly and self indulgent to have a child you want if you are not capable (or not interested) in meeting that child's most basic needs.

"But I don't think that family is necessarily only, or even best, defined by a man and a woman being married."

That's not the point. The point is that a child has a MORAL right to be raised by a resident mother and resident father. What else might be acceptable is irrelevant. No parent has the right to deprive a child of the presence of the other parent. No parent is entitled to bring a child into the world deliberately in the absence of the other parent.

If the mother and father cannot commit to being permanently resident in that child's life, they shouldn't have a child.

Again, I realize that screws up the plans of a lot of adults, but their plans do not take precedence over a child's needs. We live in a world where adults have all the power and children have none. Adults can tear apart a child's life on a whim, or because it's not convenient, or because "the magic" is gone. They have no moral right to do that. Doing so is selfish and self indulgent.
Ablonde:

"You've just uncapped a big old can of whupass, but I'm sure you knew that when you posted this, you naughty troublemaker!"

Yes, I did :)

It is written to be controversial, but I strongly believe in the moral claim that I am asserting. It is the claim that is controversial because it makes people feel guilty. They know exactly what I am talking about, and many have been directly involved with tearing a child's life apart, or disappointing a child on a regular basis.

These people soothe themselves with the biggest lie of all, "a child cannot be happy unless the parents are happy." Adults have the power on their side, and they can do whatever they want. They don't have right on their side, and they know it.
psychomama:

"The structural paradox of the family - that we beget, in order to get rid of, children - requires an opposing pair, one of whom will force the relinquishment of attachment, so that the child may leave and - the ultimate true purpose of Family - create his/her own family in turn, by bonding with the issue of another Family."

That's the theoretical underpinning for the claim that children are morally entitled to two resident parents.
The debate of this horse-which-is repeatedly-beaten-to-death makes me laugh. Humans are animals. Animals procreate. Animals have sex for fun. Some mate for life, some don't. Some eat the father. Many abandon their offspring. Some eat them.
Get out of my barn. Mind your own feed bags.
Over time, nature will thin or boost our herds. We really don't have the control we think we do even though we gaze longingly over the fences and, occasionally jump them.
There always seems to be another fence or farmer not far off.
Still animals. Still human.
Dr. Amy, you're like Forrest Gump... you take the ball and run with it, then keep running and running long after you've scored the goal. On this one you left the stadium a while back yet you're still running.

What studies we have of children raised by homosexual couples would seem to indicate that they do just as well as children raised by two resident heterosexual parents. Yes, we can argue the research - that's what we, the commenters, are doing. You're the one ignoring the research in favor of your unsubstantiated opinion.

Should women deliberately set out to be single mothers? That's another issue, and one where I agree with you. Some children of single mothers turn out wonderfully. Some single mothers are heroic. Yet that's not the norm, and it's not the point either - some mothers do very well raising children after their husbands die, too, yet that doesn't mean the children didn't suffer from not having a father.
Allie Griffith:

"Should women deliberately set out to be single mothers?"

That's what the post is about.

I'm not surprised, though, that it has been hijacked. Everyone immediately recognized the implication of children having a moral right to a resident mother and a resident father. The implication is that just because a parent wants to do something doesn't mean that they are morally entitled to do it. Children's needs trump parents' desires.

People immediately understood that they do lots of things that put their desires ahead of children's moral rights and they want to feel good about doing them. My claim does not allow themselves to feel good about their actions. Divorced and gay parents immediately reacted.

I suspect that the vociferous reaction is caused, in part, by guilt. They already knew, without my pointing it out, that they had placed their own desires ahead of what their children might need. Some people know from personal experience that children are devastated by an adult's choice to seek personal happiness over the child's right to live with his or her biological parents.
Just thinking? Or, [s]tinking? I'm reluctant to convey Opinion.
And don't make me wisecrack a smarty pants Observation? huh.
I turned down a prestigious Academy gig. I was a househusband.
Honest. I wrote that as my present employment. huh. A dog pound?
No. It was a academic position. shush. I taught ref:` Pomegranates.
The Dean asked me about Institutions ref:`religion. espouse Idiocy?
No. Beauty. The Idyllic. Lilacs. Who, of all apostles was`Ignoramus?
huh? It's true? I do not know, nor do I know who was considered the cutest first century apostle or disciple of Mary M. She was the cutest?

She was a wonderful mensch!
That is why Jesus was kissing!
Yes. But, it's now history. Spilt goat milk. Why cry over spilt goat milk? No. Never let the truth get in the way of anyone's exciting oral story. Ponder
Wow Wonder.

Dearest, Dirigo?
No. `No marry?
It's my opinion?

Every Body, be Merry!
Be Merry Merriments.
I insist, be weird. huh?
I keep pondering. huh.
Weird is peculiar. huh!
I been thinking Weird!
O Weird a fierce word.
Embark? bark WOOFS.
O sniff eucalyptus barks.
O turn off a contraption!
O I deliver lettuce Tuesday.
Lactus sativa calms people.
It's good greenhouse grown,
and I go to wild West Virginia.
AmyTuderMD. You are funny.
You make a food for thoughts.
Thanks for healer professions.

On Fat Tuesday we possums and otters can get a dozen of those dear good lard doughnuts! Now I keep thinking of Rumi. That Persian wrote THE STEAMBATH, and BREADMAKER. WHY WINE IS FORBIDDEN. Rumi wound say:`Srip naked, and put on Humble Clothes. A simple gesture of Making fresh bread for Communion soup, breaking wind and bread for fellowship ~ Rumi used those metaphors. He thought the way one makes a loaf of flower-bread ... Pound it, sniff it, roll it, pat it, and cook it. Then, put a fresh loaf of baked bead in a oven. Place gently a loaf of Bread on the table for all of our fellow humanity? Serve 'it' at breakfast, brunch, lunch, and at supper ... share it with all OpenSalon eaters? huh. Rumi practiced the most strange (weird) illuminating teaching methods. People have a unusual style (But, the poet-folk think in a certain style. William Blake said LIFE is poetical, naturally. I never viewed myself as a poet. It's the manner a mind flows? foci.) Oh, we are always to be kept - being initiated. I got the best

Physician. Howdy, my dear VA my Physician. I'll see You real
soon. Pow, no poke a belly button? No. Pucker like a persimmon.

My Physician will help heal me? blush. She's got soft cheeks.
She's never a nasty putdown. My physician insist I must behave.
I must not tease @ OS. Never write about her curled musty hair.
She's also a Rumi? A theoretician. Ya 'devilish' spiritual teaching?

Dr. AmyTuteurMD.: `Ya fun to read. Ya can't help think, agree or not? It's stimulating brain juices? You put lots of thought into the blogging post. I'll gibber jabber.

This weird comment is on-topic, weird,
in my opinion. Read BREADMAKING?
O. huh.
Cut and past it for some bodies opinion?
O somebody?
If folk like Rumi? You will Love Hafiz!
Bark up dogwood tree? No. O a Beaut.
It's a day to gorge on laird doughnuts.
I groin after the weird public comment.
""You're saying that gay men who conceive children through surrogacy and raise them without mothers are bad parents? You're saying lesbians who raise children conceived via sperm donors are bad parents?"

I'm afraid so."

Well, you're certainly entitled to your opinion. Can't agree with you though.
Poogles0213:

"Can't agree with you though."

Can you make a moral argument to justify your disagreement?
Mu opinion is. Any one who deletes is not worth reading.
Why delete? Amy, MD?
It's rude. It's Disrespect.
Interesting post. If a single woman becomes pregnant, maybe isn't even sure who the father is, does she have a moral obligation to have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption, rather than try to make a go of it as a single mother?
RogerF1953:

"If a single woman becomes pregnant, maybe isn't even sure who the father is, does she have a moral obligation to have an abortion or give the baby up for adoption, rather than try to make a go of it as a single mother?"

No. I'm talking about the morality of deliberately conceiving a child knowing in advance that the child will not have a resident father.
Aaron Rury:

"What is it? That children deserve to have good parents? That, morally, only married parents are good parents?"

I've stated it repeatedly, but I'll state it again.

A resident mother and resident father are the birthright of every child; just like arms and legs are the birthright of every child, and access to food, warmth, and regularly changed diapers are the birthright of every child.

Those things can only be taken away by adults who deliberately choose to take them away. I understand that the adults want to take them away if they consider it more convenient or more desirable for themselves. However, they are morally wrong in taking those things away.

Bluntly, what you want is SECOND compared to what a child needs. I understand that you hold all the power and that children hold none. Therefore, you can do whatever pleases you, regardless of how it impacts your children. No matter how much you want something, though, that does not make robbing your children into morally acceptable behavior.
So, if I understand you correctly... Mary, the mother of Jesus should not have had Jesus since "God" couldn't be a resident father?

While I generally agree with you, I don't think your argument works in all cases. What about fathers who don't care for their child, or abuse their children? Are they better than woman who don't have children with fathers?

I agree children need their fathers, my daughter is the most important person in my life, period. But, its as if you're saying mothers who have the means and the ability to care for a child are no better than two parents who don't or won't care for their child.
drgncabe:

"But, its as if you're saying mothers who have the means and the ability to care for a child are no better than two parents who don't or won't care for their child."

No, that's not what I'm saying, although people wish it were because it would be easier to argue against.

What I'm saying is that even when mothers have the means and ability to care for children, they shouldn't have them. They are robbing their child of a father, simply to satisfying their own desire for a child. The child's right to a father trumps the mother's wish to meet her own desires.
Icemilkcoffee,

You missed the point. Fathers are not just necessary as bringers of income. Fathers are needed to provide stability and balance to a child. IMHO, the most important thing fathers do is back up mothers. I will grant, I discipline my boys less than my wife does. However, I back up whatever she does, and if they exhibit ANY disrespect to her, I immediately handle it. I've noticed that kids without active fathers tend to be out of control. It's because eventually they wear down their mothers. With no father to back it up, the kids rule the house, and never truly learn boundaries.
What other "birthrights" does a child have, other than the "right" to have two resident, married parents?

Does he/she have a right to not be born into generational poverty? Do two, dirt-poor, married people have a right to bring children into the world that they can not financially support?

Does a child have a right to not be born with a predictable, heriditary disease? Are parents that are likely to pass on a disease to their children, putting their interests ahead of the childs?

What if a potential father is a victim of child abuse? Statistics show that child abuse victims are more likely to become child abusers. Does a victim of child abuse have a moral right to marry and have children, knowing that he is more likely to abuse his kids?
Again, Dr. Amy, your heart is in the right place, but there are bigger economical and practical issues that cut into your argument. Ideally, yes, involved fathers would help a child shape both sides of their personality, present a positive male role model, security, and too many other things to name (although why you think lesbian or gay couples would fall short of this is beyond me).
We've got planned parenthood giving out free or reduced price birth control to poor people and teens lucky enough to live in the right area. Many of these places are feeling pressure from the new conscience rule(is it overturned yet?) and other pro-life nonsense. Without this, sexually active women conceive children and feel morally or otherwise bound to birth and raise them. The onus is on FATHERS, not mothers, to stay involved in the child's life. Frankly many of these men aren't worth a damn. Do you think any sperm donor who actively tries to weasel out of child support payments would be more beneficial in the home? This whole Nadya Suleman business just seems like an excuse for everyone to comment on the reproductive choices of all women, and I'm disappointed that you keep rehashing it.
So your key is maybe:

"...deliberately conceiving a child into the world..."

That leaves only same sex children via surrogate and the rich and famous even perhaps the moderately stable financially with too much down time. Given a choice, or 'the power' of choice that you state no child has; as a 'soon to be conceived entity', I would gladly be one of Angelina's critters over normal struggling parents. Imagine, sitting up on a fluffy embankment looking down... "Well, it's time o pick your pair. Hmm..."

If you're referring to folks divorcing and the guilt associated with what may amount to psychological abandonment of a child? Then ask a child. The answer is Usually (not always) that they would prefer both the parents living together.

Once the issue becomes blurred by divorce, the statement falls apart. It does not allow for humans making mistakes. We deliberately brought a child into this world, into a loving home. Then that home fell apart. Did we do our best to fulfill the initial parameters of doing all we could for the child? I would say we did in my case. Does the child have the right to Mom and Dad? Of course. Life has a way of making itself heard, though. We all have a right to many of things.

Peece,
David
RogerF:

"Does he/she have a right to not be born into generational poverty? Do two, dirt-poor, married people have a right to bring children into the world that they can not financially support?"

If you cannot afford to meet a child's basic needs, you have no right to have a child. Period. They are not collectibles or sources of entertainment. They are people and they come with moral commitments that must be fulfilled.

"Does a child have a right to not be born with a predictable, heriditary disease?"

No.

"Does a victim of child abuse have a moral right to marry and have children, knowing that he is more likely to abuse his kids?"

Upbringing is not destiny. Just because someone is abused does not mean that the will be an abuser. On the other hand, someone who is a known abuser has no right to have a child. In addition, a woman has no right to conceive a child with a man known to be an abuser.
Aaron Rury:

"Now what I wrote was an actual moral argument"

What you wrote is not an argument of any kind, let alone a moral argument.
Hey doc, I just got off a radio phone interview with someone you may know, Richard Weissbroud, about his new book "The Parents We Mean to Be." Here's a little from his press pack-
- Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd argues incisively that parents―not peers or popular culture―are the primary shapers of their children’s moral lives. While the morning papers and the evening news usually focus on the small number of parents who have clearly lost their moral compass, the problem is really much larger than that. “Lots of us, in ways that we tend not to be aware of, can imperil our kids’ moral development,” says Dr. Weissbourd.

Through the author’s own original field research, including hundreds of rich, revealing conversations with children, parents, teachers, and coaches, a surprising picture emerges. Parents intense focus on their children’s happiness is turning many children into self-involved, fragile conformists. The suddenly widespread desire of parents to be closer to their children―a heartening trend in many ways―often undercuts kids’ morality.
-----------
My expereince interviewing Richard tells me that having a father isn't a catchall...rather than gender or family make-up it is the raw quality of parenting that makes the difference to kids. It may take a man and a woman, a father and a mother, grandparents, gay men or lesbian women or shoot, a dang whole village.

If kids have a birthright to anything in our rich and open society it is a good quality childhood, no matter who provides it.
Agreed, freedomisgreen. An better put than my musings -

Peece!
David
David:

"It does not allow for humans making mistakes"

Quite the contrary. It certainly allows for making mistakes. It must mandates living with the consequences whether you are happy or not.

Marriage is a promise to stay together no matter what happens. It is not a promise to stay together in good times, since no one needs to promise to do that. It is a promise to stay together even when things are not working out. Once children are in the marriage, that promise takes on greater moral force.

I completely understand that staying within a marriage that is a "mistake" might make the parents unhappy. That's fine; they made the bad choice and they deserve to live with the consequences. Just because they have the power to destroy a child's life doesn't mean that they have the right to do so. In fact, they do not have the right to do so; they just do it anyway.
I wrote: "Does a child have a right to not be born with a predictable, heriditary disease?"

You replied: No.

Are you saying that a child does not have a right to be born free of a predictable, heridetary disease? Or that they do have that right?
Dr Amy - I can’t decide if I agree with you or not. So I have a question(s) – a married couple (man and woman) have a child. They both love and support the child. There is no verbal, emotional, physical or any other kind of abuse. In short they are good parents. However, in their own relationship one parent consistently verbally and physically abuses the other parent. Is the abused parent morally obligated to stay in the marriage? If so, why? If you say no, how do you square that with the comments that you have made here? Is the moral obligation to the child absolute? Infinite without end? Does the parent have no moral obligation to themselves or the world around them?
Cocoaalfresco:

"The onus is on FATHERS, not mothers, to stay involved in the child's life. Frankly many of these men aren't worth a damn."

The onus is on BOTH parents to have a involved father in a child's life. A woman who believes a man will not be a good father, or who doesn't want to deal with a father should not have children with that man.
freedomisgreen:

"Parents intense focus on their children’s happiness is turning many children into self-involved, fragile conformists"

Maybe so, but since those children do better on every possible measure of wellbeing than children with absent fathers, it is clearly better to have two over involved parents than one normally involved parent.
RogerF:

"Are you saying that a child does not have a right to be born free of a predictable, heridetary disease?"

A child has no right to be born with perfect genes.
Ellis King:

"Is the moral obligation to the child absolute? Infinite without end?"

It is not absolute. It may have to be reconciled with other moral obligations. A parent has the moral right to physical safety. That could trump a child's right to have two resident parents.

In contrast, the desire for a parent to have a different, "happier" life does not outweigh the moral right of a child to have two resident parents.
I'm not talking about perfect genes, since they don't exist.

Let me be more specific: If two parents (or 1) suffer from Huntington's disease, do they have a right to have children, knowing that they will likely end up with the disease?

This is different from a more abstract notion that because grandpa had glaucoma we shouldn't have kids.
I applaud you Dr Amy for defending the right and needs of children. Adults might have unlimited freedom to satisfy their wants and indulgence, but when a child, a helpless human being, is involved, they should stop and think whether they have given the child the best possible chance to success before they give birth to one. We are not animals that are controlled solely by our instincts and needs. I am not familiar with all the research on this subject, especially on whether homosexual couples are as good as heterosexual couples on average as parents, but I think your critique of our child-as-desire-fulfillment culture is right on.
AmyTuteur said:
"Divorced and gay parents immediately reacted."

That's a big assumption. I didn't see a lot of commenters identify their personal sexual preferences or living situations. I'm heterosexual and married - I haven't got a dog in this race.

And I agree that it is a really dumb idea for a single woman to bear a child without a supportive partner. Parenting is just not meant to be a job for one person.

My only point is that the gender of the partner doesn't seem to make a lick of difference to the outcome for the child. So if there's no adverse outcome, where is 'morality' coming into it at all? It's just an empty word being waved around.
I agree Patrick, and Amy. Too many people selfishly put their wants/needs/desires ahead of their childrens.

I'll never forget the day that I drove my daughter and wife home from the hospital, and I was almost overcome with this new responsibility that I now had... a responsibility that I took very seriously.
RogerF:

"If two parents (or 1) suffer from Huntington's disease, do they have a right to have children, knowing that they will likely end up with the disease?"

Yes, they have a right to have children.
"Can you make a moral argument to justify your disagreement?"

Well, I'll admit I'm a little fuzzy on what constitutes a "moral" argument.

When it comes to the specific comment you made about lesbian/gay couples as parents, I don't see how that has anything to do with morality (what's "right" and "wrong") unless you believe that homosexuality in itself is immoral. Then, of course, raising a child in that situation would automatically be wrong. However, I do not find homosexuality immoral, and providing that the couple have a stable, loving relationship, with the means to provide for a child I can't see how they are automaticaly "bad" parents or selfish. And what if they're married, too?

I also don't believe that you have to be married to be committed to a relationship. I mean, maybe it would be one thing if you couldn't get a divorce, but really you can get out of any relationship at any time, so I don't understand the focus on marriage. Marriage does not equal stable, committed, loyal, loving or any of those things. And not being married doesn't mean you can't have those things. Marriage is a legal status (and religious, if you happen to be religious) and a promise. If I don't want the legal part, how does that automatically make me a bad parent? Even when I have a committed, stable, loving, present partner?
Patrick55:

"defending the right and needs of children."

That's all I am doing, really. I am simply trying to speak for those whose voices are so easily ignored.
pontificatrix:

"My only point is that the gender of the partner doesn't seem to make a lick of difference to the outcome for the child"

Even if there were no difference, that does not entitle one biological parent to substitute someone of his or her preference for the child's other biological parent.
Okay, I'm sure that you know this question is coming. I ask this with all respect.

How can you be absolute about single mothers not having kids because they MAY not turn out well (Charles Manson) or they may turn out fine (Barack Obama), as opposed to knowingly creating a child that almost certainly will have a debilitating disease (Arlo Guthrie)

All I want to do is understand one moral right vs. another.
Poogles0213:

"unless you believe that homosexuality in itself is immoral."

Homosexuality is not immoral and my claim has nothing to do with sexual orientation. My claim is that one parent is not entitle to substitute a child's other biological parent with his or her preference, whether that preference derives from biology or desire for a new spouse.

"I mean, maybe it would be one thing if you couldn't get a divorce, but really you can get out of any relationship at any time, so I don't understand the focus on marriage."

The issue is not marriage per se. The issue is staying together until the child is grown. Unwillingness to marry usually arises from unwillingness to make the legal commitment to the partner. If you are not willing to make that legal commitment to the child's biological parent, you should not be conceiving the child.

It's very simple really. It's not merely what's "best" for the child. It is that the child has a moral right to two resident biological parents, and no parent should take that right away from the child.
""If two parents (or 1) suffer from Huntington's disease, do they have a right to have children, knowing that they will likely end up with the disease?"

Yes, they have a right to have children."

I'm failing to see how it is not selfish to bring a child into the world knowing there is a significant chance of ill-health, decreased quality of life, and early death, but it is selfish to bring a child into the world when you are a in a healthy, stable, loving, and financially sound relationship with someone of the same sex. How is the first NOT putting your desires ahead of your child's? And how is the second doing so? (I must interject here, that I personally do not believe sexuality is something you choose.)
Oh good Lord, Amy. I know you get your jollies being judgmental (something I absolutely loathe in a physician, and, in truth, in human beings), but perhaps you need to do a little more research before you paint all teens/20-something/30-something/40-something single mothers with the same brush.

Having worked in adolescent medicine for ages, I can tell you that for many for my patients, the idea of marriage was anathema to them. There WERE NO SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGES IN THEIR COMMUNITY. What marriage meant in the teens' eyes was a man who could beat them whenever they wanted to and get away with it. A man who would tell them what to do and when to do it, while they would have no such limitation. In short, in was indentured servitude, not the partnership that you and I may envision. If they don't see marriage as positive, why would you entreat these young girls to sign on for such treatment because you, and your Eurocentric forebears, believe it is the best thing for them?

But you see instead of being a judgmental ass with my patients, I listened, I counseled, and I shared examples of what marriage could be for them. But I never put my moral code ahead of theirs, because that is disrespectful and paternalistic. Change does not come by hammering. Change comes with respectful discourse and helping them to have an "a-ha" moment.

MEE Productions did this great qualitative research project that explains a lot of the issues that I've touched on. I can get you the entire report if you have any interest in opening your mind to it: This Is My Reality

I'm also curious about something you said regarding adopted children. My daughter was placed with me by her first mother. She chose us to be her daughter's parents when she was 7 months pregnant and we were there when Zara was born. Her firstparents continue to have contact with her, as this is open adoption. So what in the hell did you mean when you said that adopted children don't have parents? Do you know anything at all about adoption, especially domestic open adoption, or did you get your adoption information watching Lifetime?

In conclusion, I chose not to parent without a husband because I believed that my kid would do best with a mother and father. That was important to me. Yet I'm not the type (judgmental ass) who believes that what goes for me, must, of course, go for everyone else.
Amy please don't assume that everyone who comments on your post is doing so because they feel 'guilty'. My questions about your moral argument stem from being raised by a married couple that were physically and psychologically abusive parents. I have no doubt that if they had divorced, it would have led to happier lives for all of their kids. Or at the very least, lives that would have featured less physical harm.

I really don't understand your claim that children do not have a moral birthright to arms and legs. There is nothing moral about biology. A child born with physical defects is not the victim of any sort of immorality - just random biological occurences.
"My claim is that one parent is not entitle to substitute a child's other biological parent with his or her preference, whether that preference derives from biology or desire for a new spouse."

What does it matter if it is the biological parent? The child doesn't care as long as it is loved and cared for. If the child was not told that dad wasn't the sperm provider, how would the kid know? And how is it detrimental? What difference does it really make?
Poogles0213:

"I'm failing to see how it is not selfish to bring a child into the world knowing there is a significant chance of ill-health, decreased quality of life, and early death, but it is selfish to bring a child into the world when you are a in a healthy, stable, loving, and financially sound relationship with someone of the same sex."

The issue is not that the parents must guarantee a perfect or even a happy childhood. The issue is that the child HAS a mother and a father, and when one biological parent substitutes the other biological parent with one she likes better, that parent is taking something away from the child. That other parent "belongs" to the child. No one has the right to steal what belongs to the child.
sorry, that should have read:
I really don't understand your claim -- how is it that children have a moral birthright to arms and legs? It's ideal, certainly, but not a moral issue. There is nothing moral about biology. A child born with physical defects is not the victim of any sort of immorality - just random (or not) biological occurences. If you are going to argue that arms and legs are a moral right, then who do yo assign the immorality to, when this is not the case?
teen doc:

"There WERE NO SUCCESSFUL MARRIAGES IN THEIR COMMUNITY."

So what? That doesn't change the fact that a child has a moral right to two resident parents. If you can't provide that (for whatever reason) you shouldn't have children. Just because you want them is not a good enough reason to have them.

I know I am being judgmental. That's pretty radical in 2009 when we're all supposed to venerate everybody else's choices simply because they are their choices. I profoundly disagree.

Not all choices are good choices. Choice to break promises are bad choices. Choices to take things that belong to children are bad choices. Choices to bust up a child's family because the parent is not "happy" are bad choices. Totally, unfashionable to say that, I know, but that doesn't change the reality.

People are not entitle to self-actualize by tramping roughshod over the rights of others. Just like you are not entitled to rob a bank simply because you want (or need) money, you are not entitled to deprive a child of a resident biological parent simply because you are not happy with the current situation.

I am a huge believer in adults accepting adult responsibilities. I am a huge believer in adults keeping their promises, even those that are hard to keep. Again, I know it is horribly unfashionable, but there it is.
I'm sure that if you went deeper into the numbers you'd find that generational poverty is the real villian and unfortunately the most economically disadvantaged group of people in this country are single women with children.

If Renee Zellweger or Venus Williams chooses to be a single mom, the odds are that their kid won't turn out to be a criminal, but the welfare mom in South Central LA, married or not, has a much bigger challenge.

What we really need to do to reduce crime, violence, and drug addiction in this country is to eliminate poverty.
sandra no longer miller:

"how is it that children have a moral birthright to arms and legs?"

They don't have a moral right to be endowed by nature with arms and legs. They DO have a moral right to keeps those arms and legs if they are born with them. Parents have no more right to amputate the other parent than they have to amputate the child's limb.
"Parents have no more right to amputate the other parent than they have to amputate the child's limb."

That's a bit of a stretch.
"So what?"

Amy, if that's all you've got as far as a sociological discussion of teen pregnancy goes, then we're done here. You stick to judgmentalism and I'll, along with the other people who actually wish to effect change, will stick with reason.

Can't say I didn't try.
RogerF:

"I'm sure that if you went deeper into the numbers you'd find that generational poverty is the real villian and unfortunately the most economically disadvantaged group of people in this country are single women with children."

Maybe so, but that's beside the point. The children of movie stars have the exact same moral right to a resident father as the children of poor women.
I'm curious, Amy, if you believe that divorce can ever be in the best interest of the child.
It's not beside the point... it is the point. Children born into generational poverty are likely to remain there, which increases the chances of drug abuse, violence, and crime, whether 1 or 2 parents are on the scene.

One other question: In your argument who is bestowing the moral right, or what is the source of the moral right that you quote?

Obviously (Octuplet Woman) we have the legal right to be as irresponsible as we choose.
This turns out to be a pretty good discussion. I'll go even one further than Dr. Amy. Having two commited parents (of whatever sex or legal status) is undoubtedly better than one parent. But more than that, I think children will benefit from having the grandparents around and involved. This is how it is in most traditional cultures. In post war America, people have enough mobility that many end up far away from their parents.
The bottom line is- it's always better to have more adults who care, and are in a position to exert authority.
Aaron Rury:

"Since you are arguing this from a religious perspective, since morals are derived from God "

No, morals are not from God, though religious people like to believe that they are. Non-religious moral philosophy is the grounding for contemporary law. There is no "right to privacy" in the Bible, for example.

Indeed, religious conservatives are adamantly opposed to the substitution of religious moral philosophy by non-religious moral philosophy.
sandra no longer miller:

"if you believe that divorce can ever be in the best interest of the child."

It can be, but that's the exception. Generally it is in the best interest of the parent at the expense of the child. Since children are powerless, they have no choice but to go along and make the best of it.
Dr. Amy,
Obviously nuance is not your thing, which is great. Your posts would not generate this much heat if you weren't so absolute in your statements. The problem with your absolutism is that it leads me, and I'm sure others, to pose questions, to see how absolute you really are.

In the case of divorce, with kids, you state that divorce is the exception rather than the rule. So consider this scenario.

Little Johnny is very well cared for in his two parent home. He is doing well in school, has friends, plays sports, goes fishing with grandpa, and cleans his room (I know, I've gone too far).

Only problem is that his dad fucks anything or anyone he can and Johnny's mom just received an envelope full of pics to prove it.

What should Johnny's mom do now? Is adultery reason enough to put Little Johnny's happiness at risk?
Just getting around to editing Rick's interview and transcribing some quotes for press releases....

Since this comment stream is all bout morality and children...there could be no better expert than Rick...whose recent book addresses moral development in children. Really serendipitous I was interviewing him today....

Just for kicks, because of this blog here doc, I did ask Richard Weissbourd the following question.

ChrisG: - "We live in a country where children may experience a variety of parenting scenarios from mother and father to non biological mother or father, grandparents, gay men, lesbian women ... Rick does it matter who is doing the parenting as much as the quality of the parenting?"

Rick Weissbourd: - "O I think the quality of parenting is by the far the most important thing, than who is doing the parenting. And we get in these raging debates over single parenting for example. I think on balance its harder to raise kids if you're a single parent for a lot of reasons, but there are a lot of single parents out there who are doing a wonderful job raising very moral kids. And you know I think morality develops and happens in the context of relationships. And a relationship with a caregiver who really knows you and values you and hold you to high moral expectations. Single parents are very capable of doing that, so are gay parents. "

Rick's interview will be on my show tomorrow and posted online. Again, his new book is "The Parents We Mean To Be: How Well-Intentioned Adults Undermine Children’s Moral and Emotional Development"
"The issue is not that the parents must guarantee a perfect or even a happy childhood. The issue is that the child HAS a mother and a father, and when one biological parent substitutes the other biological parent with one she likes better, that parent is taking something away from the child. That other parent "belongs" to the child. No one has the right to steal what belongs to the child."

So, then sperm/egg banks are immoral, yes? After all, the biological parent is not part of the child's life. The parent chose to replace the child's biological parent (the donor) with one they liked better - their spouse.
RogerF:

"Is adultery reason enough to put Little Johnny's happiness at risk?"

No. Ask the many women (and some men) who tolerate it, and they will agree.
freedomisgreen:

"I think the quality of parenting is by the far the most important thing, than who is doing the parenting."

The key words in that sentence are "I think." There's no data to substantiate it.
Dr. Amy, what you're proposing is slavery for parents. There is no person who has the "right" to compel one person to stay married to another. Adult people have the right to marry and they have the right to a divorce. They can't be kept in slavery just because they have had a child.

The funny thing is that you seem to understand that a woman's right to an abortion is based on autonomy, but you don't seem to understand that the right to a divorce is based on the same autonomy.

It's rude for you to attack those who disagree with you by saying they are doing it out of guilt. I don't have children precisely because when I was younger I lacked the means to care for them - no health insurance here! My in-laws said things like "Oh, have them anyway, it will work out." But I don't believe in things working out; I have seen the children of my relatives do without decent food and Christmas presents and the surety that next month there would be a roof over their heads. I won't do that to a child, and so I had no children, and now it's very unlikely due to my health problems that I will ever have children.

I'm also straight, married, and I believe in staying married, even if one's spouse turns out to be a son-of-a-bitch.

So, according to my statistics, I should support you. I don't, though. I think your viewpoint, taken to the extreme to which you've taken it, is devoid of humanity and dangerous to all people everywhere.

We did take in a foster daughter. She had been violently raped over a period of years by her biological father, a fine example of how wonderful it is to have biological fathers in the household, no exceptions please!
Poogles0213:

"So, then sperm/egg banks are immoral, yes?"

They certainly pose serious moral issues for all the people involved, not just the children. These moral issues are often compounded by the desire to lie to the child about the circumstances of his conceptions.
I'm sure that you're right. It's highly unlikely that anyone gets divorced over the issue of infidelity... it's such a trivial issue after all.

I'm sure that when Johnny's mom is having sex with her husband, she is thinking about how thankful she is that Johnny got an A in reading rather than wondering where her husband's penis was last night.

Let's see. If 50% of people cheat and the divorce rate is 50% I think that there are millions of men and women who do not tolerate it.

In fact I would submit that the majority of women who tolerate adultery do so out of financial fears.
Allie Griffith:

"what you're proposing is slavery for parents."

You can call it whatever you want, but I am claiming that parents are morally obliged to put their child's needs ahead of the parent's wants. People hate that, I know. They want to have what they want, when they want it, simply because they want it. Adults are powerful enough to make it happen, but that does not mean that they are behaving morally.
RogerF:

"it's such a trivial issue after all"

No, it's a very serious issue, just as you implied. That doesn't mean that it justifies destroying a child's happiness.
Dr. Amy,
I'm about to say something here that I rarely, if ever, have seen you say: "Maybe you're right."
Wow, Amy. No, I absolutely don't agree with you. There's nothing morally right about telling people they're wrong to have/adopt children because they don't fit into your definition of what a "normal" family looks like. And I'm with Aaron; I don't see anything in your argument that's moral. Rather, I see a lot of black and white, when in reality we live in a world of grays.
Dr A - you keep saying that what a parent wants does not outweight what the child needs. In general I agree. There are many things that I want but do not pursue because it would take time, attention and money that I think are better spent on my family. However, there are things that I want and I do pursue them. Even though the pursuit takes time, attention and money. Am I a bad parent?

Who decides? Who is qualified to decide? In an earlier response to a question that I had you said that the parent does not have an absolute moral obligation the their child. Is there a stark line that divides the parents obligation to their child vs themself? You seem to be saying so. And I think that is why you have so many comments that disagree with you.
Absent, here, is a consistent definition of "father." To begin with, let's look at this: "He fathered a child," "She mothered a child." And . . . we can make sense of this, "He mothered a child," but we can't make "She fathered a child work." So: what is a father? Relatively archaic notions of inheritance (not consisten over time and geography) have influenced our ideas of paternity (even that word, which shares a core meaning with "patriotism," is fluid, although less fluid that "fatherhood."). Does a child need two adults in the home? Maybe? Does one of them need to be male? I'm not sure about that, either. Does a child need an extended family network of responsible adults of both genders and, one hopes, multiple generations? Absolutely--our notion of a "nuclear family" would have been regarded as a sociopathology not very long ago. Some states actually give legal privilege to a biological male "father," whether or not he has helped parent the child, or not. Successful family systems run the gamut from a well-networked single woman to an extended family of aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins to a kernel intra-gender couple and their friends and associates who care for a love the child and given him or her a sense of value, ambition and social responsibility. "Fatherhood" is a legal and social privilege, not a legal right, or even a legal responsibility: child-conceiving, child-bearing, and child-rearing are the responsibility of a mother. If she needs or wants help (and most mothers do), she should make those arrangements and get sign-off in writing before she takes steps that cannot be retraced.
AshKW:

"There's nothing morally right about telling people they're wrong to have/adopt children because they don't fit into your definition of what a "normal" family looks like."

I understand that that is the argument that other's make, but that is not the argument that I am making. People can pretend that a family is whatever they want it to be, but it is not up to them to define a biological family. A biological family is the biological mother, the biological father and the child. That's it. It's not the grandmother; it's not mom's boyfriend; it's not dad's partner. It has nothing to do with what the parents want.

Parents are powerful enough to pretend that a family is anything that suits them, and kids just have to go along, but that does not justify making up new definitions of the family that simply reflect the parent's wishes.
thatwaseasy:

"you've in provided an unsubstantiated judgment that invalidates the rights of children because they do not encompass your ideal set of moral childhood rights."

No, I've invalidated the "rights" of parents to do whatever pleases them regardless of the rights and needs of the child. That's what's pissing people off. They don't want to contemplate the idea that anything can or should interfere with their pursuit of their personal agenda. My point is that their happiness does not come first. It always takes second place to a child's needs, whether they like it or not.
Dr. Amy said "You can think anything you want, but you shouldn't have a child UNLESS and UNTIL you can commit to being resident in that child's home permanently. That might not be convenient for you' that might not meet your needs; that might not make you happy. Too bad."

You might want to read again what I said. My girlfriend and I live together, and that is not going to change. Because we're not married doesn't mean that I will not be a committed father who's present in the child's live.


Dr. Amy said: "Sorry, the fact that some people are horrible parents does not give you the moral right to be a mediocre parent, or, indeed, anything except the best parent that you can be."

So because we're not married we will automatically be mediocre parents? Did I miss something? I didn't say that because other people are screwing up we will screw up too. I didn't say that it is ok for us to be lousy parents because other people are lousy parents. That was not the point. The point was you can screw up, married or not. Marriage is no guarantee for anything.
Ellis King:

"Who decides?"

Not the parent, that's for sure. A family is not defined by what is good for the parent. A child's needs are not defined by what is good for a parent.

No one has yet made a convincing case (or any case, actually)that a mother or father's need for personal fulfillment can or should trump a child's basic needs for his biological parents.
Winona W. Wendth:

"Absent, here, is a consistent definition of "father."

That's not true. The biological definition of father is entirely consistent. The guy who contributed the sperm is the father, regardless of what the adults involved would like to pretend.
wnchiker:

"So because we're not married we will automatically be mediocre parents?"

No, you will automatically be selfish parents, putting your need for "freedom" ahead of your child's right to have married parents.
wnchiker writes: "I also think that kids would do better with same sex parents than with straight parents who hate each other yet stay together 'because of the kids'."

That's typically how the argument goes -- a generic "same sex" couple -- apparently with no problems worth mentioning -- is compared with a hetero couple with a bad marriage. But using that kind of reasoning I suppose you can prove anything. Surely it's better to be reared by a poor, uneducated single mother than it is to be reared by Hannibal Lector. But that's hardly an argument for single motherhood.

We are currently engaged in a grand social experiment the outcome of which is uncertain. This social experiment consists of valuing and promoting the "rights" of individual adults over and above the concept of the traditional family as that concept has developed over the centuries in the Western world.

Today, in so many ways, the "rights" of the individual almost always trump the traditional view of the family. It has now gotten to the point that it is difficult to defend the view of the traditional family without being thought a religious fundamentalist. The mere suggestion that the traditional family is the best arrangement for children and for society often elicits great skepticism if not outrage. The idea that the preservation of the concept of the traditional family is a worthy endeavor, worthy enough even to deny to individuals certain self-proclaimed "rights," is often seen as "oppressive."

Marriage in the West is currently going through a rough period. For many, the "solution" to that problem is to kill off the whole concept of the traditional marriage, and by extension, the traditional family. The concept of the traditional family is not hard to attack and there are many ways of doing that.

The whole stigma of having sex outside of marriage is gone, just gone. For example, few months ago a woman published a post on Open Salon celebrating that fact that her female formerly-religious teenage babysitter had lost her religion and her virginity and was now "putting out" for her boyfriend. In many comments on that post a number of OS members joined in the celebration. For the proponents of the New Order, traditional religious-based sexual morality must be done away with, and celibacy and self-control are seen as quite outdated. And if that results in 1.9 million abortions per year and additional millions of cases of sexually transmitted diseases, so be it, as we march blindly forward into the Glorious Future of sex as recreation and entertainment.

At that point sex itself becomes meaningless. As the British progressive metal band Porcupine Tree say in the lyrics to their song "Fear of a Blank Planet" -- 'Sex is kinda fun, but just another one of all the empty ways of using up the day.'

Sex doesn't matter, sex outside of marriage doesn't matter, and having children outside of marriage doesn't matter either. Eventually marriage itself doesn't matter. For many marriage is no longer a sacrament -- no longer something consecrated or sacred. It's just a contract, and maybe not a very good one at that. But since it is just a contract, it should be opened up to everyone, gay or straight. As I have discussed on several other posts most gay relationships, even long-term relationships, are not monogamous -- a point made very clearly by gays themselves. But since marriage doesn't really mean anything, that doesn't matter either. And many people, even OS members, have no problem with opening up marriage to all sorts of "poly" relationships among consenting adults -- three men married to two women, or whatever. Then we no longer have "marriage" in any recognizable form, just various "relationship configurations" that come into or go out of existence according to the whims of those involved.

As marriage goes, so goes the "family." The idea of husband and wife being the fundamental procreative unit is nothing more than "outdated thinking," as wnchiker succinctly puts it. Everything is a family, and no one "arrangement" is be preferred over any other. Both fathers and mothers become optional, monogamy is optional, and commitment is optional. And the only absolute is adults doing whatever they want, however they want to do it. And who are we to say otherwise?

My point isn't that children can't be successfully reared outside of traditional families, but that we are losing the ideal of the traditional family in favor of a kind of "anything goes" attitude. It's one thing to have the ideal of the traditional family as the norm and along with that some non-traditional arrangements. It's quite another thing to have a situation in which non-traditional arrangements actually are the norm. We're not there yet, but we are moving there. And after the traditional family has gone the way of the horse and buggy and we are left with out-of-wedlock birth, cohabitation, and monogamous or non-monogamous "relationship configurations" of varying duration, it will be interesting then to see what kind of children we end up with.
I disagree with your premise that "marriage reflects the commitment of mother and father to stay together permanently." Marriage is inherently a religious institution. Because the government would like to shape the way we live our lives and because many in the government are religious, we have created a civil framework for marriage which provides incentives for couples secular and religious to apply for a marriage license. My partner and I do not believe that the government should be in the business of legitimizing human relationships and have decided to not get married. This does not mean that we do not honor our relationship. This does not mean that we do not plan to be together forever. This does not mean that when we have children our children will somehow be without a father or a mother. This means that every day we choose to be together voluntarily with no contractual obligations and without the historical baggage of marriage. It's a beautiful way to live and when people evolve a bit more maybe they will realize that marriage is an unnecessary and anarchonistic institution.
Dr. Amy said: "No, you will automatically be selfish parents, putting your need for "freedom" ahead of your child's right to have married parents."

Wow! I'm not really sure what to say to that one.

There are many reasons why we're not married, however "freedom" is not one of them. We both are 100% committed to each other, just not married. Our child has the right to have two parents who are committed to its upbringing and welfare. Marriage has nothing to do whatsoever with that commitment.
Amy, I struggle with this because you're stating that biology is the absolute and above-all trump card.

Why is a biological family unit, defined in a very hetero-normative way, composed of one biological mother and one biological father, so infinitely superior to any other arrangement? As far as I can tell (and I admit biology was not my strong suit) biology is merely a gene-sharing arrangement and completely ignores the intangibles that make or break a successful family arrangement.

And although I love children and look forward to having my own someday, I have to say that I feel you're going too far in your argument that parents have all the power, because it appears you want to place all the power that parents supposedly have into the hands of the children. There's a reason children have parents at all; their brains are underdeveloped and they have to learn fairness, empathy and nuance -- which they learn from parents, primarily.

Furthermore, I think that if we continue to stigmatize in this way, saying this is right, and that is wrong, lumping everyone together (this was pointed out already, I think) regardless of those nasty intangibles, you're setting yourself up for trouble. As you pointed out, history is not destiny. If we tell a child raised by a single mother their odds for financial success are lower because they were raised without a father, don't we feed into the cycle of low self-esteem perpetuating low achievement perpetuating more of the same? I think it's a self-fulfilling prophecy if approached in this manner.

I respectfully suggest that instead of labeling, we get off our moral high horses here and look for solutions instead of merely pointing out the problem. We all see that it exists, I think.
We'll have to agree to disagree, here: if "father" is a biological term, of course, biologically, that's what "father" means. But that's not what "father" means. Using a biological term in a sociological or psychological sense is a logical "shift in the middle." And legal language shifts with culture, so that doesn't help. "Pater," "mater," and "parere" even change meaning when they were incorporated by Old English to ajust to that culture's political expectations and social assumptions. "Father" simply is not stable. I would suggest "male parent," but even that is difficult. I will admit to surprise to learn that geneticists use the terms "father" and "mother" in their work, but from what you say, that's the case. Not good: isn't science supposed to at least try to operate outside of social mores? It can't be done, of course, because scientists are human beings, part of their culture and far from "self-funded." That said, scientists are supposed to try for societal neutrality.
Honestly, in my opinion, Amy is not demonstrating that she really cares much about the children's happiness at all. All she seems to carry about are her rigid, blind dictums.

In a family in which the parents do not want to be married and are deeply unhappy, I find it hard to countenance just staying together 'for the kids' as a blanket solution. Children know when their parents are unhappy and, from experience, it is much worse and makes you feel much guiltier to live in that situation than if your parents are happy and divorced. It's even more true when you are a child in a family in which it is known to you that one of your parents doesn't want you.

Even a couple with the very best of intentions when they decide to have a child can find themselves in a situation in which staying together is psychologically healthy for no one, not the parents, not the child(ren).

I'll throw my vote in the people who have said that loving parents are the best thing, in whatever form they occur.
edirby .... that's pretty much sums up the way we're thinking.
edirby writes: "My partner and I do not believe that the government should be in the business of legitimizing human relationships and have decided to not get married. This does not mean that we do not honor our relationship. This does not mean that we do not plan to be together forever. This does not mean that when we have children our children will somehow be without a father or a mother. This means that every day we choose to be together voluntarily with no contractual obligations and without the historical baggage of marriage. It's a beautiful way to live and when people evolve a bit more maybe they will realize that marriage is an unnecessary and anarchonistic institution."

The problem is that the way you think about your relationship is largely formed by the concept of traditional marriage -- commitment, faithfulness, forever, and so on. Those also are part of what you call the "historical baggage" of marriage, though apparently they are baggage that you wish to retain.

As increasing numbers of couples begin to think like you do and cohabit instead of marrying, eventually commitment, faithfulness, and forever will begin to disappear. Right now, though not married, your relationship is based on the model of traditional marriage, and you are living off of that legacy. 20, 30, 50 years from now that model will no longer be there, and that legacy will be nothing more than an historical curiosity, something to be studied in a sociology class on how people used to live. And when that happens, what kind of relationships will the people of that generation have, and what will happen to their children?

Remember, societies not only evolve, they also devolve.
Wow. I don't consider my husband optional, and having a child should be a carefully considered decision. But after that you lose me. I know some fantastic lesbian parents, and a really terrific single mother. My vote is for two loving parents, I don't care which gender. (the only reason I vote for two is that parenting is tough and it helps to have someone to spell you)

As a veteran of in vitro, I don't like getting in the business of telling responsible, hopefully financially secure people that they don't get to be parents. There are plenty of people who feel like we should have adopted out of social services instead of pursuing our dream of a healthy newborn. Because for some reason, the infertile have a special responsibility to unwanted children that the fertile don't.

Sandra No Longer Miller - beautifully said.
"As increasing numbers of couples begin to think like you do and cohabit instead of marrying, eventually commitment, faithfulness, and forever will begin to disappear."

Mishima, why are you convinced this is so? I don't think anyone is saying that commitment, faithfulness and so on are at risk. What's the difference between cohabitation and marriage besides the ring and signature on a piece of paper? If cohabitation is built on the same principles as traditional marriage, then what's the difference? What is it about marriage, except tradition, that makes it so much better? I believe I hear you suggesting that marriage, and marriage alone, implies true and genuine commitment.
mishima, I think cultural evolution is all about taking the parts of traditions that make sense and dropping the parts that do not make sense. For me this means taking the aspects of marriage that I truly respect and value like "commitment, faithfulness, and forever" and dropping the religious context because I'm not religious and dropping the women as property context because, well, I think we've moved beyond that...I share with AshKW's opinion that the "commitment, faithfulness, and forever" aspects of traditional marriage will endure over the idea of asking permission to share your life with someone else from the church or from the government. I think it's ultimately about whether you believe that people are mostly good and should be free to make decisions on their own or you believe people are mostly bad and should be subject to an authoritarian culture that makes decisions for them. Well, just my two cents. I really should be working right now!
Aaron writes: "So I don't understand why you say that traditional marriage is taking a lumping right now."

For the reasons I mentioned earlier. For example, edirby just called marriage "an unnecessary and anarchonistic institution." As that kind of thinking becomes more popular traditional marriage becomes increasing devalued.

Aaron: "Those who would choose a traditional family, like you and I, have every right to do so."

The reason that we chose that option is probably because the traditional family is the norm. Most people consider it to be the only reasonable option. Were we to be reared in a society in which the "traditional" family was no longer traditional, no longer the norm, something no longer actively supported by the State, but something done mostly by religious fundamentalists and the Amish, would we really choose that option? I suspect not. It would be seen as quaint and outmoded.

Aaron: "Moreover, whose traditions do we trust? Those of Europe? Those of Africa? Because each of these places have different traditional ways of rearing children. Are you saying that the traditional way of raising children of Europe promotes success better than the traditions of other places? Surely, even within Europe there is great variance in the traditions of raising children."

Well, we have our own tradition, even as there are a number of minor variations in that tradition, especially with respect to the role of the extended family. But just because there are other traditions doesn't mean that we should abandon ours. I think that people who don't perceive the value of tradition -- and I'm not saying that you are one of them -- miss something very important. I totally reject the idea that we can simply "reinvent" ourselves every generation, and ditch the older traditions. Well, actually we can do that, and that is what many people recommend. But I think we lose a lot in the process. And for what? A kind of experiment in radical individualism in which each person's desires and whims have to be catered to without regard for the consequences.

Aaron: "None of it makes sense, other than the fact that Amy sees herself as some kind of moral authority who is unwilling to even entertain alternative interpretations of reality in any way."

She's making a moral argument based on the rights of children. As I read her she's making the case that the right of children to have a mother and father in the home trumps the right of individual adults knowingly to make alternative arrangements that don't include that.

I get her point, but I'm not sure that's the strongest argument. I'm making a cultural argument. I'm arguing for the importance of preserving the ideal of the traditional marriage and family over and above conducting a social experiment in which the traditional family is seen as only one option among many, and perhaps not even the best option. I'm arguing against reinventing ourselves and ending up in a situation the consequences of which may be both unfortunate and unforseeable. I'm arguing against the idea that these new ill-defined relationship configurations will serve us just as well as the well-defined traditional family, as imperfect as that institution may be.

Aaron: "Thanks for listening and reading."

And to you too.

AshKW writes: "What's the difference between cohabitation and marriage besides the ring and signature on a piece of paper? If cohabitation is built on the same principles as traditional marriage, then what's the difference? What is it about marriage, except tradition, that makes it so much better? I believe I hear you suggesting that marriage, and marriage alone, implies true and genuine commitment."

The difference is that marriage is based on and informed by tradition. I've never heard anyone say "we're going to try out marriage for a few months and see if it works for us." I suppose it can happen, but I haven't heard it. Marriage is based on "for richer for poorer, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part." While one can marry without taking that vow, the vow is part of the tradition. Marriage implies commitment, faithfulness, and permanence. It entails certain rights and responsibilities and there is a massive body of law detailing those rights and responsibilities.

What does cohabitation imply? We don't know. In itself it implies nothing. We would have to ask the cohabiting couple what they think it implies. Maybe a lot, maybe little. Maybe a month, a year, or a lifetime. Again, we don't know.

And let me answer a question with a question. What is the difference between the U.S. military and mercenaries such as Blackwater? Members of the U.S. military have taken a vow of allegiance. They share a common culture going back to the founding of the country. They are under military customs and traditions -- the uniform and respect for the uniform, the salute and respect for superiors. They operate under military law. They are immersed in a culture of loyalty to one's fellow soldiers. If fallen, they expect not to be left on the field of battle. When wounded they expect to be cared for. And we honor them for their service.

What do we expect from Blackwater? We don't know. To what or whom is their loyalty? We don't know. Under what laws do they operate? We don't know. When the shit hits the fan will they stay or take the next flight home? We don't know. What are our obligations as a nation to them? Good question.

In the U.S. military there are bad soldiers, even criminals. There are good soldiers who go bad. There are military leaders who make bad decisions. No doubt there are Blackwater employees who are better than many U.S. soldiers. But imagine a world in which there were no military, no military traditions, no military culture, just Blackwater. Just people who do whatever they like as the mood strikes, some no doubt devoted and others of questionable devotion. What would that be like?

To some extent it is the same with traditional marriage and family. There is a structure and defined roles. There are expectations. There is a commitment. As I said before, cohabiting couples who exhibit the same commitment as married couples do so because traditional marriage exists as a normative model for them to emulate. But what would society be like without that model to emulate?
So, presumably a homosexual couple who have a civil partnership (lifelong legal commitment, that requires legal action to be dissolved)...

http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts2004/ukpga_20040033_en_1

And plan to have a family that they raise together, the non-biological parent to a child(ren) having legal parental responsibility...

http://www.civilpartnerships.org.uk/ParentalResponsibility.htm

would fulfill your criterion that the the interests of the child have priority over the interests of parents?

If not, is that because one of the couple is not a biological parent. In which case, do you have a problem with adoption? (in which neither are?), with gamete donation?
edirby writes: "I think it's ultimately about whether you believe that people are mostly good and should be free to make decisions on their own or you believe people are mostly bad and should be subject to an authoritarian culture that makes decisions for them."

Even good people need help in knowing how to act. This is what cultural traditions do for us, especially as they define roles. Yes, of course, there is something authoritarian about having a role defined for you. On the other hand, sometimes tradition is wiser than we are. Sometimes there is a real reason for tradition, that might not always be readily apparent on the surface.

Traditions can evolve over time, and not all traditions are good. Some (e.g., slavery) are evil. But on the whole I think we have to be very cautious in altering or disposing of tradition, especially when it comes to traditions that have formed the foundation of our culture for many years.
"No one has yet made a convincing case (or any case, actually)that a mother or father's need for personal fulfillment can or should trump a child's basic needs for his biological parents."

Well, I have yet to see reasoning for why a child NEEDS his biological parents, as opposed to just two adults who love and care for him. I mean, sure, ideally, the two people who conceived the child will be the two to stick around and provide/care for the child, but we hardly live in an ideal world. (And, of course, that still leaves out the homosexual couples who want to raise children, and infertiles, and people who just choose to adopt for whatever reason).

"child's right to have married parents."

And I still haven't seen how it is a child's RIGHT to have married parents, especially since it makes about zero difference to the kid whether or not his parents are married or living together happily. Since marriage does not guarantee ANYTHING, how does it make a difference?

"That doesn't mean that it justifies destroying a child's happiness."

But you're assuming that it WOULD destroy a child's happiness. There's no way to know that for any given child or any given family.
Poogleso213 said: "And I still haven't seen how it is a child's RIGHT to have married parents, especially since it makes about zero difference to the kid whether or not his parents are married or living together happily. Since marriage does not guarantee ANYTHING, how does it make a difference?"

That's exactly what I have been saying. It doesn't make a difference if the parents are married or not since marriage does not guarantee anything.
The following is a version of this so toned down as to be nearly ineffective. Let me just say that I am the father of a gorgeous daughter whom I love more than I can say. However, it is with a woman so vile and self centered that no matter what I do. Be it drug tests, parenting classes, supervised visitation centers... ANYTHING I do. It's not enough. Long story short, I haven't seen my daughter in 8 months, and that's not for lack of trying. Court dates get pushed back, canceled or skipped. Full disclosure I am a mixed race man, 28. I have a great job, which I've had the whole time, I pay insurance I have a car etc. She works as a waitress I believe and says I don't do enough. This posting is absolutely 1 sided nonsense. I, as a father, have no rights whatsoever. I wasn't even told I had a daughter until she was 2 years old. But instead of that being a bad thing on her part, the court looked at ME as if I'd hidden the fact that I'd been pregnant and had a child. Slapped me with nearly $10,000 in back child support, and threatened all kinds of nastiness. So I'm sorry Amy, you don't know jack about the real situation. Please keep your limited viewpoint to yourself.
It appears you are in moral disagreement with homosexuals like me marrying and raising children. The 'moral argument' you ask for as defense?
G-d made me.
Mishima666.

Wow! I heartily agree with your eloquent explanation.
I don't buy this argument that a gay parent is substituting a biological parent with a substitute.

My own daughter was conceived through artificial insemination with donor sperm. Her dad (not her biological father) is her dad, period. He's been there from day one and before. I don't see how it has made a lick of difference to her wellness. I have no idea who the biological dad is, but her dad is a great father.

Same deal with gay men who adopt or use a surrogate. They agree from the get-go to commit to be parents together.
AshKW:

"Why is a biological family unit, defined in a very hetero-normative way, composed of one biological mother and one biological father, so infinitely superior to any other arrangement?"

First of all, "hetero-normative" is redundant. Heterosexuality IS normative, regardless of what anyone would like to pretend.

Children want to know their parents. Children want to live with their parents. Children have a moral right to both know and live with their parents. It has absolutely nothing to do with how anyone wants to define "family." The biological parents of the child are his or her parents, no matter how convenient it might be for adults to pretend otherwise.

"I think that if we continue to stigmatize in this way, saying this is right, and that is wrong, lumping everyone together (this was pointed out already, I think) regardless of those nasty intangibles, you're setting yourself up for trouble."

Why shouldn't we stigmatize in this way? Why shouldn't we call attention to and chide parents who put their own desires ahead of children's needs? It makes those parents feel bad? They OUGHT to feel bad. They are not entitled to feel good about something simply because they want to do it.

Most of the people who are defending parents here are thoroughly ignoring the voices of children. It's as if they don't exist, or as if they are mere extensions of the parents. I am speaking for those children.

The loss of a parent, through abandonment or divorce breaks a child's heart. It is unspeakably self indulgent for a parent to think that he or she has a right to break a child's heart merely to pursue his or her own fulfillment.
Winona W. Wendth:

"But that's not what "father" means. "

That is EXACTLY what father means, and no one is entitled to redefine it to suit themselves or soothe their own guilt.

As I just said above, depriving a child of living with a biological parent (either through abandonment of divorce) breaks a child's heart. No one is entitled to do that.
linp:

"Children know when their parents are unhappy and, from experience, it is much worse and makes you feel much guiltier to live in that situation than if your parents are happy and divorced."

Perhaps that is your personal experience, but that is not what the data in the aggregate shows. It shows that abandonment and divorce are devastating and traumatic for children. When you take on the moral commitment of having children, their right to an intact home comes before the parent's right to happiness.
edirby:

"Marriage is inherently a religious institution."

The history of marriage is religious, but in first world countries today, it is a legal institution recognized and favored primarily because of its benefits for children.

Gay people are fighting for the right to marry and it is obviously not because they are religious.
Judith Green:

"If not, is that because one of the couple is not a biological parent. In which case, do you have a problem with adoption? (in which neither are?), with gamete donation?"

Yes, it is wrong to deliberately deprive a child of his or her biological parent. In the case of adoption, the biological parents have BOTH chosen to deprive the child of a mother AND a father. In that case, it is beneficial for others to parent the child.

Early in my career I used to think that gamete donation was, like adoption, utterly harmless to children. I have since been educated by adoptees and others about the psychic wounds of being "abandoned" by biological parents, and I no longer think it is so simple any more.
Dr. Amy: Why is it obvious that gay people are not fighting for the right to marry because they are religious? I tend to think of gay people as a fairly diverse crowd, which includes the religious and non-religious. And I do mention that marriage has become a civil instition in my post...
Poogles:

"I mean, sure, ideally, the two people who conceived the child will be the two to stick around and provide/care for the child, but we hardly live in an ideal world."

We don't live in an ideal world because ADULTS choose to make it less than ideal. Abandonment and divorce are not like the weather: things that just happen over which we have no control. Another way to say what I have been saying is that parents have no moral right to make a child's world less than ideal by favoring their own desires.
FYI - kids do not always want their parents to stay married. When my father moved out, I helped pack his clothes. Having to live with a bipolar father was not a picnic and sometimes it was a nightmare as you never knew what was coming. Sometimes divorce is good for the kids too.
"The loss of a parent, through abandonment or divorce breaks a child's heart. It is unspeakably self indulgent for a parent to think that he or she has a right to break a child's heart merely to pursue his or her own fulfillment."

So this is really about Divorce and not really about fathers at all. If your spose is a constant cheater, suck it up and drive on for the sake of the children. Once a child comes into your life, happiness and fullfillment are only defined by what is inclusive of the family unit. Anything else is unspeakably self indulgent. Are you basically shinning the 'light' into the divorce corner and hoping to step on some of the the roaches scurrying out?

I agree, divorce is not a good thing. Is it the end of the world for the children? No. Not.At.All. In some cases, it's a new beginning.

Maybe the next post should be 'Drinking is bad' and go on from there for all the good the answer from that would do for us. The brilliant thing about this post was not the simple answer 'sure, kids should have both parents in their life - if they don't the parents are losers' - but all the side arguments about what really constitutes a family unit and what its place in society is. those are absolutely awesome. we need more of those :)

Peece!
David
someonelse:

"I wasn't even told I had a daughter until she was 2 years old. But instead of that being a bad thing on her part, the court looked at ME as if I'd hidden the fact that I'd been pregnant and had a child. Slapped me with nearly $10,000 in back child support, and threatened all kinds of nastiness."

But that's just because of the attitude I am condemning. The attitude is that fathers are optional, mothering is a lifestyle choice, and parents wants take precedence over children's needs.

If people were looking at what your daughter needed, instead of what her mother wanted, your situation would be dramatically different.
Robin sneed:

"It appears you are in moral disagreement with homosexuals like me marrying and raising children."

I have no disagreement with marriage between two adults, regardless of gender. I do have a big moral disagreement with severing a child's ties with its father simply because you happen to love someone else. It's not gender specific; it's the exact same argument that applies to divorce and remarriage.
David:

"So this is really about Divorce and not really about fathers at all."

No, although many people would prefer that it were. I've said it many times already: A child has a moral right to two resident biological parents. Nothing that the parents want trumps that right. It's very simple: Children's needs come first.
Oh - wweeeell in that case, they do come first. :) The side issues are still riveting though.

Thanks again,
David
I see very few people representing (or even bothering to consider) the rights, needs and feelings of the child. It's all about "I want," I need," I don't like," etc.

Tear a parent away from a child and you break that child's heart. I'd like to see someone give me a good reason why they have any right to break a child's heart that isn't fundamentally selfish.
Fathers are important. I grew up without mine as m uch as either of us would have liked, and although my grandfather was very loving and did his best, it was not easy on either party, and has been a lifetime source of hurt for both of us. Women ought to ask themselves if they think they are optional in their children's lives.
AmyTuteur said:
"Perhaps that is your personal experience, but that is not what the data in the aggregate shows. It shows that abandonment and divorce are devastating and traumatic for children. "

How come the aggregate data are relevant when they support the assertion that unhappily married parents should stay together 'for the children,' but irrelevant when they indicate that two same-sex parents are just as good as two heterosexual parents?

It just makes no sense to say that a loving, intentional, non-biological parent is somehow an inadequate substitute for an anonymous sperm donor.
I think Mishima 666 is totally right on here. We are rapidly creating anarchy of a form that resembles what preceded Brave New World, and it is nutty.
"We don't live in an ideal world because ADULTS choose to make it less than ideal. "

Thanks for clearing that one up. Now I know who to blame. It's not God or The Devil, it's adults and their selfishness.

"I'd like to see someone give me a good reason why they have any right to break a child's heart that isn't fundamentally selfish."

To protect the child's physical safety. Wow, that was tough.

"Children have a moral right to both know and live with their parents. It has absolutely nothing to do with how anyone wants to define "family." The biological parents of the child are his or her parents, no matter how convenient it might be for adults to pretend otherwise."

You clearly don't bother to read your comments. Re-read Freedomisgreen's post on Richard Weissbourd.

Your reponse to Teendoc is most perplexing. You seem to think that having two parents is critical in ensuring a child's development, but yet no other societal factors (say, for example, positive images of marriage in one's own community) have any weight at all.

You admit to being judgemental. So be honest! You are anti-adoption. You are anti-divorce (in all cases) when children are involved. You oppose children being raised by ANYONE other than the two genetic donors who created their DNA.

A very small worldview indeed.
Count me as another of those who would have benefited, as a child, had my parents decided to divorce rather than stay in an unhealthy relationship. I and my siblings prayed for years that my father would leave, and were grateful when my mother finally left him once most of us were out of the house. I suppose she thought she was doing what was best for us by staying with him so long, but we'd all have become mentally healthier adults had we been raised only by her and not by our two biological parents.

This issue is not nearly as simple as you make it to be.
pontificatrix:

"It just makes no sense to say that a loving, intentional, non-biological parent is somehow an inadequate substitute for an anonymous sperm donor."

That's not the choice. The choice is between a loving intention biological parent and a loving, intentional non-biological parent.
K Schecter:

"Now I know who to blame. It's not God or The Devil, it's adults and their selfishness."

Right. It's not external forces beyond our control. It's us.

"You oppose children being raised by ANYONE other than the two genetic donors who created their DNA."

No, I oppose parents severing a child's relationship with a biological parent because it is convenient or meets the primary parents desires.

I've said it a zillion times already, but I'll say it again: A child has a MORAL right to a live in relationship with a mother and a father. I oppose anyone who thinks their personal preferences are more important that their child's moral right to a mother and a father.
Don Rich:

"Fathers are important. I grew up without mine as much as either of us would have liked, and although my grandfather was very loving and did his best, it was not easy on either party, and has been a lifetime source of hurt for both of us."

Thank you for that perspective.
RogerF:

"Is adultery reason enough to put Little Johnny's happiness at risk?"

No. Ask the many women (and some men) who tolerate it, and they will agree.


If Amy is married with not-yet-grown children, she just gave her husband free rein to have affairs...

ba-dum-bump!

But seriously, folks... Damon Runyon said, "The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet."

I suspect Amy looked at the research and saw that it is most likely that a child will turn out well raised by a happy heterosexual couple, and then in her charming inflexible black-and-white way decided that in order to maximize the number of children who turn out well, only this model should be followed, and no other. Which is certainly an intellectually defensible position, but not one that most people would probably agree with.

I also disagree with her rigid definition of "biological" family -- I would include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, in fact the whole extended family that has been the norm for humans for most of our existence. Those are also biological family members.

I would say that the quality of a child's parenting lies on a continuum, with the single poor unemployed mother in the projects at one extreme, and the large extended loving close-knit extended family at the other. Everything else is in between, and I think Amy kind of fetishizes the mother-father-child triangle, when to me it's just on the continuum (though closer to the good end, I think).

From what I remember of my developmental psychology classes, children thrive best when they are able to form secure attachments to adults of both sexes, meaning they need adult men and women to love and care for them. I think the research shows that this is most likely in the case of happy hetero marriages, though also probably in happy large extended families too. But that doesn't mean it can't be done in other circumstances; it's just harder, for example, for a single mother to find a man to form a loving attachment with her child. (Thus the formation of organizations like Big Brothers/Big Sisters).

But it's all a continuum -- I'm sure there's someone out there who would accuse Amy of advocating child neglect by favoring the mother-father-child setup over the extended family setup.
mabinogi:

"This issue is not nearly as simple as you make it to be."

I never said it was simple. What I said is that the primary parent has no right to deprive the child of the live in relationship with the other biological parent. If the child wants no relationship with the other biological parent, that is entirely different. Then the mother's wants and the child's needs are congruent.

However, if the mother's desires and the child's needs are not congruent, the child's needs take moral precedence.
"A child has a moral right to two resident biological parents. Nothing that the parents want trumps that right. It's very simple: Children's needs come first."

I asked this question before and I don't think that it was answered. Who bestows this right upon a child to have two biological parents? It's usually the best arrangement, but not always. But where does this right come from?
LogIn ID:

"with the single poor unemployed mother in the projects at one extreme, and the large extended loving close-knit extended family at the other."

But the single poor unemployed mother would strongly disagree with you. She will argue that her love is just as good as yours. What will you say to her?
RogerF:

"Who bestows this right upon a child to have two biological parents?"

Every child HAS two biological parents. No one has to bestow that on a child.
I think what a lot of commenters are missing here is that Dr. Amy doesn't think that a couple (be they homosexual or heterosexual) adopting a child is inherently wrong. The problem she has with adoption is that the child's biological parents gave them up because it was more convenient, or because they felt they "had to." If the biological parents "had to" give up their child for adoption, they probably shouldn't have had the child.

No child is eligible for adoption because the adoptive couple wants the child. A child only becomes eligible for adoption when his biological parents cannot or will not take care of him or her, which is a violation of their moral obligation as biological parents. As such, I find (and I hope Dr. Amy finds) it hard to fault the adoptive couple for depriving a child of his or her biological parents. It's not their fault the biological parents gave the child up.
Yes, I remember from 7th grade biology that every child has two biological parents. My question, again, is: What authority makes it that a father or mother has no right to end that arrangement?
RogerF:

"What authority makes it that a father or mother has no right to end that arrangement?"

Nobody has the right to break a child's heart. Do you disagree?
TheOneAndOnlyT:

"As such, I find (and I hope Dr. Amy finds) it hard to fault the adoptive couple for depriving a child of his or her biological parents. It's not their fault the biological parents gave the child up."

Exactly!
But the single poor unemployed mother would strongly disagree with you. She will argue that her love is just as good as yours. What will you say to her?

What can I say? All I can do is wish her the best of luck. As you have pointed out, the research and statistics show that the odds are she'll have a tougher time. Not that every poor single mother will screw up, just that the odds are more likely that she will, compared to the HHMC (happy heterosexual married couple).
Aaron writes: "Mishima, as far as Amy's argument for children's rights go, I gave her a REAL moral argument that clearly states if you really care for a child, then you will find it the most loving, supportive and giving environ you can find for it, despite it's conformity with what you are anyone else sees as the norm. In some cases this mean a two parent, hetero-sexual family that fits her prescription of a biological family. In some cases it will not. But that is an actual moral argument that does not depend on some ill-conceived-of idea of 'birthrights' of this kind or another."

Actually, I think I agree with you, but with this reservation --

I think we have to distinguish between two different situations. First, there is the situation in which a child ends up having to live without the presence of parents of both genders, typically through divorce, death, abuse, abandonment, or some similar situation. These situations are tragic and many times avoidable, but sometimes not avoidable.

Second, there is the situation in which one or more adults act by design so as to place a child in a situation in which they know up front that the child will not have parents of both genders.

I can't speak for Amy, but I get the impression that the core of her argument speaks more specifically to the second situation. I think she's saying that it's a fundamental human right at least to have a shot at having a normal family situation, even if it ultimately doesn't work out that way. It's an interesting argument that I haven't heard before, and I'd have to think about it.

As a corollary to that, I think she's also saying that biological relationships are not trivial things and shouldn't be seen as trivial.

For example, pontificatrix says that "It just makes no sense to say that a loving, intentional, non-biological parent is somehow an inadequate substitute for an anonymous sperm donor."

But why is the male in that situation just "an anonymous sperm donor?" It's because we make him that. It's a conspiracy, if you will, to make him that. But often times children know better -- they know that somewhere in the world is a man who is responsible for half of their genetic makeup -- half of who they are as human beings.

One woman, the product of her mother's interaction with a sperm bank, writes in the Washington Post about the experience of missing that half of herself:

I was angry at the idea that where donor conception is concerned, everyone focuses on the "parents" -- the adults who can make choices about their own lives. The recipient gets sympathy for wanting to have a child. The donor gets a guarantee of anonymity and absolution from any responsibility for the offspring of his "donation." As long as these adults are happy, then donor conception is a success, right?

Not so. The children born of these transactions are people, too. Those of us in the first documented generation of donor babies -- conceived in the late 1980s and early '90s, when sperm banks became more common and donor insemination began to flourish -- are coming of age, and we have something to say.

I'm here to tell you that emotionally, many of us are not keeping up. We didn't ask to be born into this situation, with its limitations and confusion. It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

We offspring are recognizing the right that was stripped from us at birth -- the right to know who both our parents are.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/15/AR2006121501820.html

If this is a common experience for people who were brought into existence that way, then I think you would agree that it's not a matter of Amy asserting a birthright that doesn't exist, but rather, of these people claiming that birthright for themselves. In that regard I think some of the people here are arguing with the wrong person. Rather than telling Amy that such a birthright doesn't exist, they need to tell the children produced by these sperm banks that such a birthright doesn't exist. And I'm sure that would be a very interesting conversation.
Does a parent have the right to break a childs heart over something less drastic than divorce... like cancelling a Disneyland trip because Dad lost his job? Or does this right only apply to the most severe circumstances? And where do you draw the line?
And, please answer my question.
I strongly disagree with your assertion that bio-parents have a moral obligation to PARENT their children as best they can. I believe, rather, that bio-parents have a moral obligation to provide for the best PARENTING of their children they can.

I believe that bio-parents can make a morally correct decision to entrust their child to the care of another, IF the bio-parents circumstances make it impossible or even highly improbable for them to provide the safety, security and nurturing that a child deserves.

This is the foundation of adoption. Adoption is not simply some convenience for the selfish with other options; it is more typically the last resort of RESPONSIBLE bio-parents who lack other options.

To suggest that bio-parents who lovingly entrust their children to others are somehow selfish or morally inferior is disgraceful.
"If the child wants no relationship with the other biological parent, that is entirely different. Then the mother's wants and the child's needs are congruent."

Since when did a child's wants suddenly become a needs? The child either needs the other parent or they don't. If a child doesn't want what they need, then suddenly they don't need it any more? Logic = FAIL
@TheOneAndOnlyT

"A child only becomes eligible for adoption when his biological parents cannot or will not take care of him or her, which is a violation of their moral obligation as biological parents."

Which is it? Cannot? Or will not? Both?

Cannot = no choice = not moral or immoral = oops!
Will not --> why?

Regardless of what moral code you prefer, it's the why rather than the action that USUALLY determines morality. Absolute statements rarely work.
"Absolute statements rarely work."

No they usuallyt don't... not in this lifetime anyway.
What a gutsy, strong, well argued point! I read your posts a lot and don't always agree but, the fact that children deserve at least a real attempt at having two parents present is undeniable. And, while I've never heard it articulated before reading this post, it is selfish to intentionaly plan to give a child one parent.

I don't feel, however, that a two same sex parent household is comparable to an intentional single parent household.
mishima666:

"I get the impression that the core of her argument speaks more specifically to the second situation. I think she's saying that it's a fundamental human right at least to have a shot at having a normal family situation, even if it ultimately doesn't work out that way."

Yes. That is the core of my argument.

It is interesting that everyone promptly extrapolated. Virtually all commentors agree that it is irresponsible for a father to desert a child and irresponsible for a mother to bear a child while having no intention of letting that child have a relationship with his or her father. Why? Because they recognize that the mother's desire for the child is second to the child's needs for a two parent family.

That created a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. People realized that if it was wrong for a single black teen to have a child with no intention of having a relationship with his or her father, than it is equally wrong for rich woman to have a child with no intention of allowing that child a live in relationship with his or her father. And it is equally wrong for a rich woman to tear apart a child's relationship with his or her father simply to satisfy the mother's urge for a different partner.

But they WANT to do it anyway, and most of the comments have been of people trying to justify putting their wants ahead of their child's needs. A lot of people seem to think that an adult wanting something or really, really wanting something means that the adult deserves it. They don't. The child's needs come first.
RogerF:

"like cancelling a Disneyland trip"

Are you seriously suggesting that a father is no more important than a trip to Disneyland?
Charles Williams:

"the fact that children deserve at least a real attempt at having two parents present is undeniable."

That's it, in a nutshell.
"Perhaps that is your personal experience, but that is not what the data in the aggregate shows. It shows that abandonment and divorce are devastating and traumatic for children. When you take on the moral commitment of having children, their right to an intact home comes before the parent's right to happiness."

I read this argument in a book that was based on long term studies of children of divorce. Surprisingly, the statement is one that actually made me choose to get divorced. BECAUSE THE LOGIC IS ABSURD!

I want my daughter to be happy. When she grows up and gets married, I want her to be happy. My parents wanted the same for me. They didn't want me to be in a bad marriage. One generation's mother is another's daughter. Which role trumps?

You cannot live for the next generation, only yourself. Each generation should not be miserable for the sake of the next one's happiness. You can only choose your own happiness and treat your children with all the love you possibly can.
"the fact that children deserve at least a real attempt at having two parents present is undeniable."

That's it, in a nutshell.

Seriously? Because, you know, that's not an argument; that's just an assertion larded up with rhetorical devices. I might with equal gravity respond, "The fact that this is an unsupported assertion is undeniable." Pontificatrix asked a question that's still hanging...

What's the moral principle at work here, anyway?
DrAmy "The key words in that sentence are "I think." There's no data to substantiate it."

Ugh. First: I hope you do indeed read your Harvard colleague's book, Richard Weissbourd "The Parents We Mean To Be" as he was indeed speaking from voluminous data ... even if he conversationally used the saying "I think" during the live interview process.

Second: There is no data for a 'moral' argument. So there would be no data to back many fo the arguments you have made here today.
Sorry Doc, I'm kinda just getting over 8 years of folks who never concede a point...ever...so you're not gettin another click outta me....
I'm with freedom. It's pretty obvious Amy and I will not ever come to a middle ground on this issue.

It's still been a pleasure to have a non-confrontational conversation without the usual blue streak disagreements involve. Thank you all for your thoughts.
AshKW:

"Thank you all for your thoughts."

I definitely can agree with you on that.
I'm not suggesting anything of the sort. You don't like to answer questions do you?
Re: Gamete donation - a dear (married) friend's beautiful daughter was conceived with the aid of a sperm donor. All of the children of gamete donation who are complaining of their origins need to ponder the alternative: They would not exist.

I know my family history for three generations - the mental illness, spousal abuse, infanticide and incest. Count me in for one who would have liked a fresh and anonymous start with some gamete donors. As I said before, growing up with a bipolar father was no fun. But, given my choices, I would still choose existence.

I would never have chosen to undertake parenthood without a partner and blessed be, irresponsibility is rampant, but who made you the arbiter of who is worthy of children? If I listened to the Catholic Church, my beautiful daughter would not exist because we needed in vitro to conceive her.

BTW - you never bothered to address the fact that there are real and valid reasons for divorce. Spousal abuse, child abuse, incest, substance abuse to name a few. It must be nice to sit in an ivory tower and pass judgment on the mortals - but when some man is mistreating your daughter and grandchildren, you will be thanking God for no fault divorce - not telling your child she has to endure for the children.
Well, as long as we're going for absolutes here, I guess we might as well veer to the edge and drag in the Virgin Mary. Did the father of her child show his commitment through marriage? Or did Mary feel that having a resident father in her child’s life was optional? What if Joseph had said, “I’m outta here?” He might have if free will exists. What would you say then? Or is this all a myth.

I appreciate the spirit of your post but the absolutes? ............... oh if life were only that easy.
Dr. Amy, thank you for this post tonight. I am located on the West coast and it's late here, so I know many folks have turned in for the night. I am old enough to remember Dr. Morris Massey and his "What You Are Is Where You Were When " teachings. I took everyone's opinion, and yours, into account tonight and feel that your post did pin some fine people here in their attemps to disagree and agree. I agree with all of your points and hope that it will continue raising awareness for the "need" to get men to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child - it's the courage to raise one.

"Absent fathers "do" represent a serious social problem, and a serious moral problem."

It is good to know that there are still traditional people in "my" society that adhere to their convictions. Thanks given to: "mishima666" for stepping up to the plate and "speaking up" in many ways to the overall picture painted on this electronic canvas to explain "tradition" in these United States. I hope we can unite together and hope that all men and women will realize that all children have these rights. It "is" our responsibility to be parents and place our children's needs above our own...no matter what.
Thanks and goodnight.
I commend you on educating us on a value that seems lost in our culture. The statistics are probably understated, and truly believe the predominance of single parent households has numerous ramification for society at large.
The keyword here being "unmarried" doesn't really mean single parent only. The stats here are rather skewed in my opinion if they're basing this on marriage only. There are a lot of couples who aren't getting married, they don't see marriage as necessary, but they're having children and raising them together, in the same household. Apparently the CDC doesn't take that into account, typical government wanting us to register as married.

What is the percentage of REAL single parent house holds, divorcees, etc?
"pontificatrix:

"Why not? Is it because one parent won't have a biological tie to the child? That suggests nobody should ever adopt children."

The former does not suggest the latter. Adoption is entirely different because in the case of adoption, the child has no parents, and it is better to have one than none.

Every child HAS a mother and father, and can only be deprived of them (short of death) by the ACTIONS of a mother or father. And those actions invariably are because abandoning the child (or removing the child from the other biological parent serves the interests of the PARENTS, and ignores the needs of the child. My claim is very straightforward: The child's needs come before the parent's desires.

I realize that placing children's needs above parents' wants is not politically correct. That's because, in our society, children are treated like accessories, not like actual human beings."

wait, so your saying that adoption is a selfish choice by the parents not thinking of the childs well being? I can assure you that is not the case. many parents give the child up for adoption thinking it would be best for the childs needs. I myself can attest to this, my biological mother knew that she couldn't provide what i needed and my aunt/uncle adopted me. while i agree that a child with 2 parents generally turn out better members of society than those with 1 parent, the gender of said parents doesn't matter as long as they are actually involved with the childs life, adoption will work the same way, but the longer it is that a child waits to be adopted the harder it will be on the child for what i think would be obvious reasons
My ex would not allow my sons to meet there future step mother before the wedding. She would also not allow them to come to the wedding. BTW, they were 9 and 10 and live 30 minutes from me.

To her, children are an income producing part of her life, just like her job. She took her first son's father for all he was worth, then had a baby for another couple for tens of thousands of dollars and now she is after me.
I love this post and I love that somebody had the guts to say it. My husband and I were discussing it last night and we got around to what exactly it is that a father provides - assuming that father to be reasonably stable both mentally and spiritually and we both almost simultaneously came out with 'safety'. A stable, loving father provides safety and assurance to a child and that to me is so important in fostering healthy development in people.
MrGarbo:

"It "is" our responsibility to be parents and place our children's needs above our own...no matter what."

Unless and until people are willing to make the moral commitment that a child requires, they shouldn't be having children, no matter how much they might want them.
fakeford:

"The statistics are probably understated, and truly believe the predominance of single parent households has numerous ramification for society at large."

There's no question that we witness the results every day. Even if single parenthood did impact the rest of us with poverty, crime, etc, it would still be wrong. The amount of human suffering that children endure in our society is beyond belief. They don't vote; they don't contribute to political campaigns; and their deepest needs are cavalierly disregarded.
Blockman:

"There are a lot of couples who aren't getting married, they don't see marriage as necessary, but they're having children and raising them together, in the same household."

It doesn't matter that the parents don't see marriage as necessary. It is necessary because it reflects the permanent commitment that children have a right to expect.

I don't believe for an instant that people who don't marry do so as a political statement. They do so specifically because they don't want to make a permanent financial and legal commitment.
ejo:

"A stable, loving father provides safety and assurance to a child and that to me is so important in fostering healthy development in people."

And that's just the beginning of what a father provides. Fathers are not optional for children; those children who have resident biological fathers have an incalculable advantage.
Dr. Amy: I'm sorry to say but you're lagging behind with the literature:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/122/5/e980
If you want to talk morals, you will need a degree in either ethics, theology or divinity studies. For as long as you speak as a scientist, you really ought to stick to the empirical evidence.
Andre Levy:

"I'm sorry to say but you're lagging behind with the literature:
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/122/5/e980
If you want to talk morals, you will need a degree in either ethics, theology or divinity studies. For as long as you speak as a scientist, you really ought to stick to the empirical evidence."

Really? And what empirical evidence is offered by the article you cited, "Risk Factors for Unintentional Injuries in Children: Are Grandparents Protective??
Amy, you realize all of this is just your opinion, don't you? (oh right. you do. in your most recent comment, I just saw that you admitted you are not relying on emperical data.) When I originally read your post, I was merely going to point out that the fact an unmarried woman has a baby does not mean that the child's father is not involved in his life or that the mother thinks the father is not needed. The data you provided does not support that conclusion.

But you made so many assertions and asked so many questions, I decided to respond to a few.

-Are fathers optional?

Of course they are. So are mothers. Many, many children grow up without one or both of their parents. It *can* be done. Two biological parents are not required and not requied is the definition of optional.

-Nobody has a right to break a child's heart?

I certainly do have that right when I am convinced it is in my child's best interest. I exercise that right often enough to teach my children that not all decisions are easy; sometimes it hurts to do the right thing.

-A child's needs come before an adults wants and a child needs both of his parents (assuming they are both alive.)

No they don't *need* them. As I've said before, both parents are optional. Children *need* to be taken care of and loved. If a child can survive and thrive without his parents because both of them are dead, then he can survive and thrive without them for whatever reason they might be absent.


-It is every child's birthright to be raised by both of his biological parents.

No it isn't. Some children get that and some children don't. You made that up. You have no proof or precident for that statement whatsoever, you simply decided it is the case. (It's not.)

-Women who won't get married shouldn't be having children.

Once again, I am reminding you that this is just your opinion. You can't really believe that you have a right to declare who ought to be having children and who shouldn't. Do you?

Oh, wait. Isn't there a place where there are actually laws that tell people who can or can not have children? Remind me how that's working out for them...

According to the Law Library of Congress Executive Summary it's going something like this: "... (country) continues to implement population planning policies that violate international human rights standards. These policies impose government control over women’s reproductive lives, result in punitive actions against citizens not in compliance with the population planning policies, and engender additional abuses by officials who implement the policies at local levels. In 2007, the Party and government leadership reaffirmed its commitment to its population planning policies..." (I can get you a source for that if you like)

In other words, if you are expecting the conventions of tradition and civilization to back you up there, the entire civilized world has decided and implemented **international human rights standards** decrying that women have the right to have babies at their own discretion--not yours.

As I said, I'm not convinced that every (or even most) women who have children out of wedlock do so with the intention of raising a child with no father. But certainly some of them do. You have no proof at all that it would have been better for any specific child to have been raised with both biological parents.

You may be able to find statistical data that shows it is better for society if children are raised with two parents, but you can't possibly know the needs of THAT child. And are you going to put the wants of society above the best interest of a particular child?

I don't have to offer you a statistic of this, the proof is so prolific that I know you only have to look in your own neighborhood to see this is the case. There are children everywhere with all kinds of diverse "family" situations. Some of the children are doing great, some of them are struggling... no matter how many caregivers they have or how they are related. For the ones who are struggling, some of those will be living with both of their biological parents. For those struggling who don't live with both of their biological parents, if their lives are perfect in every other way then you *may* be able to blame their family situations for their problems. But you still won't be able to prove it.

(From a happily married heterosexual mother with nothing to feel guilty about.)
Tenere:

"with nothing to feel guilty about"

That's the point, of course. You did what you wanted to do (presumably at the expense of your child or children) and you don't want to feel guilty about it.

Sorry, all the rationalization in the world doesn't justify putting your desires above your child's needs.

I don't know what you did that led to the proclamation that you don't feel guilty, but you didn't convince me, and I would be willing to be that you didn't even convince yourself.
I guess one of the reasons I come back to the question of moral principles is because I'm interested in moral reasoning, and I think that the notion of having an involved father being among the moral rights of a child leads to unexpected and perhaps unhappy consequences. Here's a thought experiment:

Joe and Jane, happily married, conceive a child together. Two months later, Joe is killed in a car accident. Jane accepts the idea that fathers are not optional for children, and thus concludes that she is morally obligated to have an abortion.

Note that Jane isn't weighing any options; if she is pro-choice, it's a black-and-white issue--she must have the abortion. If she lets the pregnancy go to term, she violates one of the rights of her future child, whereas if she has an abortion the issue goes away. Is this a reasonable analysis?
All single mothers are evil.

Children should be conceived only in marriage.

Dr. Amy's lesson for the day.

I feel so educated and RIGHT now.

Because being RIGHT is so important.

Thank you Dr. Amy.
Don't expect a straight answer ever from this woman.
Amy:

"That's the point, of course. You did what you wanted to do (presumably at the expense of your child or children) and you don't want to feel guilty about it."

What are you talking about? I did what, exactly?

"Sorry, all the rationalization in the world doesn't justify putting your desires above your child's needs."

Again, I have no idea what you are talking about. I'm trying to figure out which of my child's needs you think haven't been met. You are professing to read minds now and you want to talk about rational? Oh, do, let's!

"I don't know what you did that led to the proclamation that you don't feel guilty, but you didn't convince me, and I would be willing to be that you didn't even convince yourself."

You led me to that proclomation when you started accusing your respondents of feeling guilty. Apparently you've not only judged us guilty, you now know what we're all guilty of! LOL
Tenere,
Welcome to the world of trying to have an honest discussion with a woman who has no interest in yours or anyone elses opinions, other than to shoot them down.

In fact, in all of the dozens of posts of hers that I've read, she has never once, never once, never once, replied to a contrary comment by saying that the other person might have a point.

You may wish to stay in this rabbit hole. I'm getting out. I need some help though extracting chunks of brick from my forehead.

Best of luck trying to get a straight answer.
You are absolutely right, Roger!

Divert with a personal attack on my character. :D

Way to prove my point, Amy! By the way, you'd lose your bet.
Rob St. Amant:

"Note that Jane isn't weighing any options; if she is pro-choice, it's a black-and-white issue--she must have the abortion."

No. My post is about deliberately CONCEIVING children when you know that they won't have a resident biological father. It is not about bearing already conceived children, or raising children who are already born.

Everyone wants to focus on everything other than the actual topic of the post. That's because the primary claim of the post is that children's moral needs take priority over parents' desires.

A lot of parents don't want to feel guilty about what they've done, so they are arguing with the central premise by making up ever more absurd scenarios that are meant to demonstrate that parents can be justified in placing their own desires above their children's needs.

Sorry, I'm not buying any of it.
Dorinda Fox:

"Children should be conceived only in marriage."

That's right, Dorinda. Anything else is selfish and self indulgent. Sorry to disappoint those who think their whims and desires come before the moral right of children to have two resident biological parents.

Significantly, very few people seem to care about what children need and want. It's all about the adults, they want what they want when they want it, and too bad for anyone who stands in their way, even their own children.
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
No. No. No.

The statistics used in this article are meaningless and insensitive. And the fall back on 'it's not moral' is incoherent. What are the alternatives?

If a single woman finds herself pregnant, by your argument, is she -morally- responsible for having an abortion? The article indicates it is clearly wrong to bring this child into the world. Or is this all a subtle abstinence only argument? Good luck with either of these positions. While I support a woman's right to choose, I heartily believe:

Extended family > any kind of nuclear family > single parent > abortion!

If it is immoral to have a child that is not in the best of circumstances, is it wrong for a married couple who cannot afford prep schools to have a child? They cannot offer the kid the 'best'.

Granted, if one cannot afford a child, don't have one! If one cannot provide -basic- shelter, education, and a loving community for oneself, the thought of creating a new life to share the unhappiness is not responsible.

But marriage is not necessary. Marriage is a tax-break and paperwork, it is a broken institution and people should not be encouraged to participate because it makes it easier for doctors to collect health and family statistics. Whether people are committed to one another and whether they want to participate in a sham of a religious ritual (that was historically designed to auction off women from one family to another) and whether people are a loving couple who can raise healthy, bright children are quite different subjects.

The article sites the number of children born to unwed mothers, it does not indicate whether these mothers are in committed personal relationships. Secondly, every study I have ever read on children from single parent homes indicates that economic standing is the most important factor in the single parent home. There are at least TWO KINDS of one-parent home. That of the naive, impoverished parent, and that of the modern man/woman who waited until middle age with comfortable economic standing to adopt/create a child. The second group is not a problem. The article sites it is immoral. Why? A good parent will have an active family (grandparents, siblings, etc) who will participate in the child's rearing. The nuclear family is not necessary or better. A single parent with an extended family and sound economic means should have no moral guilt in bringing a life into the world. Two resident biological parents is not a requirement. Military families (where a parent is absent), couples who adopt, homosexual couples, widows/widowers, all do a marvelous job. Having a child is a biological urge, providing is a responsibility, but the marriage document is meaningless.

If a woman opts to have a child and cannot provide a father, she should provide a network of support and oversight. But so should couples.
Again Dr. Amy.

Thank you so much for your wisdom.

Everyone needs a judgmental doctor. They are the very best kind. Compassion is so terribly terribly overrated.

That's my second comment. I don't make three.

So blast away with whatever judgmental retorts you care to write in response.

I'm off trying to improve my life according to your guidelines.

Did you discover yet that judgmental people BUG me.
No. My post is about deliberately CONCEIVING children when you know that they won't have a resident biological father. It is not about bearing already conceived children, or raising children who are already born.

This is the problem with making a bald statement about morality, without grounding it in any specific ethical framework or on specific principles, and wrapping it in deliberately provocative rhetoric (e.g., "parents' whims" versus "childrens' rights"). The discussion devolves into simple disagreements with little possiblity of resolution, and no implications concerning other situations are allowed. It's ad hoc and unconvincing. People who agree will say, "What well-reasoned arguments!" and people who disagree will say, "There's nothing here."
Hm. No. I'm staying on topic. I disagreed with your central premis outright by saying that your data doesn't prove unwed mothers intend to raise children without fathers.

Every other comment I made was a direct response to something you said. I intentionally stayed away from the "what makes a family/what makes a marriage" issue because I don't care. That is irrelevant to my position. I will also keep to myself what I think about fathers who abandon their children. I am strongly opinionated about that, but it's also not relevant.

The point is that as far as the child is concerned, a single woman who has a child alone on purpose, is no different than a woman who finds herself alone for reasons beyond her control.

There is absolutely no difference in their capability to provide care or love for a child. None.

Your issue seems to be (please correct me if I am misreading) with the character (or morals) of a woman who would intentionally bring a child into the world without a dad.

And the question that everyone keeps asking is how you have gotten into a position to decide what morals everyone in the whole wide world (or your suburb or whatever area you are concerned about) should live by.

The answer is: you don't have that authority at all. We all know that. That's why this is an op-ed. It's your blog and your space to type whatever you think about whatever you want--as long as you abide by the TOS.

Just don't think you can fool me with pretend science and by repeating the same untruths over and over again. ;)
Dorinda Fox:

"Did you discover yet that judgmental people BUG me."

Sure. What I haven't discovered is why you think anyone should care about what bugs YOU.

I am not writing to entertain you or to secure your agreement. I wrote this post specifically to act as a voice for the children whose voices are routinely ignored.
AmyTuteur said:
"Everyone wants to focus on everything other than the actual topic of the post. That's because the primary claim of the post is that children's moral needs take priority over parents' desires."

We want to focus on specific implications of your statement because it's the difficult, gray-area situations that test blanket declarations like the one you've made. That is why people are using test cases.

To say simply that 'a child's needs outweigh a parent's desires' sounds good on paper, but it's a very general statement and (as you see) leaves a lot of room for analysis.
""Children should be conceived only in marriage."

That's right, Dorinda. Anything else is selfish and self indulgent. Sorry to disappoint those who think their whims and desires come before the moral right of children to have two resident biological parents."

Again, Amy, this is your OPINION. I have yet to see anything that proves that a child is better in a married home than in a committed (etc) home with unmarried parents. If everything is the same between the two families, except one is married and the other is not, what exactly are the detriments to the child?

"I don't believe for an instant that people who don't marry do so as a political statement. They do so specifically because they don't want to make a permanent financial and legal commitment."

Again, just your OPINION. And I would be willing to bet that you are wrong...sure SOME of them probably are just using it as an excuse, but not ALL of them. Believe it or not, some people can make and KEEP a promise without having to sign documents and proclaiming it in front of their families, their god(s), etc. And, again, considering that a marriage is something you can get out of, I don't see how marriage is some kind of magical guarantee that the promise will be kept.

"No. My post is about deliberately CONCEIVING children when you know that they won't have a resident biological father. It is not about bearing already conceived children, or raising children who are already born."

Ya know, I can agree as far as deliberately conceiving a child knowing you'll go it alone. The biological thing still doesn't hold much water for me. Are there studies that show a child does better when they have both BIO parents in the home, compared to families without one BIO parent, but still two (hell let's even make them hetero) loving parents?

As mishima666 pointed out, some people have a hard time not knowing who their biological parent was/is; that doesn't mean everyone does. I, for one, never met my biological father, and I really don't feel all torn up about it. A little curious, maybe, but my heart is not "broken."

“I wrote this post specifically to act as a voice for the children whose voices are routinely ignored.”

Do you think perhaps you are ignoring the voices of children who grew up in a situation different than your ideal, and loved it? Perhaps didn’t want it any other way?

On somewhat of a side-note, don't you think that all this arguing about the children's needs HAVING to come before the parent's desires is part of what the “Natural Mama’s” a la MDC seem to believe? Therefore, they put all of their children’s needs before their desire to, say, get out of the house alone for awhile or have a full-time job? Or their desire to stop BF’ing because it hurts too much and they want to scream, but the babies have a “right” to BF (after all, that’s the biological default)? Unless you somehow count those as parents’ “needs” as well? (I’m seriously asking how that works into your arguments here, not trying to be snarky or whatever).

BTW, I have no children yet, so no, I am not coming up with my comments from a place of guilt.
Rob writes: "This is the problem with making a bald statement about morality, without grounding it in any specific ethical framework or on specific principles, and wrapping it in deliberately provocative rhetoric (e.g., "parents' whims" versus "childrens' rights"). The discussion devolves into simple disagreements with little possiblity of resolution, and no implications concerning other situations are allowed."

Rob, as you know I've been following the discussion and jumping in once on a while. In considering the total discussion and the various points and counter-points made, I don't think that we are primarily talking about moral principles or even morality per se. I know that Dr. Amy uses the word, but I don't think that's what it is about.

I think that the discussion is really about what the Germans call "Weltanschauung" and we call "worldview." The Wiki article on worldview says that "A worldview describes a consistent (to a varying degree) and integral sense of existence and provides a framework for generating, sustaining, and applying knowledge." A worldview entails certain moral principles and actions, but it itself is not a moral principle; it is more a framework in which moral principles and action can be discussed. If we try to discuss worldviews as if they were moral principles, things just get confusing.

I think what Amy is really trying to do -- or at least what the best version of her argument does -- is to provide a worldview, a framework for understanding a whole complex of issues related to birth, parenting, child rearing, and so on. What she is offering is not so much a moral principle as a moral vision that can guide how we see these issues and ultimately, get our moral priorities straight.

This is why throughout this discussion I have argued in terms of culture rather than morality. We have to discuss worldviews at the social and cultural levels. For example, what happened in Nazi Germany wasn't just that people did immoral things. What happened is that the culture became defective, resulting in a worldview that was wrong on an entire complex of issues -- race, religion, human rights, dignity of the human person, how mental illness and physical disability were perceived, genetics (and eugenics) -- the list goes on and on.

But back to the topic. What Amy is doing is pointing out that with respect to birth, parenting, child rearing, etc., we have developed a radically adult-centered worldview in which the needs of adults often wrongfully trump the inherent rights and interests of children -- that what the child might want or need is often left out of the equation.

Take, for example, the case of single women becoming pregnant and bearing children through anonymous sperm donors. As one of these children and the author of the Washington Post article that I quoted earlier said, the mother is happy because she ends up with a child. The sperm donor is happy because he gets paid and has no responsibility toward the child. The fertility clinic is happy because they get paid and are able to chalk up another success.

But where is the child in all that? In what way are the child's interests protected and promoted? The child is brought into the world not having a present father, and not even knowing who the person is who contributed half of his or her genetic makeup. And this is done intentionally, by design, by adults.

I'll quote again one line from the Washington Post article (if you haven't read the article you really should. See my previous post) --

It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place.

In other words, the mother denies to her own child the very thing that she herself wanted: a personal biological relationship with another person. The child, by design, knows nothing about his or her father, doesn't know what he looked like, doesn't know what he did for a living, doesn't know where he came from, doesn't know what kind of person he is, doesn't know who his parents were, doesn't know about his hobbies or interests. The child is denied the very knowledge and experiences that most people in the world have. Early on these issues might not be important, but children grow up to be adults and they begin to wonder who am I, where did I come from, who were my ancestors, why am I good at math, why do I have this nose and these eyes, and so on. The kind of knowledge and personal experience most of us take for granted is a mystery to the progeny of sperm banks.

As you know, people literally spend years researching their family roots, and their most treasured possessions are their family keepsakes and photos. But in the case of sperm bank children half of that is gone, invisible to them. And why would we ever think that these things that are so important to us would not be just as important to them?

So you see, when we begin to consider these things from the child's point of view, our understanding of the importance of the biological relationship begins to change. How we think about this entire web of issues begins to change. We may begin to wonder how it came to be that the child's interests were so overlooked and ignored. We may begin to see other situations in which the interests of adults have wrongfully trumped those of the child. And in the end we may come to a very different and better understanding of the moral dynamics in all sorts of related situations.

Note that in all the above I have not appealed to a single moral principle, except one, and I think it is one that we can all agree on: in order to act morally we have to take into account the interests of all of the relevant persons, not just some, and especially when some of the persons cannot speak for themselves.
Amy:

Perhaps that is your personal experience, but that is not what the data in the aggregate shows. It shows that abandonment and divorce are devastating and traumatic for children. When you take on the moral commitment of having children, their right to an intact home comes before the parent's right to happiness.

To my knowledge, no research has been done on married but unhappy vs. divorced (or otherwise seperated) but happy couples and the impact on children. Only on aggregates of children with
parents together and those without, which includes more confounding variables than I can count on two hands.
Darn, that first paragraph should have quotes around it.

Wish there was an edit feature on this site.
Mishimi666,
You make great points in your most recent comment. The difference between you and Dr. Amy is that you are open minded.

I will jump ahead to your last paragraph.

"Note that in all the above I have not appealed to a single moral principle, except one, and I think it is one that we can all agree on: in order to act morally we have to take into account the interests of all of the relevant persons, not just some, and especially when some of the persons cannot speak for themselves."

You think that we can all agree on that but Dr. Amy would not agree with you (if she's consistent) because in her world the rights of children trump all others, so your notion of "taking into account the interests of all," doesn't fit with her.

I actually lived my life the way Dr. Amy would like. I stayed in a loveless marriage for the sake of my daughter, and in this case I think that I made the right decision.

My problem with Dr. Amy, isn;t that her hearts not in the right place. Whether she is talking about medicine or Israel or parenting she makes absolute statements, offers no evidence to back them up, then twists your responses into something unrelated to what you are trying to say. When someone finally poses a question that she won't/can't answer she usually moves onto another post.

Is Dr. Amy stupid, as some say? Certainly not.
Is she stubborn, inflexible, thin-skinned, and at times disingenous? In my humble opinion, yes.
mishima666:

"What Amy is doing is pointing out that with respect to birth, parenting, child rearing, etc., we have developed a radically adult-centered worldview in which the needs of adults often wrongfully trump the inherent rights and interests of children -- that what the child might want or need is often left out of the equation."

And, the quote from WaPo:

"It's hypocritical of parents and medical professionals to assume that biological roots won't matter to the "products" of the cryobanks' service, when the longing for a biological relationship is what brings customers to the banks in the first place."

Wow, again. I only quoted two passages, but every paragraph of your comment is superb.
Thanks for that perspective, mishima. That clears up a good deal, and I like your approach to the subject (even if I'll have to think about whether I agree with the particulars or not).
"Wow, again. I only quoted two passages, but every paragraph of your comment is superb."

Dr. Amy, please don't take this as a personal jab, but I've been reading you for awhile now (at HBD first, then here) and I think you should re-evaluate your writing style. Over and over again I have seen the comments for your posts turn into arguments over semantics or arguing about points you never intended to bring up. For example, when mishima666 has tried to summarize your arguments etc. the responders have been much more civil (though I know you don't really care if you piss someone off, lol) and seem to grasp the argument better than when you explain it. It seems like you like to write in sweeping generalizations and black-and-white thinking, or at least, that's how you are read. If you are interested in cutting back on how much you are misread (and the sidetracking in the coversation that results), maybe you should think about adding more nuance or explanation in your posts (my english professors used to call this "idiot-proofing" a paper, lol).

At the same time, some of the directions the conversations take can be quite interesting and intriguing as well, so maybe you should leave it as is, lol.
RogerF1953 writes: "You make great points in your most recent comment. The difference between you and Dr. Amy is that you are open minded."

I don't get accused of being open minded very often, so thanks!

I don't know if I'm really open minded. I think the issue here is that discussions of morality take place on different levels, and so it's important to be clear about what level we're dealing with.

A worldview is what I would call a meta-issue -- it is an issue that helps us talk about other issues. It provides a context for talking about other issues.

If we can't substantially agree on a general worldview, then it is difficult to talk about specific issues. I think one of the problems in this discussion has been that people have debated specific issues without first having a common understanding that would be provided by a shared worldview.

If we agree that the rights and interests of children have to be taken into account in these situations -- as the rights and interests of adults always have been -- then we can move on to discuss specific situations.

In those specific situations we may still disagree, but at least we will understand where the disagreement is and why we disagree. And with these controversial and morally difficult situations I think that's a good thing, and sometimes all we can hope for.
Dr. Amy,

You say, "I see very few people representing (or even bothering to consider) the rights, needs and feelings of the child."

Please allow me to do so.

My mother married a young man when she was 18, and gave birth to me, and divorced him a year and a half later. She moved back in with her mother and father. I was raised by her, and them. My grandparents were both active and healthy, and able to take part in raising me throughout my childhood, adolescence, and college years.

My mother did not divorce my father because she wanted to be happier. She did not divorce him seeking to become more free, or more self actualized, or because she fell out of love with him or in love with someone else.

She divorced him because he would not hold a job and, finally, she had run out of money to buy me formula and milk, and there was no more money coming at any time in the foreseeable future. I was an infant, and I was becoming alarmingly thin. She had run out of money to buy herself food some time before that, but still, she did not leave. She did not leave until my well-being was at stake.

Lest you think this is some self-serving fiction my mother told me, the story has been independently verified by many relatives and friends of both her family, and his, and the story has remained consistent from all sources over my 40 years of life.

She did not sacrifice my happiness by divorcing him. She did not sacrifice any moral right I possessed by leaving my biological father. She instead made sure my moral rights to safety, a stable, loving environment, and a chance at happiness were not compromised. This was not an easy thing for her to do and I am absolutely sure that she did it not for herself - though she was miserable in that marriage - but for *me*. It took wit, guts, and humility. I am grateful that she was able to put my needs ahead of hers in spite of her youth and her fear, though she'd probably tell me I had no need to be.

She remained, and still is, a not perfect but wonderful mother.
Dr Amy:
Reading through these posts it seems you are mostly arguing that other peoples reasoning against yours is because they are being selfish. That parents are being selfish. But wouldn't you agree that there are many children right now in this world that are homeless and parent-less and that need a good home and are not getting one? Then isn't it selfish for people then to have their own children? I'm assuming you have your own children that you gave birth too. Are you not being selfish by bringing more people into this increasingly becoming overpopulated world, when you could do better by adopting a child that is already in this world with a unfortunate life through no fault of there own, that you could give a better life too by adopting? Isn't it selfish then for people who have the ability to give a child a good life to create more children than to give one that already exists a better life?
OK Mishima, you state: This is why throughout this discussion I have argued in terms of culture rather than morality. We have to discuss worldviews at the social and cultural levels.

Yet when I attempted to engage dear closed-minded Amy in a dialogue on the sociocultural perspective on teen pregnancy, I received a simple, "so what?" by way of response. I'm not seeing how this is very helpful.

I had teen girls sitting in my office aged 13 and 14 who were pregnant and scared. Did they choose to get pregnant? I can't say that there was an active choice of, I want to have a baby with ThisGuy. But when the guy you are having sex with is 19 and you're an early adolescent, the playing field is not level. It is not uncommon for the girl to not feel comfortable telling the guy to use a condom. After all, this older guy is daddy and lover rolled up into one, so he gets all the power.

Sure she could take all the onus for sexual activity on herself and get the pill or the shot, but that assumes that she's not living in the river of denial like many younger teens do with regards to their sexuality. Not making excuses, but simply explaining the reality of the adolescent cognitive developmental process.

So this kid is pregnant. She's confused and scared. She tells ThisGuy. And what does he say? "There is no way you are killing my baby. You have the baby and take care of it."

There's no marriage proposal. There's no, let's get a place together. There is a simple dictum that she feels she must comply with. And that is because this is what normal is for many urban and rural underserved teens. The call to "wait until marriage" has as much resonance as "wait until you visit Canada" or "wait until you patent and new invention." It just has no relationship with what is culturally seen as normal. This is even more relevant when you realize that black people are less likely to marry, period.

To this Amy says "so what?" Yet to people who are working to effect change in teen pregnancy, saying "so what?" and "abstain until marriage" (when marriage may never come) are not reasonable culturally appropriate responses for this problem.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Judgmental assholism is not an effective means of providing moral or cultural impetus for change. It provokes division: either you support what the judgmental asshole supports or you are against it. It also causes some people to react to the assholishness alone. Amy's not stupid and she knows this. So she knows that she's not, (cue the violins) being the voice of the children (Tito, pass me a tissue). She's just working to polarize people with her anti-sex, anti-abortion, anti-feminist agenda. There were 15 million other ways that she could have addressed this topic had she wanted to be a true voice for the children. But her "so what?" when talking about victimized teens (also children) told me all that I needed to know about her actual agenda.

I, like Bill Cosby and Barack Obama do believe that we must correct what is being lost in terms of the intact black family. But not with a) putting all the responsibility on the girls and women without holding men accountable (in truth both Mr. Cosby and President Obama hold male feet to the fire much greater than does antifeminist Amy); b) removing the transactionality that relationships have become today (see the This Is My Reality Link posted with my earlier comment); c) working within the current cultural framework in order to improve the role of parents and their understanding of how both parents are needed to successful raise children to adulthood; and d) not just for the black community, but all communities, mandatory parenting classes. You need a license to drive and a license to fish, but any ol' fool can parent. Let's give 'em a little help out there.

Do you disagree, Mishima?
Messed up my close italics code toward the end of my posting. Sorry.
Aaron writes: "And I will say again, if this is your worldview, then great. You can go on telling people that you THINK people should have babies in wed-lock and the world would be better for it. But such a statement does not have rights or morals or justifications in nature beyond you think it is the 'right' way of seeing things."

Aaron, worldviews are difficult things to "sell," so to speak, or even defend. Their power to persuade depends on how well they resonate with the ideas, values, and experiences of others.

Take, for example, Albert Schweitzer's worldview that he called "Reverence for Life," as developed in his book The Philosophy of Civilization. In that he says

"A man is truly ethical only when he obeys the compulsion to help all life which he is able to assist, and shrinks from injuring anything that lives. He does not ask how far this or that life deserves one’s sympathy as being valuable, nor, beyond that, whether and to what degree it is capable of feeling. Life as such is sacred to him. He tears no leaf from a tree, plucks no flower, and takes care to crush no insect. If in summer he is working by lamplight, he prefers to keep his windows shut and breathe a stuffy atmosphere rather than see one insect after another fall with singed wings upon his table.

"If he walks on the road after a shower and sees an earthworm which has strayed on to it, he bethinks himself that it must get dried up on the sun, if it does not return soon enough to ground into which it can burrow, so he lifts it from the deadly stone surface, and puts it on the grass. If he comes across an insect which has fallen into a puddle, he stops a moment in order to hold out a leaf or a stalk on which it can save itself."

I don't know how someone could logically defend something like that. I mean, either you are moved by it or you are not. If you are not moved by it, then I don't know what anyone could say that might move you.

In comments on this post and others I have tried to present a consistent and reasonably comprehensive moral vision of how I think things ought to work, focusing in particular on the value of tradition and its interaction with culture. In presenting that I have also in effect asked others to reflect on that. I have made a proposal, and it is up to others to decide if they accept all, some, or none of that proposal. At the end of the day, that's all I can do.
I'd rather have these mothers don't have children period. It's not like it is hard to not have any - not unless they are taken to somehow fill a void. Imagine all the freedom without one. (imagine feeling hollow and useless without one?) - if you didn't need a guy to get by, you won't need a brat to feel less sad.

Then again, if you are a walrus what else will love you but a kid or a cat?
teendoc writes: "Judgmental assholism is not an effective means of providing moral or cultural impetus for change. It provokes division: either you support what the judgmental asshole supports or you are against it. It also causes some people to react to the assholishness alone."

You raise a number of issues, but I have to run in a few minutes, so just a short response --

In my view Dr. Amy raises some important issues, but then discusses those issues in a way that often is not helpful to her own case. I find myself in agreement with her on many generalities but not on all the specifics. So I'm not going to try to defend everything that she says or the way she says it.

Nonetheless, I think there is a value to cultural criticism, even if that may be perceived as "judgmental assholism." (A technical term new to me!)

And I think we have to make a distinction between what is said in the context of a cultural critique vs. what would be appropriate to say to an individual who finds him- or herself in a situation within the scope of that critique.

For example, I think that there is value in raising the issue of adult selfishness in the cultural context of how we view procreation and parenting. At the same time I wouldn't walk up to a single mother and declare "you are selfish!" especially since I don't know the specifics of her particular situation.

teendoc: "I, like Bill Cosby and Barack Obama do believe that we must correct what is being lost in terms of the intact black family. But not with a) putting all the responsibility on the girls and women without holding men accountable . . . . "

Before even talking about responsibility and accountability -- that I think are really social policy issues -- I would like to back up a step and talk about how we as a culture -- men and women -- look at sex, procreation, parenting, marriage, and so on.

For example, if we as a culture see sex primarily as pleasure and entertainment, that there's nothing sacred about sex and no important link between sex and procreation, then I think we've lost the battle against teen pregnancy before it's even started. I know that's overly simple and there are many other factors. But what I'm trying to get at is that how the culture views sex is a root cause of the problems related to sex -- abortion, STDs, out of wedlock pregnancies, etc.

Not a very good answer but I have to run.
And I think we have to make a distinction between what is said in the context of a cultural critique vs. what would be appropriate to say to an individual who finds him- or herself in a situation within the scope of that critique.

For example, I think that there is value in raising the issue of adult selfishness in the cultural context of how we view procreation and parenting. At the same time I wouldn't walk up to a single mother and declare "you are selfish!" especially since I don't know the specifics of her particular situation.


I understand this distinction, but nothing I've read from Amy makes me believe that she would show the same in person restraint.

But what I'm trying to get at is that how the culture views sex is a root cause of the problems related to sex -- abortion, STDs, out of wedlock pregnancies, etc.

Now you're singing my song! I can absolutely go along with that. Sex has gone from something that at least had the pretense of meaning to a complete sitcom joke. Hey, I've got a spare 5 minutes...wanna hit it?

We need to take this discussion elsewhere because we've moved afield of the judgmental assholism. Discourse, now that's meaningful. Thanks!
teendoc:

"Judgmental assholism is not an effective means of providing moral or cultural impetus for change."

You are articulating a principle of contemporary American culture that views freedom as paramount and responsibility as voluntary.

That issue is like the ones that Mishima666 describes, a meta issue, that affects our views on all other issues.

Personally, I believe that political liberalism calls for a balance between freedom and justice. The view that you articulate is radically libertarian: no one has the right to judge what anyone else does.

At the risk of being a "radical asshole," I challenge that view, which is really nothing more than a distillation of the worst aspects of American culture. It is of a piece with the attitude of the financial community that they have the right to do anything they can get away with. It is of the piece with the radical Republican view that they have the right to destroy the economy, trash the Constitution, and betray American values because government is pointless and they may as well fill important positions with the unqualified and use the Federal budge to reward their cronies.

Judgmentalism is a might fine thing. It is the only thing that informs us of the difference between right and wrong. I'm not afraid to judge that the Wall Street types who destroyed our economy to line their own pockets are morally reprehensible. I'm not afraid to declare, judgmentally, that George W. Bush, behaved immorally as president. And I'm not afraid to judge women who apparently believe that their desire for a child is more important than a child's need for a father.

In my view, refusing to be judgmental is an abrogation of moral responsibility. It is fashionable, I know, to come down on the side of radical libertarianism, but I judge that to be wrong. I realize that many people actually believe that they have the right to do whatever they please, regardless of the impact on others, including their own children. Indeed, by law, they often have the freedom to do so, but that does not make it right.

Women who deliberately deprive their children of a father simply because it suits their own desires are behaving in an immoral fashion. If you think that pointing out immoral behavior is "judgmental," then I proudly plead guilty.
Society as a whole has forgotten the importance of fathers. There is so much written and talked about on single motherhood and their plights. Our society has almost completely forgotten about the father, maybe the now childless father, since his children can be taken away from him on a whim. I have seen such reckless selfishness firsthand. My husbands ex-wife decided she wanted to move "close to the ocean" and that she "wasn't happy" where they lived, and where their children were raised. So she packed up their 2 kids and left. My husband (not my husband at the time, didn't even know him) did not have the financial resourses to get a lawyer and try to stop her, so away she went in her fairy tale dream of a new and better life for herself. However, what she neglected to consider is that she took her children away from a loving, wonderful, involved dad. It didn't even seem to enter her mind, what might be best for her children, it was all about herself. He now is only able to see his kids 2x/year, as we cannot afford to fly them out more. The mom quit her job (thanks to all the support we send her, no need to work anymore) but still, doesn't really seem happy. The kids, well who knows how they feel. They know their dad loves them and misses them, but how close of a relationship can they really have through phone calls and emails? You have to BE with your kids to really know them. This society lets this happen all the time. Divorce judges let women leave all the time. Women become "single moms" all the time by choice. Meanwhile, a discarded father, who lost his kids NOT by choice, is treated as a wallet, with no other contribution to offer the children except cash. When there is a good loving father in the picture, judges should never allow the "option" of the kids having not access to BOTH their parents. If a child is lucky enough to have a loving mother and father (in this society getting increasingly rare) the LEAST our justice system can do is ensure the CHILDS right to have access to BOTH parents. All too often, good fathers are thrown out the door with the trash. Soceity increasingly tells people father are not important. Stupid people (such as my husbands ex) hear this, believe this, and unfortunately, act on this.
2ndWifeTwo:

"Meanwhile, a discarded father, who lost his kids NOT by choice, is treated as a wallet, with no other contribution to offer the children except cash. When there is a good loving father in the picture, judges should never allow the "option" of the kids having not access to BOTH their parents. If a child is lucky enough to have a loving mother and father (in this society getting increasingly rare) the LEAST our justice system can do is ensure the CHILDS right to have access to BOTH parents."

I have a friend who was left in a similar situation. I agree with you that the least the justice system can do is ensure the child's right to have access to both parents.
You are articulating a principle of contemporary American culture that views freedom as paramount and responsibility as voluntary.

No, I'm not. I've said nothing about freedoms and I hold responsibilities, especially responsibilities to children to be paramount.

The view that you articulate is radically libertarian: no one has the right to judge what anyone else does.

Oh you have the right to judge anyone and anything. You have the right to look at any patient and judge her based on your complex psychopathology (I think that counts as a freedom, in fact). My issue (well, I should say, the current issue I have with your point) is how effective was your little rant in fixing the problem, as you saw it? While you stood on your soapbox in full judgmental mode speaking as if God him/herself were channeling through you, was anything said or done to fix the damn problem?

There were people who agreed with you and there were people who thought that you were a self-righteous sack of shit. But nowhere did I see anything about problem solving and working together to rectify something that could be bettered.

But Judgmental Assholes don't want to rectify or improve or fix anything. They just want to point the finger at others who are not living the life the JA believes that she or he should be living. That's where they get off. Empathize with "those people?" Of course not. Finger pointing is so much more fun and entertaining.

But not for those of us who really want to solve problems. That's why I thank the gods, the stars, the heavens and everything possible that we elected someone more interested in fixing problems than being a Judgmental Asshole. I'm with him on this. And I could never imagine President Obama coming up with the nasty, judgmental asshole words you've managed to create in this comment section. Thank God!

In my view, refusing to be judgmental is an abrogation of moral responsibility.

Completely unsurprising. But it assumes that there is one moral code that applies equally to everyone. I am astute enough to know this isn't true. But you, however, have the true narcissists' gift of being only able to see the world from your own point of view.

To wit, you feel free to point out the moral foibles of others (using your own moral code), yet when others judge you as being morally flawed, you give their opinion no worth since YOUR moral code trumps everyone else's. Do you see the narcissistic tautology? Thus all those who you judge should be equally dismissive of your judgments as you are of those who judge you, because it does all come back to the individual's moral code after all. If this were not the case, then maybe you would actually listen and process the judgments against you. But that is not in your capacity.

In any event, it's been real, Amy. Can't say it's been fun, but it has been real.
teendoc,

In your screeds condemning me for being judgmental, you call me an "asshole." If that isn't judgmental, I don't know what it.

In truth, you think it is fine for a person to be judgmental, just so long as they agree with you. And if they don't, you just call them an asshole. How open minded.
"The view that you articulate is radically libertarian: no one has the right to judge what anyone else does."

I think a Libertarian would argue that, in fact, EVERYONE has the right to judge anyone on anything. They don't, however, believe anyone has the right to FORCE their judgment/ideals/moral code on to anyone else (because that would interfere with the first person's personal rights). There's a difference between judging someone and acting on that judgment, and that's where libertarians draw the line.
Oh Amy. tsk, tsk.

To Teendoc you wrote:

"In truth, you think it is fine for a person to be judgmental, just so long as they agree with you. "

Can you even read? That is the EXACT OPPOSITE of what she suggested. I believe she was saying that being judgemental may make you feel smug and superior, but it is ABSOLUTELY USELESS when it comes to effecting change.

Here's some nice, simple logic for you. I'll go slowly so you can follow:

Being judgmental does not promote change, because if being judgmental is the norm, then everyone will be judgmental.

If everyone is judgmental, then everyone will follow only their own moral code without considering those of others.

If you really cared about children, then you would want to effect change.

If you wanted to effect change, then you would choose tactics and positions that promote change.

If you wanted to promote change, you would not be judgmental.

Therefore:

You do not want to promote change, only to be smug and self-satisfied.

Do you really consider yourself a liberal? In what way are you even REMOTELY liberal? Positions on issues don't make a liberal; without a willingness to consider other viewpoints, your just a conservative with atypical opinions.
"They don't, however, believe anyone has the right to FORCE their judgment/ideals/moral code on to anyone else (because that would interfere with the first person's personal rights)."

Let me clarify, that libertarians do not believe that anyone can do anything they please, either. Any action that is violent/abusive or fraudulent should be punished.
Main Entry:
judg·men·tal ass·hole
Pronunciation:
\ˌjəj-ˈmen-təl\ \ˈas-ˌ(h)ōl\
Function:
noun

1A person who prefers being judgmental to effecting change.
K Schecter:

"If you really cared about children, then you would want to effect change."

What makes you think I don't work to effect change? This blog is only a tiny part of my life.

Moreover, you seem not to have heard: The pen is mightier than the sword.
"What makes you think I don't work to effect change? This blog is only a tiny part of my life.

Moreover, you seem not to have heard: The pen is mightier than the sword."

Are you then suggesting that your writing (pen) has a GREATER impact than the rest of your life (sword)?

You did not dispute my claim that you do not want to effect change.

You merely suggested that you effect change through your other actions.

The pen is mightier than sword. If true, then your small effort here erases a disproportionate portion of your larger efforts elsewhere.

You've moved from judgmental to irrational. Oops!
In your screeds condemning me for being judgmental, you call me an "asshole." If that isn't judgmental, I don't know what it.

Oh Amy. Is that really your A game? "She called me a name! Boo hoo!" Try putting on your big girl panties and debating like an adult.

The fact is that in my clearly useless postings (in that they had as much impact in penetrating your narcissism as a pea shot through a straw at the vault door in a Swiss bank), I didn't judge you. There was no application of whether or not you met my moral standards. Instead I assessed you, like any decent clinician would and found you to be suffering (quite happily, by your words) from Judgmental Assholism: Point fingers, rant from your soap box, lambaste people who disagree with you, but offer nothing substantive that would move toward solutions.

I have assessed your words, your position, and your, uh, delivery, and have labeled you a Judgmental Asshole.

And seriously, are you really addled enough to believe that your soapbox frothing about shaming, casting out, branding and stoning selfish women for single parenting (OK, I know you hadn't quite gotten to the last 3 items yet, but I know they were coming. Big scarlet SW {selfish woman} right across the chest, perhaps?) is even in the same league as my calling you a judgmental asshole? Didn't your son have to do a reality check a few months ago with you mentioning how you come across like an asshole? Hey, this isn't about moral judgment. It's about walks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

In truth, you think it is fine for a person to be judgmental, just so long as they agree with you. And if they don't, you just call them an asshole. How open minded.

I'm sorry but where the heck did this come from? I don't think it's fine for someone to be a judgmental asshole no matter what positions the JA takes.

But I think you have the two of us confused. YOU are the one who loves the people who agree with you, but who always throws out a laundry list of dismissive, caustic and patently ridiculous accusations when challenged by someone who doesn't agree with you! It happens again and again in every contentious thread.

Remember the ludicrous one from this posting? People who disagree with me do so because they feel guilty. Uh no. Way too blanket a statement. I disagree with you because you are a judgmental asshole who prefers to point fingers and shame rather than effect change. Is my answer simple enough for you?

Perhaps you can learn a little about open-mindedness.
teendoc:

"Instead I assessed you"

Really? I'll let everyone judge that for themselves.
I realize I'm late to the fray, but I'm dying to know:

Dr. Amy - you speak in the language of moral absolutes, but I wonder if your absolutism extends to other cultures? Have you ever hear of the Na Chinese ethnic group? They are a famous anthropological case study, the only known society with no marriage, no husbands, no fathers:
http://www.amazon.ca/Society-without-Fathers-Husbands-China/dp/1890951137

What do you think of a society that is (and has been for hundreds of years) built around the absence of husbands and fathers? Are the mothers (and fathers) being selfish, knowing that their trysts will result in children who will be raised by matrilineal kin groups rather than both their biological parents? If a child is raised in a society where there is no expectation of paternal involvement, is it still a violation of their so-called birthright to not know their biological father?
"Actually I believe that women should be stigmatized if they want to have children without marriage, because it is a self indulgent, selfish choice."

Dr. Amy,
I realize that this statement was made near the beginning of this post but it just occured to me that if we stigmatize single moms we are also stigmatizing their children. Other kids will know that they are the offspring of a stigmatized mom and they will be relentlessly teased, shunned, and sometimes physically harmed.

Do you disagree that if we stigmatize single moms their kids will suffer?
lagata181:

"What do you think of a society that is (and has been for hundreds of years) built around the absence of husbands and fathers?"

I think it is not really relevant to our discussion, since it is clearly the exception that proves the rule.
RogerF:

"Do you disagree that if we stigmatize single moms their kids will suffer?"

No, not at all. Children are not extensions of their parents. They are separate people. We are able to stigmatize child abusers without stigmatizing their children, or (a more extreme example) we are able to stigmatize parents who commit incest without stigmatizing their children. There's every reason to believe that we can stigmatize women who have children and ignore their needs without stigmatizing their children.
But do you think that Na mothers are selfish for having babies knowing that the fathers will not be involved in the children's lives? Do you think that Na children are harmed by this custom?

These questions are relevant to the discussion because you do not specify in your statements WHICH children are you believe are harmed by the absence of their fathers - you just say "children." Given that the cross-cultural (not to mention the historical) record is rich with examples of cultural and family institutions that presume little or no paternal investment in offspring (the Na are but the most extreme example), I just want to know if your judgements pertain to all societies across space and through time, or just to the American context (or just the Western context, or what?).
"Having an active, involved, resident father is the birth right of every child. "

In other words, do you consider this statement to pertain universally to all children everywhere, regardless of social or cultural circumstance?
Doctor Amy, you are totally correct in this article. Further, I think it is deplorable the way some commenters have described it as being more respectable to choose not to have a father involved if the woman is finanically stable.
If that does not show some of the anti-male vitriol I don't know what does. Without intending to, they have shown just how just how little they care about the well-being or feelings of men. If a woman has enough money, no man required. Is she doesn't, might need to get a man. So, they are saying that men are useless except for the money you can squeeze out of them.
You will never win over that group of crazies. They'll just have to be phased out with evolution. They do not understand at all that you are endorsing a father because study after study shows that it is the most likely situation that will lead to a healthy, well adjusted child. I support you.

Chris
cdwriteme:

"So, they are saying that men are useless except for the money you can squeeze out of them."

It's not necessarily about the money, although it can be. It's about what the mother finds convenient for herself. Evidently a child is only allowed to have a permanent, resident father if it the mother wants that man as a permanent resident sexual partner.
"Children are not extensions of their parents. They are separate people. We are able to stigmatize child abusers without stigmatizing their children, or (a more extreme example) we are able to stigmatize parents who commit incest without stigmatizing their children. "

I absolutely agree that children are not extensions of their parents. However, children of child molesters, incest, and other taboo things are frequently stigmatized along with their parents (or whoever the culprit was). I can tell you from first hand experience. It was also a common thread through almost all of the autobiographies and stories I've read from other incest/sexual abuse survivors (um, there was alot).

It may be POSSIBLE to stigmatize the adult and not the child (and should be the ideal, the goal) but at present time in this country, it just doesn't seem to be the reality.
"Evidently a child is only allowed to have a permanent, resident father if it the mother wants that man as a permanent resident sexual partner."

Do you REALLY believe that this is the prevailing attitude of your detractors on this thread?
Stigmatize
1. label as socially undesirable: to label somebody or something as socially unacceptable.
2. mark with stigma: to mark somebody with stigmata, or be marked with stigmata.

Yes, we as a society need to be doing more of this to criminals like child abusers, incest perpetrators, and voluntarily unmarried moms.
Poogles:

"However, children of child molesters, incest, and other taboo things are frequently stigmatized along with their parents (or whoever the culprit was)."

That is often the result of the tactics used by the abuser to justify his actions to the child. Moreover, you wouldn't suggest that we stop stigmatizing child abusers, would you?
RogerF:

"Do you REALLY believe that this is the prevailing attitude of your detractors on this thread?"

Of course. What other explanation is there for depriving a child of a father other than the fact that the mother doesn't like him enough to live with him?
"That is often the result of the tactics used by the abuser to justify his actions to the child. Moreover, you wouldn't suggest that we stop stigmatizing child abusers, would you?"
No, I'm just against stigmatizing single moms.
Sorry about that, I accidently hit "enter" while trying to type my response, lol.

"That is often the result of the tactics used by the abuser to justify his actions to the child. Moreover, you wouldn't suggest that we stop stigmatizing child abusers, would you?"

I fail to see how the tactics of the abuser influences people I've never met (and who never met my abuser) to treat me like I'm dirty or contagious when I tell them I'm a survivor of incest. Unless I've misread your comment?

And nowhere did I even imply that I think we should stop stigmatizing the abusers, so I'm not sure where that came from? Only that at this point in time the stigmatization affects both the abuser and the victim, and it shouldn't be that way. Doesn't mean we should see the abuser as "ok" or free of the stigma of their crimes, only that we as a society should work on clearing the stigma away from the victim/survivor. Epecially since this stigma is one reason, of many, that the victims have a hard time breaking their silence, or getting help even when they do.
"Of course. What other explanation is there for depriving a child of a father other than the fact that the mother doesn't like him enough to live with him?"
1) Maybe the father beats the shit out of the child.
2) Maybe the father beats the shit out of his wife.
3) Maybe the father spends all of the families money at the racetrack.
4) Maybe the father is a serial adulterer.
5) Maybe the father is all of the above.
6) Or maybe the mom is just whimsical and fickel and gets bored with the same lover.

Actually I'm starting to question the value of a Harvard education.
RogerF:

"1) Maybe the father beats the shit out of the child.
2) Maybe the father beats the shit out of his wife.
3) Maybe the father spends all of the families money at the racetrack.
4) Maybe the father is a serial adulterer.
5) Maybe the father is all of the above."

Right, she doesn't like him.
You're right. Besides, if the selfish bitch hadn't put too much catsup in the meatloaf he wouldn't have had to beat her.
RogerF:

"1) Maybe the father beats the shit out of the child.
2) Maybe the father beats the shit out of his wife.
3) Maybe the father spends all of the families money at the racetrack.
4) Maybe the father is a serial adulterer.
5) Maybe the father is all of the above."

Right, she doesn't like him.

---------------------

Your conclusion doesn't follow at all. More likely she loves him desperately despite all of the above, but chooses to leave him because she PUTS THE CHILDREN'S NEED FOR SAFETY AHEAD OF HER OWN WANTS.

Logic really isn't your thing. Nor morality. Nor liberalism. Are you sure you didn't support G. W. Bush?
Dr.Amy just wanted to say thank you. I agree and support you 100%...In fact, this is exactly the kind of decision making I used before marrying my wife. We lived together for years, but once we decided to have kids, we got married. From my perspective it was forever, but worse case scenario....until the kids had grown up and moved on. It's so good to see pro-family and pro-father democrats, we're in such short supply
RogerF:

"Besides, if the selfish bitch hadn't put too much catsup in the meatloaf he wouldn't have had to beat her."

You seem determined to miss the point. Or rather, you've started with the conclusion and are working backward. You've already concluded that, by your definition, any woman who pushes a father out of a child's life has a good reason for doing so.

Some women have good reasons, and some have bad reasons, but the only thing that counts is what the mother wants. There are plenty of women who stay with and "love" men who beat them, their children or both. And there are a far greater number who leave men simply because it suits THEM, and in the process, break their own child's heart.
hotrod61:

"It's so good to see pro-family and pro-father democrats, we're in such short supply"

That's because liberals are afraid to "judge" people, except for the people that they enthusiastically judge, like anyone who doesn't agree with them politically or philosophically.
"You've already concluded that, by your definition, any woman who pushes a father out of a child's life has a good reason for doing so."

How do you come to the conclusion that I believe that EVERY time a woman kicks a man out, she has a good reason? I know a woman who broke up her family (and broke her children's heart) because her husband didn't want to snort coke anymore. I won't be in line to defend her.

You, Dr. Amy, are the one that speaks in absolutes, not me. I think that it's beyond insensitive to state that the woman with the broken jaw doesn't LIKE her husband.

(Notice, by the way that I said "I think" rather than "It is.")
Dr. Amy:

"There are plenty of women who stay with and "love" men who beat them, their children or both. And there are a far greater number who leave men simply because it suits THEM, and in the process, break their own child's heart."

Where's the source data for this (that "a far greater number" of women leave men because it suits them)?

I checked the PDF, but the Methods section lists only that the data was collected through birth certificate data. Therefore, the number given in the report lists only the instantaneous percentage of unmarried births. Where can I see the data that shows these unmarried mothers continued to be unmarried mothers as they reared their children?

Thanks.
Like most people who argue based on moral authority I would love to hear if you think you are anointed, appointed, or elected. There is no sense in arguing with someone who has been given divine inspiration, hoisted into office by the powers that be or put in place by the popular vote, but on the offhand chance that you are here under the auspices of only your own ego, I would like to state that arguments that are based simply on what you know to be moral are like the dog chasing it's own tail. Eventually they end up biting themselves in the ass.
I speed-read "War and Peace" as I scanned all the above, but for me the most telling comment was the very first one, specifically "Two incomes is better than one income. That's the bottom line." As a formerly-absentee father myself, I can tell you that this is absolutely the bottom line with most women, whether the father is around or not. If the men had a meaningful role aside from being a walking wallet to the mothers, they'd probably never leave in the first place. As it is, most men feel about as great with their role of "provider" as women feel about being no more than a sexual receptacle or domestic engineer. American mothers need to get a handle on their own neuroses before they start dispensing advice on what the fathers need to sacrifice for the good of the children.
Tijo, I'm not quite sure what your complaint is. Do you disagree with the presumption that a child has the right to be raised by it's biological parents ? Or do you disagree with the author's right to say it ?
Tijo:

"Like most people who argue based on moral authority I would love to hear if you think you are anointed, appointed, or elected."

How about sticking to the topic instead of veering off to discuss me, as entertaining as that might be?

Do you believe that children have a moral right to a permanent resident mother and father? And if not, why not?
And what of children who have been abandoned entirely by their natural parents? Personally, I've never had sex with a man, so I've never been pregnant. I don't 'happen' to love either-I loved deeply, monogamously, and for life, beyond death parting us. I still hold out the hope of adopting one day...my wife and I had that dream, and perhaps I will meet someone and still be able to do that.
Doeroadx:

"If the men had a meaningful role aside from being a walking wallet to the mothers, they'd probably never leave in the first place."

Sorry, but that's a lousy, selfish excuse. It's not about whether men feel like walking wallets, it's about what they owe the child.
"Do you believe that children have a moral right to a permanent resident mother and father?"

No. And here's why; I think you're confused again.

If a child's mother and father die in a plane crash, where is the immorality? Was God immoral for taking them away? This isn't immoral; it's tragic.

You might want to argue that parents have a moral OBLIGATION to provide for their children. I agree with that.

But logically, just because the parents have an OBLIGATION, does not mean the child has a RIGHT.
K Schecter:

"If a child's mother and father die in a plane crash, where is the immorality? Was God immoral for taking them away? This isn't immoral; it's tragic."

By that "logic," murder isn't immoral either, since people can be killed by natural disasters.

Start looking for a better argument. That one stinks.
"By that "logic," murder isn't immoral either, since people can be killed by natural disasters."

Whaaaaaaaaaa?

Murder is immoral, as it is the result of an immoral choice made by another person, the murderer.

Natural disasters don't make choices, hence death by natural disaster is not immoral.

No choices = no morality

Do you think natural disasters make choices? Do you argue with hurricanes?
"Do you believe that children have a moral right to a permanent resident mother and father? And if not, why not?"

Dr. Amy,
I would love to try to answer this question but could you please define what you think that a moral right is?

As I see it the answer is yes. Even though it isn't codified in the law, one could reasonably argue that a moral right is one that is agreed upon by most members of society, and most reasonable people would agree with that notion.

But you have taken that right a step (or leap) further to state that that right trumps the rights of parents and it isn't that simple or absolute.

Just as the child has the right to a two parent upbringing he has other rights too. He has the right to not be abused. He has the right to be fed, and nourished, and cared for. He has the right to an education.

If these rights aren't being met, then we have the situation where rights come into conflict with each other and the mom(in this case) has to decide which right is more important.

If dad is an abusive character, or a chronic non-provider, if he is in and out of jail, or regularly passed out on the living room floor, or spending the time that he should be playing catch with his son in another woman's bed, then some hard decisions have to be made.

I grew up in a great household with two loving parents and I was provided for very well. As a kid I never once questioned my parents devotion to me and my brothers.

But millions aren't as lucky as I was.

I believe that you have stated this right in such a way that parents have no right to consider all of the circumstances.

Obviously it is totally selfish and wrong to abandon a family if all your looking for is a better lover or someone who laughs at your jokes.

But if you are a woman looking for an environment where you feel safe and your child has a BETTER chance to thrive with the dad gone, and you have made every possible attempt to rectify the situation with no success, then dad has to go.

Knowing the way that you respond to posts I expect you to glom onto the fact that I acknowledged that right and ignore the rest of what I said.
"Do you believe that children have a moral right to a permanent resident mother and father?"

Ok, I''l bite.

No. And here's why. If I accept your statement, that would mean that all children should enjoy that right - because why should any child be excepted from it? But if I accept that ALL children have that right, then I have no choice but to condemn entire societies and cultures who have developed other arragements for the care of children besides marriage and/with cohabitating biological parents. I would have to declare that virtually all parents of societies with alternative systems are not doing the best for their kids.

But I don't have any evidence that alternative marital, childrearing, or residential customs and practices as they are carried out in other societies are harmful to children in those societies. One could undertake a comparative ethnographic study to find out, but no one has (to my knowledge).

So it seems to me that your moral argument is based on an ethnocentric extrapolation of the data available for American/Western societies. What is best for American children in the aggregate (according to some measures) may not be best for every single child in every society across space and through time, particularly if social institutions are in place that account for the absence of biological fathers.

Is it so hard to concede this point, Dr. Amy?
RogerF:

"But if you are a woman looking for an environment where you feel safe and your child has a BETTER chance to thrive with the dad gone, and you have made every possible attempt to rectify the situation with no success, then dad has to go."

I have repeatedly acknowledge that if a child's physical safety is threatened by the father, the father must go. That, of course, is the exception to the rule. 70% of black women are not having babies out of wedlock because 70% of black men are abusers. Clearly, as reflected in the differing ethnic choices, the decision to bear a child without a father is a lifestyle decision, not a safety decision, so why do you keep trying to derail the discussion with safety concerns?
lagata:

"If I accept your statement, that would mean that all children should enjoy that right - because why should any child be excepted from it? But if I accept that ALL children have that right, then I have no choice but to condemn entire societies and cultures who have developed other arragements for the care of children besides marriage and/with cohabitating biological parents."

Oh, so genital mutilation is okay because some societies have been doing it for hundreds of years and they're still here?
Actually what you have repeatedly said is that women leave because they don't like the man. You have also stated many times that women often choose to put up with abuse because the right of the child to have two parents trumps the other rights.

The only reason that me (and I assume others) use these arguments is that you state your ideas in such absolute terms, and leave little or no room for debate, that it is impossible to just agree with you.

Your world is very black and white. The world that I live in isn't.
So the person that has asked me to drop the safety argument has introduced genital mutilation to the argument?
I somewhat agree that a child needs his or her father in their lives. It's harder on the mother in terms of income and two perspectives and life teachings are better than one. So, in fairness to the gay and lesbian community I would say that really what a kid needs is two parents. One thing I disagree with is "Nadya Suleman, the poster child for irresponsible pregnancy." I would say that "Nadya Suleman's doctor is the poster child for irresponsible pregnancy."
So, is it morally acceptable for the two biological (and married) parents to live together under the same roof, sleep in separate rooms and have separate lovers? Would it be amoral to expose the children to this type of relationship?
“Oh, so genital mutilation is okay because some societies have been doing it for hundreds of years and they're still here?”

Whoa, there, cowgirl. Wow – I did not expect for my comments to lead you to lob the most radioactive weapon in the arsenal of moral absolutists at me. Who said anything about FGC? No need to go nuclear, lady, I’m just trying to get you to put some reasonable brackets around your argument. You started out with a fairly defensible argument – that data show that kids in America do better with a dad, therefore women who plan families without one are not doing the best for their kids. But over the course of the comments you went off the rails with it and made the claim that “a child has a moral right to two resident biological parents. Nothing that the parents want trumps that right.”

So you went from making an argument that seemed pretty well grounded in data and situations pertaining to American society, to making tyrannical statements about the moral right of a child to something that most of the planet’s population might not think is all that important a “right” (I mean, if you were a child living in a shack on a garbage dump and subsisting on trash and bugs, the moral right to reside with one’s biological father might rank significantly below, say, the moral right to a habitable and hygienic residence. But that’s neither here nor there.), if they would consider it a right at all. You can’t deny that somewhere along the line you started using the language of universalism and moral absolutism.

So I did what I would do with any one of my students: I tried to rein it in a little, to bring the argument back down to earth and to draw some reasonable brackets around the claims. I asked you straight up if you thought that this so-called moral birthright was a human universal, pertaining to all children everywhere. And you said....nothing. (Which is fine – I think you do an amazing job of responding to as many yahoos as you do, not fair to expect a response to every comment.) But I did wonder why you chose not to respond to that question in particular, because I think it is a fair question. (So I’ll ask it again: do you believe that all children everywhere have the same moral birthright to a permanent resident biological father?)

Because if you’re willing to concede that cultural context makes a difference, then I’ll go away happy.
In our society, there is an expectation that the ideal situation is for a child to grow up in a residence with a biological mother and father, and any other arrangement is therefore a non-ideal deviation from the norm. If I understand correctly, your moral argument is based on the (aggregate) negative consequences of raising children without a biological father – consequences that have been documented by numerous studies and measured according to a number of standards and indicators in the United States. And you also mentioned that no one has the right to break a child’s heart.
Well, what if there were no heartbreak involved in a mother choosing NOT to live with the biodad? What if there were studies of a different society that showed that children in that society actually do better when mothers “hedge their bets” with men who are not the biological father? I speak of studies on partible paternity (the idea that it takes sperm from more than one man to conceive a child) in South America , showing that “In small egalitarian horticultural societies, women’s reproductive interests are best served if mate choice is a non-binding, female decision; if a network of multiple females to aid or substitute for a woman in her mothering responsibilities exists; if multiple men support a woman and her children; and if a woman is shielded from the effects of male sexual jealousy,” (http://www.unisci.com/stories/20022/0606026.htm ). (Note: by “women’s reproductive interests,” they mean the success and survival of the women’s children.)
In a way, the Ache and Hiwi tribes of South America take your argument to an extreme – fathers are SO important in that society that it’s considered best for the kids to have more than one. But, as we of the biomedical world know, there can only be one real biodad, and the mother may or may not guess/decide which one of the men she slept with is the one, plus, she probably won’t reside on a permanent basis with any of them, so the natural question is: are Ache and Hiwi women as selfish as Nadya Suleman?
(When I brought up the fatherless Na society as an exception to your moral absolutism, you dismissed it as the “exception that proves the rule.” Now I’m bringing up South American partible paternity as another possible exception to your universalist claim that all children have the right to live with their biodads. I’m sure you’ll find a way to dismiss this case as irrelevant to your argument too, but don’t worry. I’ve got more.)
This is already an overly long post, so I’ll end by stating my claim, which is that it is absurd to make a universal claim to a moral birthright to reside on a permanent basis with one’s biological parents, or even to claim that it is necessarily selfish for women to give birth to babies without being married to the biodad. If you take a close look at the cross-cultural variation of family and parenting institutions around the world, the argument that children are ALWAYS (in the aggregate) better off living with a biodad starts to resemble Swiss cheese.
lagata,

You've written a long comment, but it's asking a simple question. You want to know if there is some culture somewhere that considers fathers optional so that you can claim that mothers in this culture can treat fathers as if they are optional.

Even if there are such cultures, we have no way of knowing how children feel about them or whether they would be better off if they had a resident father.

When it comes to children in THIS culture, and virtually every other, fathers are not optional, and neither mothers nor fathers should pretend to themselves that they are.
K Schecter writes: "If a child's mother and father die in a plane crash, where is the immorality? Was God immoral for taking them away? This isn't immoral; it's tragic."

Perhaps I can clarify. I think Amy is actually saying that children have a moral right to the opportunity of having a normal, heterosexual, two-parent family, not necessarily a right to the actuality of having such a family.

It's an important distinction. Circumstances may intervene so that the child does not have such a family. Such is life. But the important thing is that the child at least has a chance to live in a normal family situation, and also to know who his or her biological parents are.
For the record, I never so much as intimated that the purpose of my comments was so that I could "claim that mothers in this culture can treat fathers as if they are optional." You are definitely putting words in my mouth there.

I just think that your argument that children have a moral birthright to reside with a permanant resident biological father is absurd. I get where you're coming from, and I get where you're going with your general argument, but your statements in the comments section take it so far beyond the pale that it makes you sound like you care more about being right than about being reasonable.

I dislike it when people speak in moral absolutes and universalities without taking the vast array of human experiences into account. It denigrates the rich cultures of people who are not like us, and cheapens us all in the process.
Mishima666 wrote:
"Perhaps I can clarify. I think Amy is actually saying that children have a moral right to the opportunity of having a normal, heterosexual, two-parent family, not necessarily a right to the actuality of having such a family."

That may be what Dr. Amy means but it isn't what she says. She speaks in absolute and unwavering terms about this subject, in favor of stigmatizing single moms, and strongly suggesting that cheated on and abused women often need to stay put because their selfish need to be happy may break their childs heart.

You and others often come to her defense and try to clarify what she really means, but then she types something else in her most stern and inflexible style, that suggests that you and others are wrong.

But you know what? I just realized that I'm one day closer to my death and I'm not accomplishing anything here (and neither is Dr. Amy in my opinion) so I'm moving on to another subject.

Peace, RF

Peace, RF
"Mishima666 wrote:
"Perhaps I can clarify. I think Amy is actually saying that children have a moral right to the opportunity of having a normal, heterosexual, two-parent family, not necessarily a right to the actuality of having such a family."

That may be what Dr. Amy means but it isn't what she says. She speaks in absolute and unwavering terms about this subject, in favor of stigmatizing single moms, and strongly suggesting that cheated on and abused women often need to stay put because their selfish need to be happy may break their childs heart.

You and others often come to her defense and try to clarify what she really means, but then she types something else in her most stern and inflexible style, that suggests that you and others are wrong."

Ya know, I have to agree with you here Roger. It can be so very frustrating! Like mishima666, I can sometimes see what I think she is trying to say, and sometimes restate it in not such absolute terms, but really...it gets old.

On the other hand, I like a good argument, lol. I guess that's why I still read anyways (plus, I really like her posts about new studies or scientific findings) :-)
OK. I usually don't jump into arguments after they have already been so hotly argued, but I think that we can take it to a new, and maybe more constructive level.

Lets say we agree with Amy. Let us start from the point that every child, upon conception, has access to two biological parents. Let us also say that the best possible situation for that child is as follows: 1. Upon conceiving the child, both parents should be wholly committed to on another and; 2. The parents should be conceiving with the intention of raising the child together and equally contributing to the welfare of that child.

But we know that doesn't happen. For all of the reasons mentioned earlier by others (abuse rape, fickleness, inability to find a suitable partner, lack of education, etc. etc. etc.), children are left with only one biological parent, sometimes none. Children's hearts are "broken" and other adults fill the gaps -- extended family, friends, adoptive parents.

Some of these broken hearted children end up doing not so good, they may end up performing criminal acts, may become single parents, or abusive parents themselves. On the other hand, they may end up doing fabulously. You need only look to the man you elected as President to see how much a broken hearted child may achieve.

So we agree that one of the antecedents to children turning out not so well MAY be a child being broken hearted. OK. So how do we discourage mothers (I don't believe this, but lets say that mothers have the sole control in preventing this, just to keep it on Amy's playing field) from breaking their children's hearts?

Amy says that we can do this by stigmatizing single parenthood (or rather, single motherhood). Furthermore, she says we can do this without stigmatizing the children who have no choice of which situation they are born into. Of course, she doesn't say how this can be done.

I think that stigmatization of single parenthood is a poor solution because it clearly does punish the child along with the parent. Stigmatization limits access to social and financial opportunities, and a child's opportunities are directly proportional to their parent's. Therefore, if you limit a parent's opportunities, you also limit a child's.

So I am left to wonder, if we are all to agree with Amy (that it is morally imperative that children have two biological parents and that it is immoral to conceive without the intention of providing them with such), what are some ways in which this ideal could be achieved? Can it be achieved?

Personally, I do not believe that it can be achieved. Nor do I feel that raising children in this manner is preferable to other family forms. However, having equitable access to resources (education, health, environment, biology), and reducing our personalities to the level of automatons may be a start.
Your blog post is a bit confusing, namely in that you seem to assume marriage is a permanent arrangement, a problem-free solution, and furthermore that it provides a context for proof that if one does not get married, then they must not want a father in their child's lives. All three assumptions are false and misleading and provide no substantial basis for your argument.

I like how you first implored fathers to take responsibility for their children. I think it's a bit disconcerting that you then call single mothers as making a "self-indulgent, selfish choice" while simply imploring men to have the courage to raise their children. Bad form. If you want to make a good argument, think about your wording. Think about how calling women names and directing insults toward them while coddling men under the same circumstances with soft words and promises of honor and integrity contributes to the very problem against which you strive to argue.
I think you're just jealous because you have a child on the autism spectrum and you see happy single and same-sex parents. You're kind of like the unhappy kid on the playground who throws rocks at other children who look like they're having fun (though in your case it might be breaking their arms, LOL). Look, in some ways I feel sorry for you. I mean I'm sure it's not pleasant when people like that radio show host Michael Savage say that children with autism are simply "brats" whose parents won't discipline them. But I think you try to make yourself feel better by trashing other families.

Now I'm by no means saying that all parents with autistic children are like this. I know such parents who are the most compassionate and caring people around. But it seems that having a child with a disability can bring out the best in people or the worst in people. You've shown us on which extreme you fall.
I would not ever willingly consider single-fatherhood myself, regardless of what radical or innovative relationship I must create to ensure that the child or children whom I aspire to have do not suffer any absence of a mother's nurture.

Nor can I comprehend why any woman would chose to plunge alone into the parental enterprise, at such patent disadvantage to her child.

[The foregoing, Dr. Amy, is a comment I first tried (unsuccessfully) to add to your post here back on the night of May 18. You appear to have gone "off-line" or somehow dormant in Open Salon about that very time. I am unclear for just how long it is that you have become once more active, but I welcome it.]
Awesome post. Rated, of course. I've arrived here belatedly (and, at the risk of seeming trivial I'll say, somewhat in the way I expect to arrive at fatherhood belatedly)... But wow. There is SUCH substantial grist here for my struggling mental mill.

Your stern position on fatherhood here, Dr. Tuteur, not to mention your bulwarked affirmation of it against certain challenging comments, has me wide-eyed with wonder and contemplation. I find it offers a down-in-the-trenches counterpoise to the more speculative line taken by 'kryptogal' in her March 31 post, "Does having Children Ruin Your Life?"

I would not ever willingly consider single-fatherhood myself, regardless of what radical or innovative relationship I must create to ensure that the child or children whom I aspire to have do not suffer any absence of a mother's nurture. Nor can I comprehend why any woman would chose to plunge alone into the parental enterprise, at such patent disadvantage to her child.

[My full comment of May 18, this year, which failed to appear at the time. ...LeMichel.]
I can not speak for all single mothers, however I will speak for myself. I am a 25yr old single mother to my 3yr old autistic son, whom I love and cherish very much. My son was not a planned pregnancy, It was more like an accident that turned into my blessing. I was never "dating" my sons father we were still at the point where we were getting to know one another. And boom I find out I was a month pregnant. I did NOT try to get pregnant, and nor do I believe in taking away life b/c I didnt plan it. My sons father moved away when I was 3months along. I wouldnt call me selfish? How dare you, I am the least selfish person on this earth. B.c my sons father decided he didnt want to be a part of our sons life that makes me selfish? I am not a dead beat mother living off welfare, my son has more then needed, more then wanted. He has and will always have everything and all the love he could ever need. I work from home and I dont make chump change, 50$ and hr I would say is more then the average couple is bringing to the table. So before you go saying mothers who have children out of wedlock are selfish you ought to do a little more research. You seem to have a 1 sided story.
I can not speak for all single mothers, however I will speak for myself. I am a 25yr old single mother to my 3yr old autistic son, whom I love and cherish very much. My son was not a planned pregnancy, It was more like an accident that turned into my blessing. I was never "dating" my sons father we were still at the point where we were getting to know one another. And boom I find out I was a month pregnant. I did NOT try to get pregnant, and nor do I believe in taking away life b/c I didnt plan it. My sons father moved away when I was 3months along. I wouldnt call me selfish? How dare you, I am the least selfish person on this earth. B.c my sons father decided he didnt want to be a part of our sons life that makes me selfish? I am not a dead beat mother living off welfare, my son has more then needed, more then wanted. He has and will always have everything and all the love he could ever need. I work from home and I dont make chump change, 50$ and hr I would say is more then the average couple is bringing to the table. So before you go saying mothers who have children out of wedlock are selfish you ought to do a little more research. You seem to have a 1 sided story.