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The vilification of fatherhood

By Warwick Marsh - posted Friday, 29 January 2010

From a fatherhood point of view it’s been an interesting week. I try not to read the newspapers much but my news addiction gets the better of me sometimes. When Thoreau, the famous philosopher, was asked whether he wanted the newspaper delivered he replied nonchalantly, “I have seen a newspaper”. Generally newspapers seem to be a mixture of bad news, occasional bits of truth and loads of exaggeration and barefaced lies. Songwriter Larry Norman, in regards to the media, sang, “They exaggerate the issues while they shove them down our throats”. This week was no exception.

On Wednesday of this week I noticed a story about our new Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott. The story sprang out of a Women’s Weekly interview with him. The headline read, “Abbott confirms women’s worst fears. Julia Gillard said, “Australian women don’t want to be told what to do by Tony Abbott”. Pro porn academic Catharine Lumby said Mr Abbott’s comments harked back to an era when women “were shamed and blamed for having a normal sexual appetite and behaviour”.

Mind you, this is from a woman who in teaching sexual ethics to footballers, with a history of abusing women, raised the argument in promotion of group sex. Not something that footballers need to hear at the best of times. These comments were just some of the deadly cinders of the media firestorm.


My interest was aroused. What exactly did Tony Abbott, father of three beautiful teenage girls, say to get him into so much trouble? Women’s Weekly was obviously laughing all the way to the bank with all the extra sales from such a controversial article. I poured over the 10-page special, looking for Mr Abbott’s wild pronouncements, but all I could find was great support for marriage and family and excellent advice for his daughters. On the question of sex before marriage, Tony Abbott said, “I would say to my daughters, if they were to ask the question, I would say … it is the greatest gift that you can give someone, the ultimate gift of giving and don’t give it to someone lightly, that is what I would say”.

What, pray tell, is wrong with this comment? How could an intelligent woman like our Deputy Prime Minister suddenly declare that this confirms the worst fears of Australian women? Any Australian father, or mother for that matter, with half a brain and half a heart would say exactly the same thing. As Brandis rightly pointed out, Julia Gillard has no children, nor is she a father, and could not possibly imagine how much care and love a father has for his daughters. Nor could she understand how important a father’s love and protective care is for their healthy psychosexual development. She hasn’t read the facts!

Quoting from the Facts of Fatherlessness (PDF 747KB):

  • Studies from many different cultures have found that girls raised without fathers are more like to be sexually active, and to start early sexual activity. Father-deprived girls “show precocious sexual interest, derogation of masculinity and males, and poor ability to maintain sexual and emotional adjustment with one male”.
  • A US study found that girls who grow up without fathers were “53 per cent more likely to marry as teenagers, 111 per cent more likely to have children as teenagers, 164 per cent more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92 per cent more likely to dissolve their own marriages.”
  • New Zealand research has found that the absence of a father is a major factor in the early onset of puberty and teenage pregnancy. Dr Bruce Ellis, Psychologist in Sexual Development at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch found that one of the most important factors in determining early menarche is the father: “There seems to be something special about the role of fathers in regulating daughters’ sexual development”.
  • A British study found that girls brought up by lone parents were twice as likely to leave home by the age of 18 as the daughters of intact homes; were three times as likely to be cohabiting by the age of 20; and almost three times as likely to have a birth out of wedlock.

In Australia, the former human Rights Commissioner, Brian Burdekin, has reported a 500-600 per cent increase in sexual abuse of girls in families where the adult male was not the natural father.

The anti-father hysterical reporting continued, with journalist Caroline Overton’s determined crusade to roll back the 2006 shared parenting laws. These bipartisan laws were supposed to allow separated fathers the opportunity to be regarded as equal parents before the court. What a novel idea! A report which has just come out, evaluating reforms to Australia’s family law system, says the shared parental responsibility amendment was never intended to mean shared custody. How ridiculous!


As someone who briefed our parliamentarians, on both sides, on the need for a presumption of shared parenting in the lead up to the 2006 changes, that is exactly what they were supposed to mean. But let’s not let the truth get in the way of a good story. Even Mr McClelland, the Attorney General, has joined her crusade. He asserted on ABCs PM, that the shared parental responsibility amendments have been widely misinterpreted.

It looks like we are about to return to the dark ages of the one-size-fits-all policy of sole custody, which is code for mother-only custody, and brings a massive increase in fatherlessness, greater levels of sexual abuse of our daughters and higher rates of fatalities for our children.

Many of the strongly feminised politicians, academics and journalists are willing, with hearts full of malice, to condemn good fathers such as Tony Abbott, who simply wants the best for his daughters. These same commentators are willing to encourage a malicious family law court to re-interpret the will of the people and the parliament to exclude even more children from the love and protective care that is afforded by their father’s presence in their lives.

Tony Abbott’s support for marriage and the natural family, as recorded in the Women’s Weekly, should be applauded because it is the best way to protect our children. Authors Fagan and Hanks put it well, “Fatal abuse, serious abuse and neglect are lowest in households with married biological parents and highest in households in which the biological mother co-habits with someone who is not the parent”. Never has the Women’s Weekly made so much sense.

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About the Author

Warwick Marsh is the founder of the Dads4Kids Fatherhood Foundation with his wife Alison. They have five children and two grandchildren and have been married for 34 years.

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