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Continued: When Father did his best: On-screen single parenthood vs. real life

  • Article by: D.J. TICE
  • Last update: April 11, 2014 - 6:41 PM

It’s enough to make one nostalgic for Andy and Aunt Bea, and for an age when TV life tended to be exaggeratedly innocent, not exaggeratedly coarse.

The truth is that millions of today’s single parents — moms and dads both — labor heroically to provide for and nurture their kids. Many succeed, but the challenges others face play an enormous role in persistent child poverty, educational problems and declining social mobility.

The issues are maddeningly difficult to discuss, requiring a exactingly delicate blend of compassion and admiration, candor and concern. But progress against poverty almost certainly depends on our society’s identifying ways to pursue two somewhat contradictory goals — improving the condition of single-parent families while slowing their growth.

Where once we had carefree fiction about single-parent families, today we need more freedom to confront the real-life crisis the circumstances of so many of them represent.


D.J. Tice is at


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  • “The Andy Griffith Show”: Don Knotts, Ron Howard and Andy Griffith posed for this publicity photo. Of course, there was also Frances Bavier as Aunt Bea.

  • “FAMILY AFFAIR”: Brian Keith was the well-connected father, Sebastian Cabot the butler and, circumstantially, the nanny.

  • “To Kill a Mockingbird”: The story and the 1962 film, with Mary Badham and Gregory Peck, was also a reflection on single fatherhood.

  • “My Three Sons”: Fred MacMurray was the father, William Frawley the show’s first gruff surrogate mother.

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