Absent Dads = Increased Risk of Sons Going to Prison

When the Dad isn’t there, sons are more likely to go to prison. Princeton University researcher Sara McLanahan and Nancy Harper at the University of California, San Francisco found that boys raised by a single parent were more than twice as likely to end up in prison or jail, even after controlling for poverty, race and other factors. In their 2004 study – Father Absence and Youth Incarceration –  McLanahan and Harper suggested that a father’s “distance from his adolescent son’s development presents a risk for negative expressions of the adolescent’s autonomy.”

Interestingly, the entry of a stepdad into the household did not improve the odds of the children staying out of prison. McLanahan and Harper noted: “These stepparent results indicate that certain processes within a stepparent family such as conflict or divided loyalties, rather than a father-absent family per se, might present greater difficulties for adolescents.”

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