Fatherlessness is a term that refers to father absence, in general, but more specifically to the absence of a biological father from his children's home. Public concern and controversy over fatherlessness is a relatively recent phenomenon, developing along with concerns over “family values” more generally. Commentators concerned with contemporary fatherlessness cite the higher likelihood of children with absent fathers to experience a variety of negative consequences. Critics argue that these commentators overstate the negative consequences as well as the degree to which fathers are actually absent. One side of this debate laments the loss of the traditional family while the other side celebrates increasing diversity of family forms-including single mother and lesbian families.

There are at least two significant and related difficulties with studying fatherlessness. One ...

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