Fatherless homes a key factor in school shootings, teen delinquency

This article from NRO drills into one tragically sad aspect of school shootings:

Sons of Divorce, School Shooters
By W. Bradford Wilcox

Another shooting, another son of divorce. From Adam Lanza, who killed 26 children and adults a year ago at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., to Karl Pierson, who shot a teenage girl and killed himself this past Friday at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colo., one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father. From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. school attacks” involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.

This is not to minimize the importance of debates about gun control or mental health when it comes to understanding these shootings. But as the nation seeks to make sense of these senseless shootings, we must also face the uncomfortable truth that turmoil at home all too often accounts for the turmoil we end up seeing spill onto our streets and schools.

The social scientific evidence about the connection between violence and broken homes could not be clearer. My own research suggests that boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father. Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has written that “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.” [Therefore, this is where the Devil and his human agents are going to strike.  They will claw at the traditional family structure, they will undermine it, they will make it their constant target.] His views are echoed by the eminent criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, who have written that “such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.”

Why is fatherlessness such a big deal for our boys (almost all of these incidents involve boys)? Putting the argument positively, sociologist David Popenoe notes that “fathers are important to their sons as role models. They are important for maintaining authority and discipline. And they are important in helping their sons to develop both self-control and feelings of empathy toward others, character traits that are found to be lacking in violent youth.” Boys, then, who did not grow up with an engaged, attentive, and firm father are more vulnerable to getting swept up in the Sturm und Drang of adolescence and young adulthood, and in the worst possible way.


Read the rest there.

Another fruit of “no fault divorce”: deranged and dead children.

I am not advocating Roman Empire style marriage laws, but… hey.  They were on to something.

We need this discussion and we need not to be afraid of all the accusations that will land on us when we bring it up.   This is where energy should be infused, rather than into hysterical gun-control efforts.

What popped into my head just now was the influence of the “luv” factor in our society.  Marriages are stable because the couple wills them to be so, through thick and thin.  The modern introduction “romantic love” twists the foundation of the stability of the relationship away from the will and into “feelings”.  So, when “feelings” change, the foundation of the bond changes.  “I don’t love you anymore, see ya!”  Merge this with the societal ripple effects of the sexual revolution, the wild-times surround the Second Vatican Council (for the Church was a stablizing factor in all of society), etc., and we have a recipe for the disaster we are seeing now.

Finally, undisciplined boys with no good role models who spend hours playing super-violent first-person-shooter video games…. I’m just saying.

Yes? No?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Of course, Yes.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Sadly, there are several factors which undermine marriages. The first is that there are too many “peter pan” men who have never learned to grow up and accept being a husband or a father. This is the result of many things, which pre-date the feminist movement. Men who have never learned to sacrifice, to absorb pain, to love a woman beyond the “gorgeous years”, men who have not learned how to pray and be the “pastors” in the domestic church cannot pass on stability.

    A study three or four years ago reveal that contracepting women consistently chose “peter pan” men as mates, as these men did not have what is necessary to be a “protector” male. Obviously, sex outside of marriage also means a man does not have to be a “protector”, so the entire sexual revolution has undermined the role of the father.

    The second problem is the feminization of the Church. In my own area, the vast majority of religious workers are women. Men shun catechetical work, being altar servers, singing in choirs and so on. When I was a young child, in the pre-Vatican II Church, men served at the morning Masses. Men do want to be seen as “religious” and the lack of the rosary at home and the daily observance of prayer in the domestic church leads sometimes to the break-up of marriages. I know this has happened in two families I know where the man gradually fell away and finally, left. I know to many families where the man left the Church and then left his family and spouse.

    The third problem is that men in the last two generations have not had good role models. I could see the difference in teaching college, which I did first in 1979, off and on, to December, 2010. Men in my classes years ago had strong dads. Over the years, this changed. And the boys changed as well. Sadly, the remnant, who are mostly the strong dads in the TLM communities, carry on. But, boys without strong role models fall into weakness.

    The fourth problem is the lack of discipline. Boys and girls need parents to be parents and not friends. Without a dad, too many women think they cannot discipline. Well, they must. But, discipline is best from the dad, of course, and if there is no dad, there most likely is no discipline.

    I think the West is in decay. With 33% of the households in London being run by singles, this problem of the lack of strong men will not go away. Singles have babies but are not “dads”.

    Sadly, one reason why in Europe so many Christian girls convert to Islam is for supposedly “strong men”. Some of them find out too late that “macho” does not mean “spiritually strong” or even “good”, and they end up with “predators”.

    Only in God and His Church can we find out the truth for marriage.

  3. pmullane says:

    Boys without fathers becoming dysfunctional in their social relationships? I wonder if that dysfunction (disorder) may extend to other kinds of relationships…..

  4. Priam1184 says:

    “Fatherless homes a key factor in school shootings, teen delinquency” Yup. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s along with the first generation of broken home kids and yes, this more than anything else has gutted our society. Not every household was perfect, and yes there was divorce before this time, but it became normal at this time and somehow or other people had just stopped trying to make marriage last for a lifetime at that point. This led to large number kids sitting around playing video games, eating garbage, and smoking pot all day. And then this sort of behavior started to seep into families that did stay together through the poisonous medium of our ‘culture.’ And now we live with the results. And we’re not going back either; it would require either the wholesale cleansing of our societal institutions or their outright destruction. I vote for the former but I expect the latter.

  5. teomatteo says:

    I’ve developed a sensitivity (an unhealthy one I’m thinken) to the ‘father-less son’ but not what you might think. As the father of two adopted children I cringe when I first hear of these tragedies because I’m afraid that the perp. was adopted and the press would make that point very, very clear. But when it is clear early on that they come from single parent homes that point isn’t even on the media radar. If the adoption issue is then shouldn’t the father-less issue be as well?

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    “A study three or four years ago reveal that contracepting women consistently chose “peter pan” men as mates, as these men did not have what is necessary to be a “protector” male. Obviously, sex outside of marriage also means a man does not have to be a “protector”, so the entire sexual revolution has undermined the role of the father.”

    I wonder if the hormones involved in contraception make women prefer feminized males (are women are more sexually aggressive on the pill?)? Would it be something if simple biochemistry could explain some of this?

    The Chicken

  7. Sonshine135 says:

    Yes. Reference the Feminist Article from earlier today. Escapism is quickly becoming the outlet for the modern man. Unfortunately, the need for women to have an protector doesn’t go away because they will it to be so. A surrogate is found in either government or Lesbianism or both.

    In summary, yes, this is what happens when modern society is deconstructed and rebuilt in a manner that opposes God and the natural law. When we are truthful about this, we can start resolving the issue. Otherwise, we can continue to live under the delusion that this would go away if it were not for evil guns.

  8. Cathy says:

    Chicken, in my one month experience with the pill, no, it kills sexual desire and turns a woman into a vulnerable edgy emotional basket case. Women going through menopause and placed on HRT often experience the same. The physical impact of the pill is easily remedied by going off of it. The spiritual and social consequences of the pill are much deeper – rejection of purpose.
    Father Z, I’m glad you brought this topic up. I am annoyed when homosexuals and the public describe what they do as same-sex relationships. It sounds so dignified, and in reality, it should. Same-sex relationships as well as opposite-sex relationships are some of the most definitively necessary relationships that a human person can have, and the most grossly and horrifically distorted relationships when sexual activity is involved.

  9. Years of working in the criminal justice system have convinced me of the connection between crimes and fatherless families. My juvenile clients in the early years of my career nearly all came from broken homes: I could count on one hand the number of kids whose parents were legally married to each other. Now those kids are adults with prison records and have their own kids out of wedlock, who are also growing up to be in the system. The lack of restraint in the areas of the 6th and 9th Commandments is bringing this society down, and nobody wants to acknowledge it.

  10. PA mom says:

    Chicken-the answer is yes. 10-15 years ago I read in Discover magazine an article which described a study in which women were to choose their favorite smelling sweaty T shirt from among many. Women on birth control chose shirts belonging to men whose biology was significantly similar to their own. Women not on birth control chose men whose biology was far more different, better for avoiding hereditary disease for example.
    This would follow that if a woman is on birth control when she chooses a husband, once she is off, for child bearing or at menopause, she will find herself suddenly unattracted at a very basic level.
    More people should be made aware of this.

  11. TimG says:

    “I wonder if the hormones involved in contraception make women prefer feminized males (are women are more sexually aggressive on the pill?)? Would it be something if simple biochemistry could explain some of this?”

    I strongly recommend getting an audio copy of The Biology of the Theology of the Body by Vicki Thorn. Straight shooter on this subject (and very funny), my family has found her discussion fascinating.

  12. PA mom says:

    But, as to marriage, I do think that a coordinated effort to rebuild marriage needs to occur. The billboards put out by the diocese For Your Marriage were a good start, but really a sell on marriage would be better. Statistics on child success, on poverty; question/ answer type billboards in poorer neighborhoods.
    I think this is really the hidden issue of our time and do not think that the right efforts are being made yet that I can see.

  13. mamajen says:

    There is no substitute for a father, of course, but mothers need to step up and do their part in raising men, not boys. I have three younger brothers, and my mom has always referred to them as her men. Dad was in the picture, fortunately, but he worked so much to support us all that she ended up with most of the child-rearing responsibility. So many women nowadays refer to their husbands and sons collectively as “my boys”, and their expectations for them match. It drives me nuts.

  14. ck says:

    The term “bastard” had negative connotations for a reason. Perhaps these school shooters have much more in common with Goliath than we suspect:

    “And the Philistines had a champion, a bastard born, that was called Goliath of Geth.” -1 Samuel 17.

  15. Mike says:

    Totally yes–young men and boys without Dads are more dangerous to themselves and others. I’ve been hoping that someone would write about this. Good for NRO.

    Sadly, I saw a photo of the New Town killer’s mother’s bedroom floor in the NYTimes, with the gun he killed her with. Not far from the gun, a book. It’s title: “How to think yourself Happy.”

    Sounds like something out of a Walker Percy novel; sadly, horribly, it’s not.

  16. Supertradmum says:

    mamajen, read my post above….you will like it…moms must be a bit tough on the boys, imo.

  17. amenamen says:

    Five “gone again” fathers

    This recent article in the Washington Post is ostensibly about food stamps, and the travails of an unemployed single mother, raising her six children.


    You have to look very carefully to find one passing reference to the five (5) men (her “gone again” men) who sired and abandoned the woman and their own offspring. The author of the article frames the story in terms of the obligations of the government. Neither the mother nor the author seem to view the problem in terms of the glaring absence of fatherhood.

  18. avecrux says:

    ****an aside.
    How many of you know that the killer in the Colorado school last week was only stopped because he was confronted 80 seconds into his rampage by an armed school guard and so took his own life? It was not widely reported. Media outlets were mentioning that it took police 14 minutes to respond… imagine what could have happened with no armed officer.

  19. AvantiBev says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Father for any and all ways you can focus on the impact of no-fault on marriage. As a Baby Boomer and having worked for some time for lawyers, I get funny looks when I say a violent offense now in Criminal Courts can almost always be traced back to Family Court! 40+ years of ignoring no-fault divorce and shacking up and hooking up and boys AND girls born or raised fatherless, and we are SHOCKED that maybe God was on to something when he spoke through Malachi: “For I hate divorce, saith the Lord.”

  20. CatherineTherese says:

    No doubt your mother’s methods shaped your brothers’ proper growth into real men in important ways. But even in his work-related absence, your father was teaching them profoundly. There is a vastly different psychological effect on a boy whose father is absent because he is out working to care for his family (a most manly thing to do), than if that boy were fatherless because of his father’s dereliction. Indeed, even sons of deceased fathers who had been married to their mothers must be better off, psychologically speaking, than boys who never had a father due to abandonment… or – worse (?) – sperm donation.

  21. Scott W. says:

    Boys without fathers becoming dysfunctional in their social relationships? I wonder if that dysfunction (disorder) may extend to other kinds of relationships…..


  22. Lin says:

    The fatherless story does not fit the MSM’s gun control theme. I have not heard that point emphasized in any of the reports on these mass shootings. I grew up fatherless in a time when the children in my class did not even know what the word divorce meant. It was very difficult to feel normal. Had we not lived with my grandparents and been forced to go to catechism classes, I may not have come through it relatively unscathed. After 45 years of a wonderful marriage, I still remember the day my dad left. No one can tell me that the family (mother and dad) is not CRITCAL to our society! And we need to improve our catechesis! The divorce rate for practicing (Catechized) Catholics is only 28% compared to 50% in the general population.

  23. Supertradmum says:

    I have just received Paul Vitz’ Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism, which I wanted for Christmas. I am eager to start this–the entire book in on the subject of the lack of fathers by any means-death, rejection, absence, abuse, etc. leading to the rejection of a God. This was first published in 1999.

    Paul Vitz has great books on post-modern self-worship as well.

  24. Lin says:

    Another interesting trilogy by Brian J. Gail about the culture: Fatherless, Motherless, and Childless (Catholic novels).

  25. LadyMarchmain says:

    Dr. Vitz has done outstanding work. Great choice, Supertradmum!

    I’m glad this topic is being discussed and getting some media attention. One thing I have noted is that most of the single moms I know often face significant challenges in their own emotional and mental health, struggling with a lot of instability and stress. There have been studies in the medical and psychiatric community about this. Much depends on resources and social context. Our churches have very little support in this area and it is not just a matter of social support; there is an urgent spiritual need as most studies examining whether children stay in the faith as adults indicate that it is almost entirely down to the father’s own faith life.

  26. Cafea Fruor says:

    Just last night, I had the misfortune to be sitting near the driver on my bus ride home. From my seat I couldn’t help but overhear the driver chatting it up with one of the other passengers, a man who was standing in the front. Long, saddening story short, the standing man was talking with the driver about all his kids, so the driver asked how many kids he had. The guy replied, “Twenty-two!” and the proceeded to explain how he had all these children with several women and lived with none of them. But when he said that he visits them all the time, the driver basically told him he was a good father for doing so (with which the guy didn’t argue) and then commended his ability to keep up his manhood at the age of fifty-something and be committed to none of the women. Absolutely sickening! And heartbreaking. One wonders how many of his sons are going to turn out OK vs the number that will be seriously messed up and have violent tendencies because their father considered himself a “good father” for merely visiting them in their mothers’ homes.

  27. Uxixu says:

    No fault divorce definitely needs to go. Long term it’s hideously damaging to the poor children produced in marriages for which there are no consequences in entering, much less leaving, rashly.

    Adultery is far more mala in se than most of the mala prohibita laws on the books.

  28. pelerin says:

    An excellent post on this subject was written by Fr Gordon MacRae on his weekly blog ‘These Stone Walls.’ By coincidence he links to it today. It is entitled ‘In the Absence of Fathers: A Story of Elephants and Men.’ Well worth reading as indeed are all of Fr MacRae’s weekly posts.

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