I have been reading something lately that blames single parent homes for the extreme amount of violence in the US right now. I have a problem with this, particularly the authors association between school shootings and boys without fathers.
Now, I won’t downplay the importance of men, particularly in the life of a child, but I will say that this isn’t exactly the first generation or even the first couple of generations to be raised in homes by single mothers and the problem seems to exist primarily in the US as opposed to being a worldwide phenomenon. Fathers do play in an important role in the lives of their children and several universities have released studies showing things like “hugging your kid once a day” makes it less likely they will grow up to be sociopaths. And that interaction with a father when a child is young builds a better platform for male children to learn to express their feelings, especially if their fathers are affectionate.
We’ll start with dispelling a pretty common myth. School shootings have been a thing for a really long time, long before Columbine, long before Sandy Hook… The first recorded incident of a school shooting was in the 1800s in the US. In the early 1900s a very irritated janitor attempted to blow up a school in Michigan. And they have happened in the US, Canada, and the UK, the USSR/Russia, but the US does hold the record for most frequent incidents.
So if absentee fathers are the biggest reason for school shootings and can be avoided by fathers being involved in the lives of their children, why didn’t school shootings jump significantly after WWI, WWII, and Vietnam? These were wars that resulted in millions of deaths, mostly of men. This question is particularly interesting to me since I have a history degree. After all, children who lose a parent when they are young are more likely to suffer emotional issues related to the loss of said parent. So with a whole bunch of emotionally unstable children growing up after WWI, WWII, and Vietnam who lost their fathers in the war, why wasn’t there a significant spike in school shootings after these wars? Also, why has it become so commonplace in US culture but not in other Western cultures?
The author argues and provides his proof that fatherless boys are more likely to commit school shootings by pointing out that most of the massive school shootings that have taken place in recent years, including the Columbine shooters all came from fatherless homes. I haven’t researched the topic enough to know if he is right or not. I do that is not the case with the Aurora Theater shooter who actually lived with his father and stepmother. Granted, he isn’t a school shooter, but he is a mass murderer who did essentially the same thing as a school shooter in a crowded movie theater.
He also glosses over the fact that fatherless girls are not as likely to become mass murderers… because that’s exactly what a school shooter is. By pointing out that women are less likely to be mass murderers anyway. He is right in the sense that a woman is far more likely to be a serial killer than a mass murderer… something like 99.5% of all mass murderers are male and while you can find some female mass murderers, it is even rarer for them to work alone (they almost always work in tandem with a male mass murderer). He also ignores the fact that not all fatherless boys become mass murderers by pointing out that not everyone is designed to be a mass murderer, which seems like a bit of fuzzy logic when trying to prove that absentee fathers are the reason school shootings happen… in other words, his refusal to address the problem that not all fatherless boys become mass murderers in itself proves that absentee fathers are not the only problem in school shootings.
He also ignores the fact that it has primarily become a US problem despite the fact that thousands, if not millions, of boys grow up all around the world without fathers for a plethora of reasons (death, divorce, prisons, are some of his reasons why fathers are absent). In other words, I feel like he missed a huge piece of the puzzle which is horrifying considering this book was recommended to me because it is a best seller.
I am of the opinion that fatherless boys are not the problem. I think the US has societal issues that come into play, like male children are not treated as affectionately by either parent as girl children because of the gender roles we’ve assigned to them and boys are not encouraged to talk about their problems in the same way girls are (which leads to the horrifying statistic that boys who become victims of sexual abuse tend not to tell about the abuse as fast as girls).
Girls are encouraged to seek professional mental health services more than boys and girls are treated better when they do seek professional mental health services by their peers than boys. Also, the US still treats people with mental illnesses like they have leprosy. We have this stigma about the mentally ill that we can’t seem to overcome and it is still considered a sign of weakness to have a mental illness, which is silly since it is a chemical or neurological imbalance in the brain.
Overall, I agree that absentee fathers are a huge problem, but they aren’t the primary problem. These things are more complicated than a single source.