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Ethics & Religion
Col. #1,967
May 2, 2019
Absent Fathers
By Mike McManus

Here's the conclusion of a major U.S. study: "Father absence, rather than poverty, was a strong predictor of young men's violent behavior."

Both white families and black families have tripled the number of homes with kids without fathers since the 1960s. Thus, the issue is not racial. "Fatherlessness is a core cause of virtually all societal ills," asserts Prof. Richard Vatz of Towson University in Maryland.

Many articles have been written about violence by youth, but few have spotlighted fatherlessness as a primary cause. Yet Vatz argues "There is no root cause more consequential in producing permanent violence, poverty and related life dissatisfaction issues than fatherlessness."

What matters is "not whether or not the father lived in the family home" with the child - but whether the "biological father maintained a close relationship with his son," argues Sarah Hall, a British writer.

She adds that "Stepfathers appeared to do little to decrease the risk that a boy will turn to crime."

She cites a study of 68 boys, aged between 12 and 16, who were from working class backgrounds, had lower than average intellectual ability, had similar problems with peers, and 40% suffered from dyslexia.

However, there was one "very striking difference between the two groups: 55% of the `good boys' lived with their biological fathers, compared with only 4% of the `bad boys.'" Almost 80% of the "good boys" spoke of being close to their biological fathers. Among them were 24% whose biological father lived away from their home, but was still an important influence in their life.

Among the "bad boys" 45% said they had no one they considered a father figure, although 30% said they had a stepfather. In other words, what was missing was a man they considered a "father figure" though many had a stepfather.

Boys who had a father who showed an interest in his son "gained a sense of being loved and approved of, and the fear of jeopardizing this proved enough to deter them from crime" said Dr. Jenny Taylor of the British Psychological Society in Birmingham, England.

She added, "It's not necessarily about them living with their biological father but about having someone they think of as a father who shows an interest in them and what they're doing."

The U.S. Census Bureau concluded that children from fatherless homes are more likely to be poor, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school and suffer from health and emotional problems. Here is data to back up those generalizations:

  1. Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12% of married couple families were living in poverty compared to 44% in mother-only families.
  2. Children of single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to commit suicide.
  3. Some 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless, score poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills and are more likely to be truant, more likely to leave school at 16, and less likely to attain academic and professional qualifications in adulthood.
  4. A study from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health explored the relationship between family structure and risk of violent act in neighborhoods. If the number of fathers is low in a neighborhood, then there is an increase in acts of teen violence. "A 1% increase in the proportion of single-parent families in a neighborhood is associated with a 3% increase in an adolescent's level of violence."

This is important information not only for fathers - but for mothers who are far more likely than their husbands, to file for divorce. Many unhappy mothers think that if they ditch their husband, that they can find a man to marry who will be a stepfather to her children, who will provide the same sort of male leadership their children - particularly, boys - need.

That's a major error.

If there is a divorce, the mother needs to make sure that the father of her children stays involved - particularly if their children are boys.

A natural father will always care more about his children - than can any stepfather.

What can be done to change these trends?

I urge readers to ask their pastor to preach on these issues, emphasizing the importance of lasting marriage, and particularly the importance of the father remaining involved with his children - even if there has been a divorce.

Children need their fathers. There is no substitute.


Copyright (c) 2018 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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