In the midst of the worldwide media coverage surrounding the death of human rights hero Nelson Mandela, another big news story was deemed worthy of ample coverage on international news sites and blogs. Apparently a major celebrity is pregnant, and she decided to unveil the identity of the father as a press announcement as if she were the star of the Watergate scandal, and we were finally being told the true identity of Deep Throat.
To be clear, I use the terms “major” and “celebrity” loosely, since the “baby mama” in question is a cast member of the reality show-train wreck Basketball Wives, Evelyn Lozada. And according to reports, the “baby daddy” is professional baseball player Carl Crawford.
Reactions to Lozada’s pregnancy have been mixed, with some arguing that any pregnancy is a blessing, regardless of who the parents are, and others noting that it seems convenient and coincidental that Lozada seems to only date and co-habitate with athletes or those with large bank accounts. The 37-year old Lozada is already a single mom to a daughter she had at age 17, and I assume her trend of single parenthood will continue.
But I couldn’t help noticing that Lozada’s big announcement coincided with another. A new study published by researchers at Canada’s McGill University indicates that the absence of a father in a child’s life can actually have a negative impact on brain development. According to the university, “It is the first study to link father absenteeism with social attributes and to correlate these with physical changes in the brain.” According to a summary of the report, “‘This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring,’ says Dr. Gobbi. These results should incite researchers to look more deeply into the role of fathers during critical stages of growth and suggest that both parents are important in children’s mental health development.”
Of course, these results fly in the face of the direction in which our country is headed. More children are being raised in single-parent households than ever before. Single-parent households have tripled since 1960. Despite protestations by single mothers and some of their children (some of whom have grown up to become writers and will likely attempt a rebuttal to this piece that will tout the fact that they turned out fine, but will not be able to dispute the facts laid out in this column), the fact remains that families headed by single parents fare worse, financially, behaviorally and professionally.
An analysis by the Atlantic noted, “Single mothers earn incomes that place them well below married mothers in the income ladder. According to Pew, married mothers earned a median family income of $80,000 in 2011, almost four times more than families led by a single mom.” Thirty percent of single mothers are currently living in poverty. As a result, half of the children currently being raised by single mothers are living in poverty, with the majority being black or Hispanic.
But the financial penalties for single parenthood are not the only penalties children face. A groundbreaking study published in 2009 found that daughters raised without fathers are statistically more likely to engage in early sexual activity and to become pregnant as teenagers. Other studies (pdf) have found an increased likelihood for incarceration among young men raised by single mothers.
Even those raised in wealthy households headed by a single parent fare worse economically in the long-term than those raised in a wealthy two-parent household according to Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.
Despite all of this data, single parenting has emerged into a social and cultural norm in recent years, so much so that anyone who has the temerity to cite the numerous studies above is accused of “stigmatizing” single parents and their children.