It is by now well known that children growing up in single parent families do worse across a whole range of indicators (see here and here and here). What is less well known is that the outcomes are even worse for boys. Boys coming from single parent families are less likely to read, have lower cognitive skills, lower educational attainment, lower rates of college completion and worse labour market outcomes.

Some of this appears to be because single mothers give slightly less attention to their sons. Other evidence suggests that boys appear to be more responsive to their social environment, where circumstances are unfavourable this will have a more negative impact on boys than it does on girls.

However, as I argued recently in a paper in New Male Studies, the absence of a male role model is the strongest contributing factor. But the importance of what the father is modelling is not his ability to do a particular job or be successful. Rather it is his crucial contribution to family life and his role within the home.

For a child it is the family that is at the heart of his or her universe. The knowledge that one day you can have a role to play within this central institution is the bedrock to feeling secure.

For little girls their place within this universe is unproblematic. Processes of pregnancy and lactation set up patterns of path dependency which mean that mothers are pivotal and the centre of decision-making and moral authority. This is reassuring if you are a little girl. And while, of course, men may excel in caring, women take primary responsibility for children. Even  the most caring father is likely to be in some sense the deputy as long as the mother is around.

For this reason, it is essential that men have their own socially and culturally constructed role within the family. Without this, boys may grow up without a place in this universe – free agents, answerable to nothing and nobody. Alternatively,  they may be trapped rather than nurtured by the family, by  a mother they are having to support. The former leads only to a vacuous freedom, untempered by a sense of responsibility which gives freedom its worth. The latter may act as a barrier, preventing a man setting up a family of his own. Neither help the human species to survive.

Pre-industrial,  pre-feminist societies had a much better grasp of the importance of a uniquely male role. While women produced children, men produced the ritual and symbolism that surrounded male initiations and rites of passage. While women were powerful because they were the ones who produced children, there were checks and balances because only men could make men.

In these societies, women were tied into nurturing and providing for their offspring by virtue of their biology. However, men too were tied into chains of personal obligation towards particular women and children, who they were expected to support. Provision may have been in the form of food, shelter, spiritual guidance or protection. It was not about domination as assumed by the theory of patriarchy. Rather it was a social and cultural mechanism that tied men into the same webs of personal responsibility towards significant others that burdened women through the act of giving birth.

The provider role was and is not only valuable to women and children – a fact that MGTOWs feel aggrieved about and that feminists resolutely refuse to recognise, probably because that way it is easier to exploit. It is also motivating for boys and men. We know that married men work harder and earn more money – might not a dim anticipation of future responsibility provide the push to achieve in education, learn a skill or go to work?

In our own societies, women and children are still dependent to a far greater degree than ever acknowledged on male employment. However, we have completely devalued the provider role. We have separated provisioning from fatherhood and providers from their families. At the same time, we use the expectation to provide as a stick to beat men with while low-skilled employment has been rendered so financially unrewarding that it is impossible for less educated men to contribute financially to families in a meaningful way.

If we want to understand why boys do so badly in education, we need to explore some of these traditional sources of motivation. We need to focus on male education and male employment particularly so that men can have a role supporting families. We should focus on interdependence rather than pretend independence and recognise and value the male provider role.


  1. I’m not normally one to criticise men because there’s plenty of that around already and most of it is frankly misandrist and clueless. However, my 22 year old daughter has now brought home quite a few of her male friends and I have to say that there’s not one of them with any cojones. Listless, ambition free, puppy dogs trailing behind her like a bad smell. Maybe she just chooses this type (a problem) but I suspect a lifetime of indoctrination through education and social conditioning are largely to blame. Our glorious 2016 revolution must go far further…and soon.

    • Why don’t you look to yourself to teach her to make better life choices rather than blaming everything and everybody else.
      That’s a lot of the trouble with today – it’s always somebody else’s responsibility and somebody else’s fault.

      • Indeed this is the deep irony of the feminist cause. Given that it has always been women, mothers, nursery staff, teachers that have the primary role with babies and infants and we know the old Jesuit adage is now supported by child research. Men are in considerable degree reflections of their earlt upbringing by …. well women Patriarchy just must be a woman thing.

          • It seems so obvious. If indeed “gender is socially constructed” then in fact the main transmitters of that construction to the next generations are women (indeed the feminists complain about this as women’s burden that men aren’t so involved). Even where men are allowed into this role it is as “helper” to mum and nurses/teachers/”carers”. I’m probably missing something but it seems an obvious point, to make the change should be easy in their theoretical model, women just have to transmit the new societies values. Feminists don’t need quotas on Boards just for women generally to believe them.
            In the real world of course when they do do this (as averred by many a newspaper columnist whinging about their sons) they hit upon some natural proclivities. But of course the vast majority don’t want to create the revolution anyway.

    • You only have another 10 or so of disappointment to go and then you will realise that it is too late.

      No, only kidding 🙂

  2. A lot depends also on the wider family. My grandson has a deceased father through a road accident. My daughter expends lots of time and money on him and tries to give him a wide variety of experiences. We, as grandparents also give a balancing view and a male role model.
    He has just announced at age 8 that he will be getting married (only once). She will have to be beautiful and be able to cook (maybe she will be a Thai bride as the second requirement is not often found in the local!s). And he will always be there for his Mum!
    I just hope society changes enough over the next 20 years to make this possible!

    • Part of the answer is also letting young women know that it is perfectly acceptable (and honourable and dignified) to aspire to be a wife and mother. I think you’d actually be surprised at the number of women that really want that traditional role (I’ve met plenty that have confessed it to me at least). Sadly, in the climate of you-can-have-it-all feminism it is a bit like having to come out of the closet a few decades ago – fraught with social opprobrium. Your grandson will be just fine if he sticks to his guns. You seem conscious about providing role models, which can take many forms anyway: you, uncles, leaders of social clubs or sports clubs, scouts etc. So he’ll be fine. And if he’s anywhere near a sea scouts unit I can’t recommend them highly enough.

  3. I read your paper Belinda and it makes total sense, and I thank you for it.

    “At the same time, we use the expectation to provide as a stick to beat men with while low-skilled employment has been rendered so financially unrewarding that it is impossible for less educated men to contribute financially to families in a meaningful way.”

    This is the major issue. The state is now the father for too many boys. Until the state ends welfare benefits for single mothers that have chosen to leave the father, and only gives benefits to mothers when they are married or have a partner (or have justifiable reasons why they are not, such as being a widower or the partner is abusive) – and actually tells the mothers why – this will not change.

    Feminists and lefties just won’t allow this to occur because they are indoctrinated into cultural marxism, which wants to replace the family with the state.

  4. Thanks Belinda, excellent piece. For the sake of girls, too, we must value fathers. In my experience almost all radical feminists have either no relationship, or a very poor relationship, with their fathers. Many have been brought up by bitter single mothers to whom men are anathema.

  5. The Women’s Equality Party are demanding true equality with men.
    Oh, except ( as per their manifesto) in parental custody! That’s a step to far.

    • The WEP of course want ever more privileges, not ‘true’ equality with men.The standard answer to a woman who says she’s a feminist and is interested in gender equality is to say, ‘How kind! Which of your many privileges are you willing to give up, to have gender equality?’

  6. Children are emotionally damaged by being raised by a single parent.
    Constant anxiety influences brain often are single mums anxious?
    When there’s only one parent and its a parent with a problem, that’s going to be the single main influence.
    Study shows present fathers produce lower levels of delinquent behaviour, less important for girls.
    However Canadian study shows permanent brain damage
    Psychology today..doesn’t think it’s a `provider` problem, however much women would like to be permanently provided for (a middle class/higher skills=higher pay issue?)
    This writer is saying that it’s the quality of parenting which is the issue..access to men more important than a male parent., that maleness is innate, which is giving rise to the gays who adopt concern

  7. I think way back to Margaret Mead etc. observing the universality of deliberate ways to bring up boys to be “men” . However “man” was defined in a particular society. And observing the generally simpler and biologically driven process of becoming woman.
    Today we have a number of problems. a. Largely junked the idea of putting much effort into bringing anyone up, rather letting them “discover” themselves. b. defined man as a series of things not to be without any what to be. c. merrily connived in the erosion of the structures that gave us all our sense of a secure life; the family.

  8. It was once said that fathers are needed to protect children from their mothers (and I don’t mean DV). Haven’t heard that one in a while.

  9. I agree that the major part of boys failing in education is related to motivation, and hence to the position of men and boys in society. Whilst there is much that could be changed within the educational system, that alone would never be sufficient (not that there is currently any noticeable enthusiasm to do even that). I strongly recommend Belinda’s paper in New Male Studies. It illustrates the requirement for men to become men before they can take on the fatherhood role – an anthropological perspective I’d not appreciated before. From this one can see how doomed is the feminist programme to feminise men and redefine fatherhood as watered-down, understudy motherhood.

  10. Everything you say is true and anyone with an ounce of common sense are fully aware of it.
    But that cuts no ice with so called progressives as they dismantle the structures that worked so well.
    What’s disgusting is we have an allegedly conservative government with no real opposition who are doing next to nothing to reverse the policy’s of the left that cause these problems.
    They should be aggressive in the face of the nonsense that comes along on a daily basis, starting with dismantling the teacher training colleges and starting again with people who have performed in the real world.

    • I consider myself progressive but I agree with the article. In fact, I don’t believe is a matter of political ideas, to me is a problem within feminism and there is nothing that impede anyone from being progressive from a social perspective and realize that feminism only see women as victims and men as perpetrators no matter the facts. In fact, I would say that fighting for the rights and the equality of opportunity of any group that suffers discrimination is something that falls inside the progressive motto.

  11. I might just mention if you want to read more about some of these ideas see Geoff Dench ‘Transforming Men Changing Patterns of Dependency and Dominance in Gender Relations’ – that is where many of these ideas come from. Just happens to be my husband. Unfortunately the publishers charge a fortune for the book (and don’t give royalities!) and they don’t put it on kindle. But if enough people asked for it maybe they might.

  12. “a fact that MGTOWs feel aggrieved about”

    No. You really just don’t get it do you? You are describing a world which no longer exists. You little ladies were quite happy and are still happy to benefit from feminism, but feel like you can pick and choose what you like, you will have a bit of ‘sleep with who I like when I’m young and don’t you dare judge me’ and then have a portion of ‘stay at home with the kids and be paid money to do so’ when you are older. But paying your fair share, paying on dates, staying late at the office…….well you can keep that boys!

    What you did not realize was that feminism liberated men as well. I could not care less about your ‘provider role’, I’m not going back to the plantation, I quite like how it is now. And those boys you ‘care’ about….they will be fine, they know what women are and will treat them accordingly. If you ‘cared’ about them you would advocating women not benefitting from feminism, not entering the job market, not sucking their way to the top. Rather marrying early and staying married come what may. I don’t see it happening.

  13. I’m going to take the no doubt unpopular stance of being possibly the only feminist commenting on this article. I feel that the central purpose of women’s rights: to have free and equal access in the legal and economic sphere was derailed by the lie that women could go it alone and this destroyed the complementary interactions and dynamics between men and women. However, a man being a breadwinner in the family does not impede a woman’s right to: 1)- Work, 2)- Legal Rights, 3)- Education, 4)- Choosing her own future. And high male unemployment leads to a myriad of social problems, many of which endanger women. For example, male alcoholism (which may be borne of depression and disillusionment from unemployment) can lead to domestic violence against a female partner. Never is this more keenly felt than in the black community, where generations of fatherlessness have turned out restless, poorly-educated and angry youths who have no chance of contributing to society, are doomed to repeating this cycle of delinquency, and make completely unsuitable partners for women– who in turn make unsuitable partners for men through a feeling of bitterness at being left to go it alone, or past grievances in relationships.

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