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Scholar, former NOW board member is sounding alarm on crisis of fatherlessness

"The children that did the best," said Warren Farrell, were those who had "checks and balance parenting" — a combination of masculine and feminine traits working together.

Published: February 26, 2021 4:25pm

Updated: February 28, 2021 11:24am

A prominent, male scholar who once sat on the board of the National Organization for Women is now sounding the alarm on what he calls a "crisis" of fatherlessness, putting him at odds with his former colleagues.

While feminists often call for society to "dismantle the patriarchy," Warren Farrell, who has taught at seven universities, including Georgetown, Rutgers and American University, said he has tracked a dismantling of fatherhood in many communities that has wreaked a devastating toll on boys and men, including a rise in gangs, homelessness and domestic and foreign terrorism. 

During the 1970s, Farrell served on the board of NOW, the liberal feminist group co-founded by Betty Friedan. While he was traveling the world speaking about the importance of feminism," Farrell told "Just the News AM" television program, women — "teachers, usually" — would come up to him after his speeches and say, "You know, in my classroom, the boys are having more problems than the girls." 

Farrell's sister, a teacher, told him that when a boy started exhibiting behavioral problems, "she started looking into his life," he recalled. "And his parents had just divorced, and the father was not around. And then this pattern repeated itself." 

"So I started to become attuned into this," said Farrell, who earned a PhD in political science at New York University. Drawing on his social science background, he delved deeper into the problem to write a book, "The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It."

Farrell identified 10 causes of "the boy crisis," but he found that holding constant for all other variables, fatherlessness — what he calls "dad-deprivation" — was the driving factor in social ills ranging from drug dealing to susceptibility to ISIS recruitment. Farrell said his research showed "that 85 to 90% of the mass shooters had two things in common: They were male, and they were also dad-deprived."  

So Farrell went to the board of NOW in New York City and told them that "dad-deprivation is an important thing," he said. "And the response I got was total silence, like, 'Are you on our side or not?' And I said, 'I hope we're all on the side of children.'"

At that point, Farrell said, he was gently shown the door by NOW, who told him: "You admit yourself that the research is only at its infancy stage, we don't have really good longitudinal data. So why don't you go out and sort of look a bit more carefully, and see if you really want to come up with this conclusion that fathers are so important."  

The NOW press office did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News.

Farrell asked his NOW associates why they were so resistant to the importance of fathers. He was told, he says, that the NOW membership wanted women to be able to have children by themselves or to have the freedom to easily move to another state and take their children with them following a divorce.

In his book, Farrell differentiated between fathers' and mothers' styles of parenting, stressing that both parents play important roles in dozens of different developmental areas. He said his research also found important developmental problems when fathers are not present in their daughters' lives.

"I ended up realizing that the children that did the best are ones that have what I call checks and balance parenting," he said, a combination of masculine and feminine traits working together.

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