Neoconservative social scientists have claimed that fathers are essential to positive child development and that responsible fathering is most likely to occur within the context of heterosexual marriage. This perspective is generating a range of governmental initiatives designed to provide social support preferences to fathers over mothers and to heterosexual married couples over alternative family forms. The authors propose that the neoconservative position is an incorrect or oversimplified interpretation of empirical research. Using a wide range of cross-species, cross-cultural, and social science research, the authors argue that neither mothers nor fathers are essential to child development and that responsible fathering can occur within a variety of family structures. The authors conclude with alternative recommendations for encouraging responsible fathering that do not discriminate against mothers and diverse family forms. (Author abstract)
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