In the midst of the worldwide media coverage surrounding the death of human rights hero Nelson Mandela, another news story was deemed worthy of ample coverage on international news sites and blogs. A celebrity is pregnant, and she unveiled the identity of the father as if she were the star of the Watergate scandal, revealing the identity of Deep Throat.
The baby mama in question is a cast member of the reality show-train wreck Basketball Wives, Evelyn Lozada. And according to reports, the baby daddy is professional baseball player Carl Crawford.
Reactions to Lozada’s pregnancy have been mixed, with some arguing that any pregnancy is a blessing, and others noting that it seems convenient and coincidental that Lozada seems to only date and co-habitate with athletes or those with large bank accounts. The 37-year old Lozada is already a single mom to a daughter she had at age 17.
But I couldn’t help noticing that Lozada’s big announcement coincided with another. A new study published by researchers at McGill University in Montreal indicates that the absence of a father in a child’s life can have a negative effect on brain development. The university said the study was the first to link father absenteeism with social attributes and to correlate these with physical changes in the brain.
This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring, senior author Gabriella Gobbi, an associate professor with the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, wrote in a summary of the Dec. 4 report. These results should incite researchers to look more deeply into the role of fathers during critical stages of growth and suggest that both parents are important in children’s mental health development.
Of course, the results fly in the face of the direction our country is headed. More children are being raised in single-parent households than ever before. Single-parent households have tripled since 1960. Despite protestations by single mothers and some of their children, the fact remains that families headed by single parents fare worse, financially, behaviorally and professionally.
An analysis by the Atlantic noted, Single mothers earn incomes that place them well below married mothers in the income ladder. According to Pew, married mothers earned a median family income of $80,000 in 2011, almost four times more than families led by a single mom. Thirty percent of single mothers are currently living in poverty. As a result, half of the children currently being raised by single mothers are living in poverty, with the majority being black or Hispanic.
But the financial penalties for single parenthood are not the only penalties children face. A groundbreaking study published in 2009 found that daughters raised without fathers are statistically more likely to engage in early sexual activity and to become pregnant as teenagers. Other studies have found an increased likelihood for incarceration among young men raised by single mothers.
Even those raised in wealthy households headed by a single parent fare worse economically in the long term than those raised in a wealthy two-parent household, according to Pew’s Economic Mobility Project.
That’s not stigmatizing; that is stating fact. (Here’s another fact. No, I don’t despise single mothers. My lovely mother was once one and, for the record, she believes the choice to become one could use more stigmatization, not less, in 2013.)
So while I wish Lozada a healthy pregnancy, I hope that she doesn’t inspire other women to follow her lead by continuing to make what has been proven time and again to be a less healthy choice for women, and children, especially in communities of color.
Despite all of this data, single parenting has emerged into a social and cultural norm in recent years, so much so that anyone who has the temerity to cite the numerous studies above is accused of stigmatizing single parents and their children.
First of all, stating facts is not stigmatizing. Furthermore, poor decision-making should be stigmatized. Smokers are stigmatized because not smoking is a healthier choice. So is the choice to create and raise children with two parents as opposed to one.