Yes, Fathers Are Essential

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In
the past several decades, the United States has achieved the dubious
distinction of becoming the world leader in fatherless families.
Currently, 34% of American children live without their biological
father. When did this trend start, and what does it bode for our
kids?

The
rise of father-absence can be traced back 50 years. In 1965, Daniel
Patrick Moynihan, then working in the Johnson administration, looked
into the problems of under-class America. The Moynihan Report issued
this solemn warning:

“From
the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the
riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson
in American history: A community that allows a large number of young
men to grow up in broken families, 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.”

The
heralded Report offered Americans a unique opportunity to alter
the trajectory of history, to thwart the impending plunge into the
abyss.

But
rather than heed the prescient warning, warm-hearted liberals denounced
Moynihan's conclusion as "blaming the victim." And feminists
reviled the report as promoting the "hetero-patriarchal"
agenda.

But
it wasn't enough to just ignore Moynihan's analysis.

Architects
of the Great Society program went ahead and implemented eligibility
requirements that cut off welfare benefits if the father resided
with the mother — the so-called "man-in-the-house" rule.
Now, low-income fathers found themselves pitted against government
largesse to compete for the loyalty of poor mothers. A tragic mismatch,
indeed.

As
a result, the number of children who lived in fatherless homes mushroomed
from 5.1 million in 1960 to 16.5 million in 1995. These policies
were so devastating in their impact that involved, caring fathers
all but disappeared from low-income, Black neighborhoods.

So
while liberals comforted themselves with the knowledge that they
had avoided "blaming the victim," millions of little boys
and girls had to console themselves with the elusive hope that someday,
society would stop shoving daddy out the back door.

Once poor fathers
had been run out of their homes, the fem-liberals broadened their
focus. They
launched an attack on the whole notion of fatherhood itself
.

Five
years ago this month the American Psychological Association used
the occasion of Father's Day to publish an article with the awful
title, "Deconstructing
the Essential Father
." The partisan article triggered a
firestorm of protest, including
a rebuke from 18 members of Congress
.

Despite
what the American Psychological Association might say, most persons
agree that dads are worth keeping around.

First,
a father's breadwinning instinct keeps the family out of the clutches
of poverty. Indeed, while father-present households saw an increase
in income from 1960 to 1990, father-absent families saw a financial
decline.

But
fathers are more than income producers. Fathers undergird the very
order and structure of the family.

Scores
of research studies have documented the positive effects of involved
fathers
. Here's just a sampling of the benefits:

  • The National
    Center for Educational Statistics reported that when fathers
    are involved in their children's education, the kids were more
    likely to get As, enjoy school, and participate in extracurricular
    activities.
  • Kyle Pruett
    concluded that kids with engaged fathers demonstrate "a
    greater ability to take initiative and evidence self-control."
  • When these
    boys grew up, they were more likely to be good dads themselves.

But
when fathers are disenfranchised by misguided government programs,
here's the result:

  • Their
    children have a higher rate of asthma, headaches, anxiety, depression,
    and behavioral problems.
  • Teenagers
    are at greater risk of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use,
    and suicide.
  • Adolescent
    girls are 3 times more likely to engage in sexual relations
    by the time they turn 15, and 5 times more likely to become
    a teen mother.

Amazing,
isn't it?

Thank
you, dad, for being there. You were more than essential. You were
a beacon of truthfulness, common sense, kindness, and silent courage.

June
17, 2004

Carey
Roberts [send him mail]
is a researcher and consultant who tracks gender bias in the mainstream
media.

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