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Will the real fathers please stand up?

Natalie Netzel Contributing Columnist

September 6, 2013

What do crime, poverty, emotional damage and teen pregnancies have in common? The answer for many situation can boil down to absent fathers.


The statistics don’t lie. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 statistics, there are 24 million children in America living in biological fatherless homes. That’s one out of every three children.


Whatever happened to a boy growing into a man, marrying a woman and taking responsibility for his life, his wife and his family? When men fail to step it up, it creates a vicious cycle of weak men and weak fathers who churn out weak men and weak fathers.


Now there are men who may undo this cycle and refuse to be like his father. Unfortunately, they are far and few.


Perhaps you have seen these absent fathers or had one yourself. There is the physically absent father who showers his child with materialistic stuff but is never there to support the child at a soccer game, dance recital or dinner table.


This father may be a workaholic or perhaps he doesn’t know how to be there so he figures he’ll buy, buy, buy stuff for his kid to replace that void. That doesn’t work.


The kid needs that father figure and if he or she doesn’t receive it, he or she will replace it with something or someone. Even the most positive thing or person cannot replace that emptiness felt but sometimes there are mentors and models who come along to help heal the hurt.


There are also fathers who are absent because of drugs, addictions, job loss, marital problems. The list can be endless.


According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children who have absent biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological or adoptive parents.


Once men become fathers, they have a responsibility to care for their children.


According to Family Life Today, sociologists trace passive fathers to social changes over the last century.


For example, fathers left family farms to work in factories and offices and their role as breadwinner leapt away leaving wives to be responsible for both parenting roles.


There’s also the feminist movement over the last four decades in which men have been attacked and aren’t sure what to think or do.


It’s as if women feel more empowered and think they can do it all without a man but, that statistics are there and children need strong father in their lives along with a mother.


Take a look at these facts from the National Fatherhood Initiative:


• Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.


• The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.


• Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.


• A study using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study revealed that in many cases the absence of a biological father contributes to increased risk of child maltreatment. The results suggest that Child Protective Services agencies have some justification in viewing the presence of a social father as increasing children’s risk of abuse and neglect. It is believed that in families with a non-biological (social) father figure, there is a higher risk of abuse and neglect to children, despite the social father living in the household or only dating the mother.


• Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree.


• Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.


• Data from three waves of the Fragile Families Study (with a number of 2,111) was used to examine the prevalence and effects of mothers’ relationship changes between birth and three years on their children’s well being. Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Living in a single-mother household is equivalent to experiencing 5.25 partnership transitions.


Basically, fathers are important so don’t demean yourselves, dad. Get out there and do the best job you can do. Now excuse me while I go thank my dad for being phenomenal.