I have great parents, throughout my childhood and now as an adult, through good times and bad, they are the two people that have always been a constant in my life. This is normal to me, for others sadly, this is not something that they have been able to count on in their lives.
I remember the days where I patiently waited at home for my parents to get off work so that they could play catch with me. For me, at a young age, I viewed this as having fun with my parents. As an adult I look at myself and how exhausted I am somedays when I get home from work and see that for them, while there may have been some fun associated with it, it truly was a sacrifice. After a long day of work, I assume the last thing they wanted to do was play catch, but they always did it, and more importantly in my eyes they were always excited to do it.
Now as a father I realize the sacrifices my parents made to ensure that as a child I felt important and loved. That I was worth the sacrifices that they made which has allowed me to be the success that I am today. I never realized when I was young how lucky I was to have both of my parents involved in my life to the extent that they were and still are to this day.
In saying that, the one thing that I want to focus on in this blog is the impact on children that were not as lucky I was, specifically boys that do not have a father figure around when they are children. While it is also vitally important to have a mother around in a child’s life, I wanted to focus more on boys and the impact of having an involved father in their lives.
What stemmed this interest is a book that I was turned on to; The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, By Warren Ferrell and John Gray. As I read this book, one of the things that the authors clearly proved is the positive impact on young boys when their father is involved in their lives growing up. If you are a father with young boys or are just interested in some of the reasons for the woes in our society, this book must be at the top of your list.
WHY ARE DADS SO IMPORTANT?
While this book is chock full of interesting information on issues boys have when they are not involved with their fathers, I wanted to focus on the 15 reasons that are presented in Chapter 14: Why Are Dads So Important.
1. School Achievement: “by the third grade, boys whose fathers were present scored higher on every achievement test and received higher grades.”
2. The 3 Rs: “The more involved dad is, the greater a boy’s increase in verbal intelligence, and the better both boys’ and girls’ math and quantitative abilities.”
3. School Dropouts: “71 percent of high school dropouts have minimal or no father involvement.”
4. Employment: “boys who are dad deprived are more likely than their sisters to be unemployed.”
5. Suicide: “Living in a home without a dad is more highly correlated with suicide among children and teenagers than any other factor.”
6. Drugs: “Father involvement is at least five times more important in preventing drug use than closeness to parent, parental rules, parent trust or strictness, and is a stronger determining factor than the child’s gender, ethnicity, or social class.”
7. Homelessness: “Around 90 percent of runaway and homeless youths are from fatherless homes.”
8. Bullying: “father absence predicts the profile of both the bully and the bullied: poor self-esteem, poor grades, and poor social skills.”
9. Victimization: “Children between ten and seventeen living without their biological dad were more likely to be victims of child abuse, major violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence.”
10. Violent Crime: “Every 1 percent increase in fatherlessness in a neighborhood predicts a 3 percent increase in adolescent violence.”
11. Rape: “Among rapists who were specifically assessed as raping out of anger and rage, 80 percent came from father-absent homes.”
12. Poverty and Mobility: “Children who were born poor and raised by both married parents had an 80 percent chance of moving to the middle class; conversely, children who were born into the middle class and raised without a married dad were almost four times as likely to end up considerably poorer.”
13. Hypertension: “Among black boys, hypertension is reduced by 46 percent when dads are significantly involved.”
14. Trust: “The more contact children have with their dads, the more easily they make open, receptive, and trusting contact with new people in their lives.”
15. Empathy: “The amount of time a father spends with a child is one of the strongest predictors of a child’s ability to empathize in adulthood.”
I realize that this is a lot of information to digest, but the data clearly suggests the importance of a father being involved in their son’s life. Again, I highly recommend that you take the time to read The Boy Crisis. Even if you are not a father of a young boy, I feel like the data that is laid out in the book gives great insight into some of the ills of our current society.
With the data presented in the book I feel that it is also important to analyze the track that we are on as a country regarding fathers in the home.
As you can see from the article on the Census data provided above, since 1968 we have seen a 15% decrease in the number of children that are living with two parents. What the graph does not tell us is how many of those parents were married which according to the book is very important. The authors in the book state that: “when unmarried couples live together when their child is born, by the child’s third birthday, 40 percent of those children will have no regular contact with their dad in the next two years – between the ages of three and five.”
The next chart shows that the percentage of children between the ages of 0-5 that live with two parents that are unmarried is 53.1 percent, however from ages 6-11 it drops off drastically to 29 percent and then further to 17.9 percent for children 12-17 years old.
Also, from this chart we see that from birth to 18 if you are born with married parents your likelihood that you will remain in a two-parent household remains the same. There are many that argue that it does not matter if the parents get married if both parents are in the household. In part they are right, for the child the important aspect is that both parents remain in the household. But what these statistics tell us is that the likelihood of that happening and continuing throughout the child’s life is drastically reduced if the couple remains unmarried.
WE CAN DO BETTER
As a country we can do better. With the statistics clearly showing the importance of having two married parents in the household that should be our goal. That should be the goal, not only for the future success of our children, but also for the future success of our communities. If you look at the 15 potential results of a child being raised without their father in their lives, it is a list of behaviors that currently ail our communities. From school achievement to violent crime, drug use and homelessness, these are all things that diminish our communities. The government has created every scheme known to man to try to cure these issues. Often their solutions either deprive us of our money (welfare programs), or our Liberty (gun control) with no statistical support that these programs are effective. This is not a problem that is solved with government intervention, this is a problem that is solved by parents.
There is no easy fix to this problem and there is no government program that will erase the increasing trend of children being raised in single parent households. It is up to us as parents to make the commitment that we will do what is best for our children and their future. As the statistics above show, that is for both parents to remain in the household and for the parents to be married.
TO MY SON
As a father it is hard for me to comprehend what it would take for me to not want to be a full-time figure in your life. But sadly, life happens, whether it is the courts giving full rights to the mother, deadbeat dads leaving their children or incarceration, for some reason dads increasingly are leaving their children’s lives.
A significant factor on why I cannot comprehend why a father would leave their children is the impact my father had on me and that he was always present in my life in a positive way. I saw the joy that it brought my father to be a part of my life and that imprinted on me all the positive things that come with fatherhood. For some it is too much, the responsibility of taking a baby and raising a man is a difficult task, balancing the proper amount of love and disciple is a balancing act this is not for the faint of heart. However, my father did it with mastery and this provided me with a blueprint to follow in his footsteps.
My hope as your father is that I pass those same lessons that I learned from my father on to you so that when you have a child you can pass it on as well. As you grow up, especially during your teenage years, there will be times where you will think you hate me and that you are smarter than me, just like I did while I was growing up with my dad. But as you get into your forties like I am now I hope you can also sit back and reflect on the love that I gave you as well as the wisdom that I passed on to you like my father did with me.
In our family we have a legacy of fatherly love, and my hope is that I will successfully pass that on to you so that you can continue the legacy.