The Role of the Father in a Child’s Development (Research for The Shining)

(OK, I will also share research material here, as that doesn’t require any time or creative juice. This just in from Mrs. H, deep background for my exegesis-in-process of The Shining🙂

[Lucinda: The issue of harm done to fatherless children is a hot potato because the Xtian right uses it for a club to beat the liberals with and a much touted new study shows father’s role to be insignificant was used to defend same-sex marriage  – just to warn you. ]

The lead article in the February issue of Journal of Marriage and Family challenges the idea that “fatherless” children are necessarily at a disadvantage or that men provide a different, indispensable set of parenting skills than women.

“Significant policy decisions have been swayed by the misconception across party lines that children need both a mother and a father. Yet, there is almost no social science research to support this claim. One problem is that proponents of this view routinely ignore research on same-gender parents,” said sociologist Timothy Biblarz of the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

 Extending their prior work on gender and family, Biblarz and Judith Stacey of NYU analyzed relevant studies about parenting, including available research on single-mother and single-father households, gay male parents and lesbian parents. “That a child needs a male parent and a female parent is so taken for granted that people are uncritical,” Stacey said.

In their analysis, the researchers found no evidence of gender-based parenting abilities, with the “partial exception of lactation,” noting that very little about the gender of the parent has significance for children’s psychological adjustment and social success.

Lots of absent father is okay studies listed here: http://www.thelizlibrary.org/site-index/site-index-frame.html#soulhttp://www.thelizlibrary.org/liz/017.htm

US statistics on effects of fatherlessness on child outcomes: http://www.dottal.org/LBDUK//effects_of_fatherlessness.htm

Canadian Children’s Rights Counsel has a page of resources, re the protective role of dad:

http://www.canadiancrc.com/Fatherlessness/Fatherlessness_in_Canada.aspx

Fatherlessness is one of the greatest social problems in Canada


  • fathers commit a tiny minority of child abuse and about half the domestic violence.
  • The vast majority of child physical and sexual abuse is committed in single-parent homes, home usually where the father is not present. “Contrary to public perception, research shows that the most likely physical abuser of a young child will be that childs mother, not a male in the household.” [Patrick Fagan and Dorothy Hanks, The Child Abuse Crisis: The Disintegration of Marriage, Family, and the American Community (Washington, DC: Heritage Foundation “Backgrounder,” 3 June 1997), p. 16.]
  • The father is the parent most likely to be the protector of children. “The presence of the father . . . placed the child at lesser risk for child sexual abuse,” according to David L. Rowland, Laurie S. Zabin, and Mark Emerson, in a study of low-income families. “The protective effect from the father’s presence in most households was sufficiently strong to offset the risk incurred by the few paternal perpetrators.” [“Household Risk and Child Sexual Abuse in a Low Income, Urban Sample of Women,” Adolescent and Family Health, vol. 1, no. 1 (Winter 2000), pp. 29-39.]
  • A British study found children are up to 33 times more likely to be abused when a live-in boyfriend or stepfather is present than in an intact family. [Robert Whelan, Broken Homes and Battered Children: A Study of the Relationship between Child Abuse and Family Type (London: Family Education Trust, 1993), p. 29.]

Cornell University professor Urie Bronfenbrenner
One of the most eminent developmental psychologists of our time wrote:

Controlling for factors such as low income, children growing up in [father absent] households are at a greater risk for experiencing a variety of behavioural and educational problems, including extremes of hyperactivity and withdrawal; lack of attentiveness in the classroom; difficulty in deferring gratification; impaired academic achievement; school misbehaviour; absenteeism; dropping out; involvement in socially alienated peer groups, and the so-called teenage syndrome of behaviours that tend to hang together smoking, drinking, early and frequent sexual experience, and in the more extreme cases, drugs, suicide, vandalism, violence, and criminal acts.”


Paternal Abandonment

Research, mainly in the Unites States, published in refereed journals by respected scholars like Sanford Braver, Margaret Brinig, Douglas Allen, Ilene Wolcott, Jody Hughes, Judith Wallerstein, and Sandra Blakeslee, and corroborated by the professional experience of authors as ideologically diverse as Constance Ahrons, Shere Hite, David Chambers, Robert Seidenberg, and Rosalind Miles, indicates that paternal abandonment cannot account for widespread fatherlessness.


Father-deprivation is a more reliable predictor of criminal activity than race, environment or poverty.

Father-deprived children are:

  1. 72% of all teenage murderers.
  2. 60% of rapists.
  3. 70% of kids incarcerated.
  4. twice as likely to quit school.
  5. 11 times more likely to be violent.
  6. 3 of 4 teen suicides.
  7. 80% of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals.
  8. 90% of runaways

Sources: National Fatherhood Initiative (U.S.A.), US Bureau of Census (U.S.A.), FBI (U.S.A.)

“Father-deprivation is a serious form of child abuse that is institutionalized and entrenched within our legal system. Powerful sexist people have a vested interest in diminishing the role of men, especially their role as fathers. Research proves that children thrive with the active and meaningful participation of both biological parents, and is true for post-divorce families.” (Dick Feeman, Joseph Maiello, Mike Jebbet, “Child Custody or Child Abuse”, Victoria Times-Colonist, Jan 8, 1998).


The Importance of Father Love: History and Contemporary Evidence

Published in Review of General Psychology of The American Psychological Association, Inc

This review contains such topics as:

  • Father Love Is as Important as Mother Love
  • Father Love Predicts Specific Outcomes Better Than Mother Love
  • Father Love Is the Sole Significant Predictor of Specific Outcomes
  • Father Love Moderates the Influence of Mother Love
  • Paternal Versus Maternal Parenting May Be Associated With Different Outcomes in Sons and Daughters
  • More..
    Fatherlessness Statistics

    Children who grew up fatherless are:

  • Eight times more likely to go to prison.
  • Five times more likely to commit suicide.
  • 20 times more likely to have behavioural problems.
  • 20 times more likely to become rapists.
  • 32 times more likely to become runaways.
  • 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances.
  • Nine times more likely to drop out of high school.
  • One-tenth as likely to get A’s in school.

The Institute for the Study of Civil Society ( Civitas ) U.K.
Stunning statistics on the problems of fatherless homes

Experiments in Living: The Fatherless Family PDF Click here


Delinquent Behavior, Future Divorce or Nonmarital Childbearing, and Externalizing Behavior Among Offspring: A 14-Year Prospective Study

The American Psychological Association, Inc., The Journal of Family Psychology, December 1999 Vol. 13, No. 4, 568-579

by Robert E. Emery, Mary Waldron and Katherine M. Kitzmann.

This is another study showing that children are significantly disadvantaged in never-married sole maternal custody or divorced sole-maternal custody than in intact families. In fact, the study does indicate that the damage of divorce is about the same level as never having the children involved with their father. Certainly, raising children outside of the influence of both parents is clearly detrimental to the child. PDF Click here

13 thoughts on “The Role of the Father in a Child’s Development (Research for The Shining)

  1. also this on Stephen King:

    Father Absence and the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement

    King’s childhood preoccupation with his missing father resonates with larger cultural concerns of the last twenty-five years. Indeed, a number of religious, spiritual and political movements have bemoaned the lack of fathering on the national landscape. For instance, in a 1995 speech at the University of Texas, President Clinton asserted that “The single biggest social problem in our society may be the growing absence of fathers from their children’s homes . . .” (Qtd. in Glassner 96). Similar arguments are made by Frank Ancona in Father Absence: Crisis in America, who blames the lack of fathers for the AIDS epidemic, illiteracy, the increase in societal violence, child abuse, the welfare state, and the emasculation of America. David Popenoe takes a more moderate position in Life Without Father, but nonetheless asserts that boys need father (146). This missing “paternal function,” in Ancona’s words, is necessary to provide the country with law, order and discipline; without it, the country is lost (xvi).

    In a related vein, members of the mythopoetic men’s movement bemoan the effects of father-absence on boys and the lack of positive male role models for male-male intimacy. In Iron John, Robert Bly refers to this longing as “hunger” for a father (92). In a similar vein, the authors of King, Magician, Warrior, Lover, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, argue that men need role models of the “mature masculine,” a version of a maternal man who is nurturing and supportive rather than destructive and “immature” (145-46). Father-absence and more broadly, father-neglect, it would seem, has left men, and by extension the country, in a state of psychological and political despair.

    King’s fiction and the various factions of the men’s movement are, in fact, the unintended consequences of 1970s feminism. For all of these individuals and their affiliated groups, feminism and shifting gender roles are the root of the problem. For instance, Ancona argues that feminism has crushed patriarchy and become “oppressive and destructive” to men and that the country should return to strict patriarchal values (83). For Popenoe, feminism has meant that women have too much control over parenting boys, and we should return to gender-differentiated parenting. Similarly, mythopoet Robert Bly asserts that contemporary men are overwhelmed by feminists who attack them, and that men today need “a sword to cut . . . [themselves] away from the mother-bound soul” (165).

    According to sociologists Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman, the mythopoetic men’s movement is “the cry of anguish of privileged men . . . in a society where both men’s power and rigid gender definitions are being challenged by feminism” (263). This movement, “augurs a social return to turn-of-the-century masculinist efforts to retrieve manhood and a personal effort to recreate a mythic boyhood” (277). Kimmel and Kaufman further argue that mythopoetic mythology is characterized by the following themes: an idealization of childhood and lost boyhood; a veiled critique of patriarchal ideals for masculinity that exclude emotion and meaningful bonds with other males; and a search for lost fathers and/or an exposure to bad or absent fathers. I would add to this list rampant fears of homosexuality (along with explicit critiques of homophobic behavior). [2]

    King, too, indicates that feminism has given him pause and says: “I was fully aware of what women’s liberation implied for me and others of my sex . . . the book [Carrie] is, in its more adult implications, an uneasy masculine shrinking from the future of female equality”(Danse Macabre 170). In a quite explicit manner, the threat of feminism invokes female monstrosity for King. Faced with the possibility of female equality and the subsequent threat to the penis=power equation, King constructs a telekinetic, menstruating monster who literally burns down the house and everyone in it. Carrie can, for example, be read at the level of the narrative as a protest against feminism and, perhaps, at the level of the genre, against father-absence. [3]

    King, however, is not just dismayed by 1970s feminism, but also by flawed patriarchal figures and institutions. For instance, King’s fiction abounds with adolescents whose biological fathers fail them; thus, they search for new loving mentors. This narrative trope is explored in “The Body,” The Shining [4]’Salem’s Lot, [5]It, [6]The Talisman, [7] and Hearts in Atlantis. [8]

    The cure for this cultural malaise differs for various authors and groups. For instance, Popenoe calls for gender-differentiated parenting and Ancona for the return to strict patriarchal values. Robert Bly and other mythopoets, however, see things slightly differently. They contend that a complementary problem is the bad father. It is not only that men are not powerful or that the patriarch is absent but also that the patriarch is neglectful, corrupt or unloving. [9] The desire is not so much for resurrection of the patriarch as for reconfiguration of the masculine, not for an identification with the authoritarian father, but identification with and love from a loving father.

    The father-fantasy of the popular media is reconfigured in King and men’s movement literature as a search for nurturing father figures or male role models. Rather than yearning for the punitive patriarch who re-establishes law and order, King and men’s movement proponents desire a loving father. Writing the ideal male role model functions as both a protest against his absence (or the badness of other patriarchs) and a form of wish fulfillment about his return. In this manner, both literatures offer a critique of hegemonic masculine ideals and a construction of new feminized models of male subjectivity as the ideal. [10]

    In addition, the overtly masculine is also unavailable to King’s protagonists, either because the characters fail to measure up to masculinity, or because such masculinity is characterized as undesirable. Stereotypically patriarchal figures—male policemen, army officers, teachers, doctors and biological fathers—are revealed to be threatening (although not horrible/abject) in their cruel and callous disregard for emotion and human connections. They are frequently violent (although not supernatural or monstrous) and abusive, beating or sexually abusing children.

    http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?cc=mfsfront;c=mfs;c=mfsfront;idno=ark5583.0014.002;rgn=main;view=text;xc=1;g=mfsg

    • I’m assuming this is some kind of point about how Kubrick is bad for being against fathers in his films (except for Barry Lyndon? which identifies with an abusive father and portrays his victim as a cowardly brat…) but some things should be pointed out:

      First, almost all of the “pro-father” studies are either (a) not adjusted for income or (b) take place in the US, where a lack of social programs (and a culture of male breadwinners) leads to those problems, in Europe (and especially Scandinavia) being fatherless does not.

      But more importantly, a lot of that resentment is coming from “men’s rights” sources. This is a reactionary movement where its “mainstream” leaders literally justify date rape and female oppression (that’s not an exaggeration). I’m not saying being pro-dad or whatever is a bad position to take in-itself, but be careful who your aligning yourself with in making it.

      • i thought id answered this…

        this post isnt an anti-kubrick point but research for the theme of the shining.

        that’s a strange position to take that the father is needed primarily for income – goes to show how far advanced the idea of a father’s role being largely superfluous has become. this would be one result of unfathered children, a general disregard for fathers…

        i’m not aligning myself with anyone by expressing similar opinions; i like fish, does that make me catlike?

        being unfathered hence mother-enmeshed may well be related to date rape and female oppression, the point wouldnt be to justify the latter but to identify one major cause of it

    • It’s an incoherent argument, if your main point is that Kubrick is causing harm, you can’t be “neutral” or have “no position” or “still be in the process of deciding,” the stance is defined by the content of the argument and, unless the argument has changed, the stance remains.

      You’re drawing a false correlation, no one is saying fathers are only useful for income, the question is whether income in-itself, or fatherlessness in-itself is the cause of social problems. Studies show that it’s the former, and that the US exception proves the rule since fatherlessness is related to economic problems whereas it isn’t in other countries.

      I’m not saying you are intentionally, it’s just that in recent years those arguments have been strongly associated with those groups and their arguments are often used to justify it.

      • which argument? my point wasn’t that Kubrick is causing harm; you are reading things into this that aren’t (necessarily) there

        “studies show the former” is a meaningless statement unless you are going to cite the studies.

        you sound like you’ve got a point to defend because the point you’re making isn’t addressing the point I made, or rather, that’s suggested by the above data.

        there is zero doubt whatsoever that absence of the father (or an abusive, or indifferent father) has negative impact on a child; the question is how much.

    • The argument that this isn’t a critique even though your ultimate goal is to show that Kubrick not a great artist (and iirc you did say he was causing harm in one of your comments). The content is by definition a critique.

      Sure, first it’s important to note that Europe/Scandinavia have much higher rates than the US, as a NYT article points out:

      “in Iceland, 66 percent of children are born to unmarried mothers; in Sweden, the share is 55 percent.”
      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/13/health/13mothers.html?_r=0

      The only studies I could find for this are for Sweden, the first by Weitoft et al. (2003) and the second by Gähler and Garriga (2013).

      The first looks at, among other things, psychological disorders for the 1990s and finds that even when they adjust for various factors there is still an effect for single-parents. However, one of the problems is they don’t give what the actual adjusted effects were, only that they were statistically significant.

      The second, looked at single-parenting and psychological disorders from 1968-2000 and found that it makes no difference after adjustments, (and what the actual numbers are):

      “When we add controls for family dissension, economic hardship during upbringing, respondent’s education, and civil status…the excess risk for psychological problems among respondents from dissolved families diminishes substantially, to 19%, and ceases to be statistically significant.”

      Without statistical significance the results aren’t valid. They state in their conclusion that this means the effects are indirect:

      “Hence, it seems that parental family disruption per se can only, at most, indirectly be blamed for the general increase in psychological problems among young adults in Sweden, as it causes, or is caused by, family dissension and economic difficulties, conditions that, in turn, are associated with psychological problems in the individual.”

      Weitoft et al. (2003): http://forumdafamilia.com/arquivo/mortality-single-parents.pdf
      Gähler and Garriga (2013): http://jfi.sagepub.com/content/34/6/784.short

      There’s no doubt that a parent leaving may indirectly cause things like economic problems that lead to psychological problems but there is quite a lot of doubt that single-parenting in-itself does any harm. And it’s a difficult case to make because the more evidence that is used, the more results go in the opposite direction.

      • The argument that this isn’t a critique even though your ultimate goal is to show that Kubrick not a great artist (and iirc you did say he was causing harm in one of your comments). The content is by definition a critique.

        This only goes to show how little you are paying attention, and/or how poorly I have communicated my “ultimate goal.”

        As for the other stuff, it’s all grist for the mill; but in the end one choose to believe the stats that support one’s own experience or belief (not necessarily the same thing), and one only has to refer to one’s own experience to know that the lack of an upright father figure has a psychologically deleterious effect. I say “one” rather than “I,” because I have seen it it so many other men.

        Every rule has its exceptions, however, if you have a different experience, I’d be happy to hear it.

        From what I know about the Nordic countries they are very “advanced” in “feminist” principals, which from my understanding also means particularly blind to the fundamental psychological/biological realities ~ true of all liberal mindsets, I find, and why the right-wing Fundamental Christians, and worse, begin to sound increasingly like the voice of reason in today’s political climate. A delicious joke or a tragic irony, take your pick.

        • Well I certainly don’t think I’m the only person to see your works as critiques but who knows.

          The point of statistics is that they capture reality better than biased measures like anecdotes and in this case, the better the stats the more it goes the other way.

          From my subjective experience I know every kind of combination: people who turned out fine and had two parents (myself included); people who turned out fine with one parent; and people who turned out terribly with two or less parents.

          Which of these ends up being correct? Am I supposed to bias my own experience over numerous others? That’s what stats are there to answer, because people know their own experience, not of everyone.

          I’d say it’s skewed perception, if they really were “fundamental psychological/biological realities” then we would see that in spite of social forces.
          The far right certainly likes to claim those are realities, and not surprisingly, they especially do during times of economic distress.

  2. Kubrick on Jack Torrance: “Jack comes to the hotel psychologically prepared to do its murderous bidding. He doesn’t have very much further to go for his anger and frustration to become completely uncontrollable. He is bitter about his failure as a writer. He is married to a woman for whom he has only contempt. He hates his son. In the hotel, at the mercy of its powerful evil, he is quickly ready to fulfill his dark role.”

    This is completely at odds with the novel, in which Jack is a flawed but loving father whose own buried trauma (from an abusive drunken father) slowly possesses him.

    http://www.visual-memory.co.uk/amk/doc/interview.ts.html

    Kubrick is also the man who tried to prevent Matthew Modine during the filming of Full Metal Jacket from being at his son’s cesarean birth, telling him that the infant “won’t even want you around for the first year.”

  3. Was thinking about my own father here… longer story; but he was a man who had been deprived of his own father.. His parents, my grandparents, were married but my grandmother didn’t want to live in OK city [Oklahoma] at the time.. Their clapboard house was the solitary clapboard shelter in a mud field.. So she moved back to Dallas to be with her large and fortunate family – who hosted constant parties and an extensive social calendar. This was 1913?,,, My father was born in 1911.

    I finally understood what happened after perusing my grandmother’s extensive photo album.. I understood what I could not understand when I was a child.. I saw it unfold in a picture book.. Which I could not comprehend at an earlier date.

    My father was very angry.. And he was brought up by 2 doting woman – my Grandmother and her Mother.. He was the first Grandchild in the House.. And all the brothers and sisters of my Grandmother also doted upon him. So he grew up a “Bastard” though in fact, he not was not one technically.. His father was known and married to my Grandmother at the time of his conception and birth.

    My father’s father never saw him after he was a toddler.. And my father had no memory of him.. My father won a skeet shooting contest as a teenager and wrote to his father about it. His father did not answer but just sent him a valuable gun.

    My father’s father, who had the same name as my father.. Named his second son the same name..

    So my father’s half brother, who was 10 years younger, had the same name.. That half brother , who my father eventually located [ My father’s cousins had told my father his brother was dead since there was an inheritance involved ] was very angry when I used my father’s full real name on my marriage ceremony invitation.. He didn’t think it was my father’s name..

    My mother also had a missing father. She lost her father at age 9..though he didn’t actually die until she was 14. And later , in therapy, the memory of how her father had tried to kill her, returned.. . She had been put as a “mother’s helper” into someone’s home after her father was arrested, when she was nine. She ran away from the “mother’s helper” / foster situation, because of mistreatment by the lady of the house, at about age 15.

    My mother forgave her father – though that was a lot of work.. She let it go.. And said he was sick.. And that was all..She forgave him , after much work on herself.

    So as, I guess I mention to you before [or not I can’t remember ]: The Guru I had, starting at age 17, was less of a “brother” and more of a “father.” His nickname was “Baba” , which actually means “Father” .. With all his flaws he was a good father. He gave me what I needed to live.. which my own father could not give me.. Hail Baba! He was everything to me..

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