Rethinking Mom and Dad

Author:Lynne Marie Kohm
Pages:441-490
RETHINKING MOM AND DAD
LYNNE MARIE KOHM*
I. INTRODUCTION
If the players of the National Football League (NFL) are any indicator
of what might be in the best interests of children, some sports experts seem
to think that fatherless quarterbacks have more challenges to their NFL
success than those who had the benefit of both a father and a mother while
growing up.1 Robert Griffin III (also known as RGIII) is a p rime example.2
“Decades of research have now documented the tremendous challenges
children face when they grow up without their fathers,”3 and indeed father
absence4 and the father wound5 are serious concerns in America today.6
Copyright © 2014, Lynne Marie Kohm.
* John Brown McCarty Professor of Family Law, Regent University School of Law.
My sincere gratitude is expressed to th e Capital University Law Review board and staff for
hosting the Ninth Annual Wells Conference on Adoption Law, titled “Rethinking Best
Interests,” where this Article was presented by invitation, and to Rachel K. Toberty and
Elizabeth Oklevitch for their excellent research assistan ce.
1 See Chris Conger, Cam Newton—Colin Cowherd and Fathers in Sports, NFL NEWS
DESK (Dec. 7, 2012, 2:20 AM), http://nflnewsdesk.com/cam-newton-colin-cowherd-and-
fathers-in-sports/ (discussing Cowherd’s assessment, which cont rasts successful rookie
quarterbacks, such as Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, and Andrew Luck, who had the
benefit of having an involved father (and a mother) while growing up, with talented but
struggling quarterbacks such as Cam Newton, who did not have the benefit of being raised
with a father at home).
2 Zennie Abraham, RG3’s Dad Talks About Raising Robert Griffin III, ZENNIE62 (Dec.
12, 2009, 5:21 PM), http://www.zennie62blog.com/2012/12/09/rg3s-dad-talks-raising-
robert-griffin-iii-12353/.
3 Jenet Erickson, Men Don’t Mother, PUB. DISCOURSE (Oct. 26, 2012), http://www.the
publicdiscourse.com/2012/10/6710/.
4 See Improving the Well-Being of Children by Increasing the Proportion of Children
with Involved, Responsible, and Committed Father in Their Lives, NATL FATHERHOOD
INITIATIVE (2011), http://www.fatherhood.org/about/about-how-we-do-it [hereinafter
Committed Father] (“There are record levels of father absence in America [with] 24 million
children liv[ing] in homes absent their biological father [and one] of [three] children
nationally—triple the rate of 1960—liv[ing] in father-absent homes.”).
5 See Knights of Columbus, The Father Wound Epidemic, FATHERS FOR GOOD, http://
www.fathersforgood.org/ffg/en/month/archive/march10.html (last visited Mar. 31, 2014) .
The “father wound” is not yet an officially recognized clinical term, but:
(continued)
442 CAPITAL UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW [42:441
In contrast, others argue, “[T]here is no conclusive evidence that,
absent those conditions [of poverty and instability], the pure, pared-down
state of single motherhood is itself dangerous to children.”7 A recent
survey of current studies on parenting that mitigated family structure
variables indicated that “[s]trengths typically associated with married
mother-father families appear to the same extent in families with [two]
mothers and potentially in those with [two] fathers.”8 In fact, a recent
survey of studies concluded that “[a]verage differences favor women over
men” in parenting, but that “parenting skills are not dichotomous or
exclusive,” noting that “[t]he gender of parents correlates in novel ways
with parent-child relationships but has minor significance for children’s
psychological adjustment and social success.”9 Another study contended
that successful parenting is not gender specific at all—that children do not
need either a mother or a father, but rather, that any gender configuration
of adults is able to parent well.10
[I]t is used by many mental health professionals in identifying the
origin of numerous emotional and behavioral conflicts in spouses,
singles[,] and children. These difficulties can be the result of failing to
have a strong, loving[,] and supportive relationship with a responsible
father, or as a result of modeling after and then repeating sign ificant
weaknesses of the father such as selfishness, excessive anger,
emotionally distant behaviors[,] or indifference to the faith.
Id.; see also Russell Simmo ns Presents Def Poetry Jam—Knock Kno ck, YOUTUBE (May 8,
2009), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E0DMcZ23kE.
6 Committed Father, supra note 4.
7 Katie Roiphe, In Defense of Single Motherhood, N.Y. TIMES, Aug. 12, 2012, at SR8.
8 Timothy J. Biblarz & Judith Stacey, How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?, 72 J.
MARRIAGE & FAM. 3, 3 (Feb. 2010).
9 Id.
10 Louise B. Silverstein & Carl F. Auerbach, Deconstructing the Essential Father, 54
AM. PSYCHOLOGIST 397, 397 (1999). Others, however, called that “lunacy.” Wade F.
Horn, Lunacy 101: Questioning the Need f or Fathers, ALL ABOUT FAMILIES (Jul. 21, 1999),
http://phares.net/allabout//99aaf26.html#lunacy. Horn was the Assistant Secretary of
Health and Human Services for Children and Families from 2001 to 2007. See Dylan
Matthews, Wade Horn Ran Welfare for George W. Bush. Here’s How He’d Handle the
Sequester, WASH. POST (Feb. 26, 2013, 9:00 AM), http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/
wonkblog/wp/2013/02/26/wade-horn-ran-welfare-for-george-w-bush-heres-how-hed-handle
-the-sequester/; see also Jeff Jacoby, Attack on Fatherhood a Political Screed
Masquerading as Science, BOSTON GLOBE, Jul. 26, 1999, at A15 (calling Destructing the
Essential Fatherhood “a political screed that ignores what science has proven”).
2014] RETHINKING MOM AND DAD 443
Constitutionally, parental rights are fundamentally protected,11 but
what parental situation is authentically in the child’s best interests?
Arguments for genderless parenting suggest that “[t]he gender of parents
only matters in ways that [do not] matter.”12 However, in 1987, Supreme
Court Justice William Brennan argued, in Bowen v. Gilliard,13 that “the
optimal situation for the child is to have both an involved mother and an
involved father.”14 New York’s highest court ruled:
The Legislature could rationally believe that it is better,
other things being equal, for children to grow up with both
a mother and a father. Intuition and experience suggest
that a child benefits from having before his or her eyes,
every day, living models of what both a man and a woman
are like.15
Cambridge Professor Michael Lamb, whose expert testimony was relied
upon against California’s Proposition 8 (a referendum defining marriage as
between one man and one woman, passed by a majority of Californians),16
wrote that both “mothers and fathers play crucial and qualitatively different
roles in the socialization of the child.”17
The research presented here seeks to obtain the child’s perspective.
Adult childre n of varied parenting configurations are now entering the
dialogue. Speaking now as a bisexual parent and a child who was raised
by two mothers, California State Northridge Professor Robert Lopez
11 Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534 (1925) (holding that parents have an
inalienable right to direct the upbringing of their children); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S.
390, 400 (1923) (same).
12 Erickson, supra note 3; see also Biblarz & Stacey, supra note 8, at 3.
13 483 U.S. 587 (1987) (Brennan, J., dissenting).
14 Id. at 614 (citing HENRY BILLER, PATERNAL DEPRIVATION: FAMILY, SCHOOL,
SEXUALITY, AND SOCIETY 10 (1974)).
15 Hernandez v. Robles, 855 N.E.2d 1, 7 (N.Y . 2006).
16 Prop 8, CAL. GEN. ELECTION: TUESDAY, NOV. 4, 2008; OFFICIAL VOTER INFORMATION
GUIDE, http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/past/2008/general/argu-rebut/argu-rebutt8.htm (last
visited Mar. 26, 2014); Statement of Vote, November 8, 2012, General Election, CAL.
SECRETARY OF STATE DEBRA BOWEN (Dec. 13, 2008), http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/sov/
2008-general/sov_complete.pdf.
17 Michael E. Lamb, Fathers: Forgotten Contributors to Child Develo pment, 18
HUMAN DEV. 245, 246 (1975). Dr. Lamb testified in favor of same-sex couples. See
Transcript of Oral Argument at 1003–1203, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, 704 F. Supp. 2d 921
(N.D. Cal. 2010) (No. C 09-2292-VRW).

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