What We Should Have Learned From JFK's Assassination: The Lives of Fatherless Boys Present Statistics That Threaten All We Hold Dear

Although ballistic and forensic findings as well as eye-witness evidence point to a single gunman theory in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the majority of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald could not have acted alone. It is inconceivable to most, regardless of the evidence, that one limited, uneducated individual, who failed miserably in every facet of his life, could be totally responsible for the gravest loss to America in the last century. For if one desperate and demented individual, acting alone, could kill our president, guarded by police and the Secret Service, how safe were any of us?

Such alarm is well justified and must finally be faced. The murder of President Kennedy by Lee Harvey Oswald, where an assassin was finally noticed (by the world!) after a lifetime of rejection, insignificance and failure, screams out truths validated consistently by behavioral studies: There is no doubt that boys who grow up in homes that are fatherless, and have no outside relationship with a father who shows he cares, have a far greater risk of being a danger both to others and themselves.

With this in mind, let's examine some statistics that exemplify the essence of Lee Harvey Oswald, truly a poster boy for the following: Fatherless boys are twice as likely to spend their lives in jails. (Journal of Research on Adolescents 14, September 2004) 85% of children with behavioral disorders, 71% of high school dropouts, and 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes. (What Can the Government Do To Decrease Crime and Revitalize Communities?, The National Institute of Justice, 1998)

Further adding to a profile that describes Oswald: There is "greater level of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households." (Journal of Abnormal Child Psychiatry, 1995) Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform those from high-income, single-parent homes. (One-Parent Families and Their Children, Charles Kettering Foundation, 1990) The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father. (Ann Hill, June O'Neil, Underclass Behaviors in the United States, CUNY, Baruch College, 1993)

To briefly show links between Oswald's life and the stated statistics: Oswald's father died of a heart attack two months before his birth. He was described as a temperamental and withdrawn child, who showed violent behavior toward his mother. His truancy in the 7th grade, coupled with the former personality traits stated, surely should have been seen as a cry for intensive, supervised, compulsory help. The truancy pattern did lead to a psychiatric consultation, where suggestions for continued therapy were not followed by his mother. At least one study of Oswald suggests he should no longer live with her. By the time Oswald was 17 years old, he had attended 12 different schools and lived at 22 different locations. He quit school at age 17 to join the Marines, never receiving a high school degree or its equivalent.

Boys fitting this profile commit horrific acts daily, and the murder of President Kennedy and police officer J.D. Tippit 45 minutes later on a Dallas street illuminate this terrifying reality. In fact, a strong case can be made that all of Oswald's acting out in youth, as well as joining the Marines and journeying to the Soviet Union, and yes, even the assassination itself, were motivated by his need to finally be noticed.

What must be done? Teachers are in a position to identify at-risk youth when they are very young. Family life education and anger management should be compulsory in every school setting, public and private.

Male role models for fatherless boys must be found. Such models can come from one's religious community, the school system, Boy Scouting, and other community resources. It is essential that generous funding goes into these resources.

At-risk children must be required by law to have both individual and family therapy. Further, integrated teams of therapists, social workers, doctors, attorneys, educators, and volunteers must be assigned to those families needing quality coordinated support and care. There are many who would welcome an opportunity to provide this type of high level involvement.

Lee Harvey Oswald's cries of disturbance and need fell through the cracks of life, and then catastrophe hit. If we can face what one desperate, isolated man can do, we will finally be able to recognize cries for help from millions of America's children, and the necessity to hear and respond to them before it is too late.