Warren Farrell

How Government Caused 'the Boy Crisis'

Author Warren Farrell says welfare programs encourage fatherless households.

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Warren Farrell, author of The Boy Crisis, was once associated with the feminist movement. Then he changed his views. "I don't agree with the part of feminism that says, 'Men are the oppressors and women are the oppressed,'" Farrell tells Maxim Lott, a senior producer of Stossel on Reason.

For example, men die five years earlier than women, have more dangerous jobs, and are often passed over for custody. Boys are two times more likely than girls to commit suicide. Boys are 29 percent less likely to get a college degree than girls.

So why do men earn more and have more influence in government and business? A big reason, Farrell argues, is that men are filling social expectations to become the family breadwinner.

"Our dads and our grandpas, they made sacrifices…to make more money, and then the feminist movement turned all of that sacrifice on the part of men against men," Farrell says.

Both sexes struggle, but Farrell thinks the feminist movement's single-sided focus on women's inequalities has led to an atmosphere that harms boys. A dramatic increase in fatherless households—which Farrell believes is largely responsible for boys' problems—goes ignored.

Study after study finds that having both a mother and father is best, at least for straight families. (Gay families may do just as well; Farrell notes that the overall evidence is inconclusive.) "Even when we control for the amount of money a father and mother earn, children with dads still do much better," Farrell notes.

The rate of fatherless households has increased partly because of welfare programs that "tear the family apart by giving the money to mothers when fathers are absent," Farrell argues, "and not giving money to mothers when fathers are present."

Why would fatherless households hurt boys more than girls? "Boys tend to not have as many skills at developing friendships, at developing emotional connections," Farrell says. "So when the family connection breaks apart, it affects them more profoundly than it does their sisters."

Farrell says fathers are critical for several non-intuitive reasons. One is roughhousing, which teaches kids boundaries. Fathers roughhouse more than mothers, and when they do, "the father is creating a bond with the child, so the children don't mind discipline….The discipline is the price they pay for more fun with dad."

Many people think that mothers tend to be better parents because women are, on average, more empathetic and pay more attention to a child's needs. But Farrell says this by itself is not enough, because "an empathetic parent does not create an empathetic child. An empathetic parent is someone who's always thinking of the children's needs, which teaches the children to always have his or her needs thought of."

Requiring a child to think of others' needs is what actually build empathy, Farrell says.

Finally, Farrell says that mothers are more likely to express their love for a child by doing things like homework for the kid. They're more likely to engage in "helicopter parenting," which leads to overly dependent kids.

What's the solution to "the Boy Crisis"? Farrell says that society should offer more respect to men who focus on fathering rather than career success. He wishes there were more men in classrooms, and that schools would bring back things like recess.

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The views expressed in this video are solely those of John Stossel; his independent production company, Stossel Productions; and the people he interviews. The claims and opinions set forth in the video and accompanying text are not necessarily those of Reason.