Since I criticized Slate for publishing Bradford Wilcox’s error-ridden essay on the transformative power of fatherhood in men’s lives, I should refer readers to an update they added to the end of the post the next day.
I’m not sure why they made this and only this change, given all the problems with the essay, but anyways, they added this the end of the article:
Update, June 19, 2013: This article has been updated to clarify that fathers who live with their children are significantly less likely to be depressed and more likely to report they are satisfied with their lives, compared to both childless men and men who lived apart from their children, not just men without children. It was also updated to suggest a reason why men who live apart from their children attend church infrequently and drink more frequently.
That’s pretty confusing. To help, I reproduce below his original claim (retrieved from the web archive, since Slate now serves up the revised version), my criticism, and his clarification. And, since the research article it links to is behind a paywall, I also reproduce a copy of the relevant table. Feel free to offer your own evaluation of the change and the veracity of the claim (I’m ignoring the “attend church” finding because how is that a measure of well-being? Only God can judge that).
Originally, he wrote:
Fathers who live with their children are significantly less likely to be depressed, and more likely to report they are satisfied with their lives, compared to childless men. But men who live apart from their children have levels of life satisfaction and depression that largely parallel those of their childless peers. … [and] men who live apart from their children attend church infrequently and drink more frequently, much like their peers without children.
My critique was:
To clarify: (a) those living with children over age 19 were slightly more likely than those with younger children to be satisfied with their lives! (b) those living apart from their children were slightly more likely to be depressed than those living with their children. This does not require evolutionary rocket-science to predict.
The relevant portions of the revised text now read:
Fathers who live with their children are significantly less likely to be depressed and more likely to report they are satisfied with their lives, compared to both childless men and men who lived apart from their children, perhaps in part because men who live with their children are more likely to be married. … [and] men who live apart from their children attend church infrequently and drink more frequently, perhaps in part because they are less likely to be married to the mother of their children.
And here is the table of results to which both of those claims point. I have highlighted the relevant coefficients and footnote. The Life Satisfaction and Depression models are ordinary least squares regressions of scale variables ranging from 1 to 7 and 0 to 7 respectively; the Drug/Alcohol Abuse model is a logistic regression of self-reported “problem with too much drinking or drug use” (not the frequency of drinking, as Wilcox describes it). Click to enlarge:
Once a number of controls were entered, however, especially marital status, these effects of fatherhood largely disappeared. The two exceptions were that men with children living elsewhere remain somewhat more likely to have depressive symptoms than men who were currently living with their children, and men with older children were slightly more satisfied.
So you understand what Wilcox did, he clarified that the associations he described were “in part” due to marital status to explain that he is referring to the models without controls for marital status, age, education, income and race/ethnicity — and how the effects entirely or mostly go away once you add those controls. For example, men with no children have .17 higher depression scores than men who live with their own young children (for perspective, the average depression score is 5.3 and the standard deviation is 1.4, so that’s 13% of one standard deviation). However, when the authors controlled for all those things, the coefficient was reduced to -.03, essentially zero. The depression difference between men with children elsewhere and those who live with their children was .47 in the original model, and .15 in the model with controls. So, they are more depressed “in part” because they are less likely to be married (presumably, that is, as this pathway was not tested in the paper).
OK, out of a sense of fairness I have reproduced and explained his clarification. Now maybe you have enough information to reevaluate the claims.