On “Fatherless Children”

Fatherless children have been getting a lot of bad press lately.

The British PM, David Cameron, blamed the London riots on a lack of solid male role models and has declared himself ready to “tackle fatherless children.”

In the increasingly-heated debate about same-sex marriage, the conservatives are holding up the same card, claiming children without fathers are much worse off.

This was most recently seen in the case of Australian Senator Penny Wong, who shared the happy news that she and her partner are expecting a baby, only to be met with vile comments from conservative religious groups about gay parents violating a baby’s “human rights” and saying that children “generally did best if raised by a mother and a father”—to mention a few.

Actually, they’re wrong.

A first-of-its-kind study from 2010 showed the exact opposite—two mothers equates to well-adjusted, better behaved, smart children. Sometimes moreso than in the traditional nuclear family model.

Regardless, words like those the above are not fair on single parents around the globe, who are doing their best to raise children on their own when there’s no option for a second parent to be involved.

I was raised by a single mother from the age of seven after my father died. I am not rioting in the streets. I am not suffering from behavioural issues and I was not a difficult teenager.

Children do not need fathers. Or mothers, for that matter. They need love. And the more of it they have, the better.

A family is what you make it.

My family was just us girls—my mother, my little sister, and me. We loved each other and looked out for each other.

My extended family—godparents, uncles, aunties, surrogate mothers, and fathers—all stepped in. I never felt alone. I never felt the need to rebel, and certainly never to set things on fire.

Rather than twist the research to serve prejudiced views, I think we can extrapolate a little further to say:

Children fare best when their parents take an active interest in their lives, when they feel supported, and are encouraged to flourish. It doesn’t matter who that comes from, so long as they are loved.

About Emma

Emma Merkas is the co-creator of couples' inspiration website $30 Date Night and author of the 'How Was It For You?' relationships and dating column in Australian newspaper, mX. You can also find her at her own blog or on Twitter @30dollardate.


  1. Your last paragraph pretty much sums it up. Though ideally I believe in the nuclear family model, I can think of many, many cases where kids are better off without it. It totally depends on the people involved.
    Excellent post.

  2. Excellent article. I think you are right on. It is great to bring attention to issues that are so frequently misrepresented.

  3. Hi Emma,
    I believe that children need active and interested parents and extended family in their lives. I don’t care if the parents are from Mars as long as they support and love the child is all that matters.

  4. Yep, I loved this one too. Great, thoughtful post 🙂

  5. Great article, but would like to point out that the concern with single parenthood is really the poverty that often comes with it – at least it is in the US big cities. Women still earn less then men across all the classes – we need fight inequity on all levels from the stigma of being a single parent, or a gay parent, and so on…

  6. While I agree that a family doesn’t need to look like Leave it to Beave to be successful, and there are plenty of dysfunctional two-parent families, I’m not writing off the influence of a good father in the family either. So many single parent families live in poverty and in chaos, segregated from society at large, and with little support and attention except when something bad happens. Until we do the hard work to get families in whatever configuration stable, we are going to have problems…

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