"A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken homes, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. ..." -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan, 1965
For Father's Day, we are thus a community, a state, a nation at risk. While fatherhood is blossoming in many homes, it is absent in too many others.
The Fatherhood Initiative reports research showing that when a child grows up in a father-absent home, he or she is:
1. Four times more likely to live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
2. More likely to suffer emotional and behavioral problems. Children of single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers, the Journal of Marriage and Family states.
3. At two times greater risk of infant mortality, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
4. More likely to go to prison. One in five prison inmates had a father in prison, according to the Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs.
5. More likely to commit crime. Study of juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency, the Journal of Youth and Adolescence reports.
6. Seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen. Teens without fathers are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent, according the Child Development Journal.
7. More likely to face abuse and neglect. Compared to children living with married biological parents, those whose single parent had a live-in partner had more than eight times the rate of maltreatment overall, more than 10 times the rate of abuse and more than six times the rate of neglect, according to Child's Bureau.
8. More likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Youth are more at risk of first substance use without a highly involved father, says Social Science Research. Adolescents whose fathers were drug abusers revealed that paternal smoking and drug use lead to strained father-child relationships.
9. Two times more likely to suffer obesity. Obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth concludes.
10. Two times more likely to drop out of high school. Students living in father-absent homes are twice as likely to repeat a grade in school, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of their children getting mostly A's. And in the typical elementary school classroom of 20 students, seven of them — more than 33 percent — are growing up without their biological father in the home, U.S. Census Bureau statistics show.
The Fatherhood Initiative is dedicated to reversing the trend of fatherless homes, with the organization stating that doing so means embracing some ideas that can be unpopular.
The first is that fathers make unique and irreplaceable contributions to the lives of their children. They are more than part-time substitutes for mothers. They cannot be replaced by child-support money or mentors.
Second, men are more likely to be responsible fathers in the context of committed and legal marriages. In other words, divorce is not OK.
Third, we must stop suggesting that divorce can somehow be good or neutral for children. It once was considered a virtue to remain together "for the sake of the kids." That changed, with a belief that separation was better.
Government has a role to play in ensuring marriage is rewarded via the tax code and welfare benefits, and in reforming divorce laws to promote couples with children staying together.
The real solution, however, is not with government. It is with the society that has produced a tragic redefinition of fatherhood and masculinity.
As Richard Louv, journalist and author of the 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder,” states: "Men will not move back into the family until our culture reconnects masculinity and fatherhood, until men come to see fathering -- not just paternity -- as the fullest expression of manhood."
The media have a role to play in showing more fathers fulfilling the fatherhood mission admirably and joyfully.
They are everywhere. And they are models of masculinity as sure as they are loving fathers. How did we ever let ourselves get into separating the two?
"Folks, no one will raise our children for us ... This is the most important work of our lives. It's the source of our greatest possible pleasure and pain. The responsibilities and choices are ours." -- columnist Robert J. Samuelson, 1992