January 4, 2019 (REAL Women of Canada) – The mass shootings in the US have dumbfounded its citizens. Americans have owned semi-automatic weapons for over a hundred years, but only in recent years have school shootings become a phenomenon.

What is the common thread in all these shootings? Six out of the seven deadliest shootings that occurred in the US between 2005 and 2015 were committed by men who grew up in fatherless homes. Even a study of older male shooters, such as Stephen Paddock of the Las Vegas massacre, indicates that they grew up in fatherless homes.

A boy's relationship with his father has a profound effect on his identity. Many of the school shooters struggled with a sense of “damaged masculinity” and sought to become “ultra-masculine” by obtaining a gun which they believed gave them power. This conclusion on mass shootings has been established by much research, and refuted by none.

The consequences of fatherlessness are simply staggering. US statistics on the effects of not having a father in the home include the following:

  • 85% of all youth in prison come from fatherless homes;
  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes;
  • 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father in the home; and
  • 90% of runaways or homeless teens are from fatherless homes.

Father-enriched boys are able to channel their masculinity constructively as father deprived boys channel their masculinity destructively.

Perils of the Divorce Court

An unfortunate notion has developed that marriage is about the emotional fulfillment of adults, when it is actually about the needs of children. Children's needs are the same today as they were one hundred years ago, but our society and current culture has changed, which is harming our young people and leading to their troubled behaviour.

One of the most significant of these cultural changes is the increase in absent fathers by no-fault divorce, not by their own choice.

Divorce is most often instigated by the wife (70%) and, in a majority of cases, divorce causes the separation of a child from his/her father.

It should be pointed out, however, that broken homes are not just caused by divorce and separation, but also by infidelity, substance abuse, criminal behaviour, domestic violence and child abuse, that are far too prevalent in our culture.

False Allegations

Under current Canadian legislation, divorced or separated mothers have been provided with an opportunity to undermine their children's relationship with their father by accusing him, without evidence, of abuse, whether sexual or physical. With this allegation, the father is immediately removed from the home in order to protect the mother and her children. This removal can be critical since 18 women and two men have been killed in Canada between January and April, 2018 by their intimate partner. However, with this allegation, the father is jailed overnight and then released on bail terms which include a provision requiring that he stay away from his wife and children until the allegation has been resolved by the courts. The mother can further enforce the father's absence by obtaining a restraining order against him, requiring he not return to the home. Because of the courts' backlog in domestic cases, court hearings are frequently delayed for 12 to 18 months. This delay is harmful to the child-father relationship since the father is absent from the child's life for this prolonged period of time.

Further, family law does not require that “guilt” of abuse be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, as required in criminal cases, so that the complaining parent alleging violence or abuse, can basically say anything about the other parent and the burden of proof is shifted. That is, in the absence of witnesses, there isn't much in place to prevent a parent from fabricating false allegations. Consequently, an innocent parent doesn't have much of a chance against such an allegation.

There must be a recognition that in the often emotional context of a family breakdown, allegations of violence made by one spouse against another can be exaggerated or even fabricated. There should be provisions in the legislation for penalties for false allegations.

According to Statistics Canada Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile which was released in January, 2016, 4% of the 19.2 million Canadians with a spouse or common law partner, reported having been physically and/or sexually abused. This was significantly fewer than the proportion who had reported in 2004 (7%) and in 2009 (6%) that they had been victimized by a spouse or partner. It is to be noted that this statistic refers to only a “report” of abuse, but not that of proven abuse by the court.

While it is always necessary to protect women and children from abuse, it is equally critical that substantial evidence first be obtained to support the charge of abuse before it is acted on. At the present time, police do not necessarily properly investigate the domestic abuse allegations. The mere statement of one spouse accusing the other of domestic violence or abuse is simply not sufficient. Rather, such allegations should be substantiated by credible evidence, such as pictures, doctors' notes, videos, as well as witness testimony, in order to provide balance to the allegation. Investigation by properly selected and trained individuals would help eliminate illegitimate claims that result in separating parents from their children.

Fathers Undermined by Custody Orders

When a hearing occurs, the father's position is usually undermined because in the majority of cases, custody is awarded to the mother, with only limited access to the child by the father.

The limited access granted a separated parent, which allows only brief dinners and occasional week-end visits, is not rich, broad or extensive enough to nurture a relationship. In contrast, weekday and week-end daytime and night-time activities by a separated parent are important for child development.

Until we come to grips with the dismal effects of no-fault divorce, broken homes and the court ordered interference in family relationships, good fathers will continue to be shut out of the lives of their children. This results in damaged lives, and in some horrible instances, which are now occurring with alarming frequency, that is, terror and death to innocent people because of the lack of meaningful father/son relationship in the life of the young man holding the gun.

Positive Programs

Instead of removing barriers to divorce, as occurred during the latter half of the 20th century, the government should fund efforts to help couples form and sustain healthy marriages. Education programs, not therapy, have proven very helpful in saving struggling marriages.

Those who received classroom instruction had fewer destructive conflicts. Importantly, women reported less physical assault from their partner. The couples had generally warmer and more supportive relationships and they worked more effectively as co-parents.

Shattered family relationships are creating havoc in society. There is increasing evidence that relationship education works. Society should build on this success.

Published with permission from REAL Women of Canada.