Kathleen Parker

More to the point, "Bad Dads" reinforces a stereotype that is neither accurate nor fair. The rich pig who leaves his wife and kids for a pole-dancing aerobics instructor -- or who enjoys extended martini lunches with his golf pals -- is far from the norm.

The more accurate picture of a deadbeat dad is an unemployed or underemployed bloke who sees more jail cells than golf courses. A common sequence of events for the poorest deadbeat dads goes something like this: Fall behind in child support, get arrested and put in jail, lose your job, fall further behind in child support.

Not exactly a formula for rehabilitation or future employment.

One does not have to excuse irresponsible men who abandon their children to recognize that the deadbeat dad story is sometimes more fable than fact. People who work in the child support loop know that the biggest barrier to child support payment is unemployment, yet this message seldom seems to penetrate the zeitgeist.

Clearly, some men are sinners and some women are saints. But sometimes the reverse is true. In fact, noncustodial mothers are 20 percent more likely to default on child support than noncustodial fathers, according to U.S. Census data. But we don't see a reality show aimed at humiliating moms.

Is this because women, who have had fewer opportunities historically, are viewed as more deserving of the benefit of the doubt?

Or is it because civilized people would strenuously object to the public ridicule of moms whose children may be watching?

It's preferable to imagine the latter. The question is why we feel no such decency toward men and the children who love them.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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