Why Dads matter

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By Normer Adams

It is not hard to believe that Father's Day did not become a national holiday until 1972.  America has always had an ambivalence about fathers.  Mother's day is often celebrated with almost reverence, whereas Father's Day is often the target of much satire, parody and derision.  Fathers often are regarded as the "second adult" in the home and only incidental to the development of a child.  Close to 30% of all children in Georgia live in households without a father.  An African American child's chances of living with a single mother household is more than 60%.  With statistics like these, one can see why fathers are relegated as incidental and not essential.

All this is changing.  Children raised without a father's involvement are at a serious disadvantage.  A couple of credible studies confirm the negative consequences of fatherless homes.

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes (Source: Center for Disease Control)
  • 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes (Source: Criminal Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26, 1978.)
  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes (Source: National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.)
  • 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes (Source: Rainbows for all Gods Children.)
  • 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report, Sept 1988)
  • 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992)

More people are taking fathers seriously for these reasons. Social work, as it moves to evidence based practice, is recognizing the importance of fathers in the emotional, cognitive and relational development of  children.  Children with involved fathers have mothers who are more responsive, affectionate, and confident with their infants; more self-controlled in dealing with defiant toddlers; and better confidants for teenagers seeking advice and emotional support.  Involved fathers have children with higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities. Toddlers with involved fathers go on to start school with higher levels of academic readiness. They are more patient and can handle the stresses and frustrations associated with schooling more readily than children with less involved fathers. Involved fathers have children who were 43% more likely than other children to earn mostly A's and 33% less likely than other children to repeat a grade.

Caring, involved fathers exist outside of marriage. Thousands of children are raised by involved fathers who do not live with their mothers. More likely, however, these fathers will be found living in the context of marriage. There are numerous reasons for this, not the least of which being the social supports associated with marriage that connect a father to the family unit. This may also explain, in part, why research consistently shows that the married mother-and-father family is a better environment for raising children than the cohabitating (living together) mother-and-father family.

Policy makers and legislators would do well to focus more on the evidence that effective fatherhood pays rich dividends to Georgia.  Public policy needs to do more to support fathers' involvement with their children, the support of families, and the valuing of fathers in the lives of their children .

Read more at www.gahsc.org/

Normer Adams is Executive Director of the Georgia Association of Homes and Services for Children and a writer, speaker and consultant on family and social issues such as advocacy. lobbying, and child welfare policy.

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