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Statistics on Fatherless Children in America

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Mother and son sitting on porch.
Lisa Spindler Photography Inc./The Image Bank/Getty Images
There is no question that children who grow up in fatherless homes have a much greater risk of major challenges in life than those who grow up with a father at home. These statistics are alarming and should give any father pause.

Incarceration Rates. "Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families...those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated -- even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant." (Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration." Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.)

Suicide. 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? - see link below)

Behavioral Disorders. 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? - see link below)

High School Dropouts. 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? - see link below)

Educational Attainment. Kids living in single-parent homes or in step-families report lower educational expectations on the part of their parents, less parental monitoring of school work, and less overall social supervision than children from intact families. (N.M. Astore and S. McLanahan, American Sociological Review, No. 56 (1991)

Juvenile Detention Rates. 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? - see link below)

Confused Identities. Boys who grow up in father-absent homes are more likely that those in father-present homes to have trouble establishing appropriate sex roles and gender identity.(P.L. Adams, J.R. Milner, and N.A. Schrepf, Fatherless Children, New York, Wiley Press, 1984).

Aggression. In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed "greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households." (N. Vaden-Kierman, N. Ialongo, J. Pearson, and S. Kellam, "Household Family Structure and Children's Aggressive Behavior: A Longitudinal Study of Urban Elementary School Children," Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 23, no. 5 (1995).

Achievement. Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles F. Kettering Foundation, 1990).

Delinquency. Only 13 percent of juvenile delinquents come from families in which the biological mother and father are married to each other. By contract, 33 percent have parents who are either divorced or separated and 44 percent have parents who were never married. (Wisconsin Dept. of Health and Social Services, April 1994).

Criminal Activity. The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. Source: A. Anne Hill, June O'Neill, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College. 1993

Online sources for the above data:

What Can the Federal Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities? from the National Institute of Justice, 1998, page 11

Cynthia Harper of the University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton University cited in "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration." Journal of Research on Adolescence 14 (September 2004): 369-397.

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