This Father’s Day, we must be cognizant of the decline of active dads in our community. Fatherlessness is one of the most pernicious issues facing Americans, and it appears that many of us do not want to talk about it. The rate of single mother households is climbing, and the consequences are staggering.
There is a myriad of ways that fatherlessness is causing significant harm to our society, and the roots of this epidemic cultural issue are multifaceted.
The Problem of Fatherlessness
The lack of fathers is a critical issue because of the impact it has on our children. Kids who grow up without the presence of their fathers are more likely to experience serious mental and spiritual problems as they mature into adults. Consider the following statistics, provided by the National Center for Fathering:
- 63% of children who commit suicide are without fathers.
- 90% of runaway children come from fatherless homes.
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioral issues are raised in fatherless homes.
- 80% of rapists grew up without fathers.
- 71% of high school dropouts are raised without fathers.
- 43% of children are raised in fatherless homes.
Another alarming reality is that the vast majority of mass shooters grew up without fathers. It is clear that the lack of a father has a devastating impact on children.
Contrary to what some believe, fathers are essential to promoting a healthy community. Just as men and women are different, so are fathers and mothers. Both individuals bring something uniquely positive to the rearing of children.
What Is Happening To America’s Fathers?
Conservatives discuss the issue of the family on a regular basis. They decry our high divorce rates and the attacks on the family unit. Right-leaning Americans believe that the solution to the problem is cultural in nature. They posit that our society needs to value the family and, specifically, the role of the father, which has been denigrated over the past few decades.
Progressives don’t discuss the role of the family in our culture as often as those on the right. Instead of promoting the value of both fathers and mothers, they tend to focus primarily on single motherhood. During the 2016 campaign, both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders referred to single mothers as heroines. At one event, Clinton said “Those single moms need even more family support. They need even more of the help that grandparents and aunts and uncles and good friends can provide because it’s tough, it’s lonely.”
Neither candidate discussed the importance of fatherhood. There is a reason for this. Emma Green penned a piece for The Atlantic titled “Why Is It Hard for Liberals to Talk About ‘Family Values’?” in which she points out that many on the left avoid discussions about the family because they do not want to appear to be judgmental. She’s right. The left has built a platform on a foundation that separates Americans into varying groups. They can’t advocate for family values because they would have to address what that means to blacks, Hispanics, and members of the LGBTQ+ communities.
Green also acknowledges the difference between how conservatives and liberals address family issues. “To use somewhat glib shorthand, the left advocates for government change, while the right wants community change; the left sees structural causes for poverty and inequality, while the right sees cultural causes,” she wrote.
David Popenoe, an author and professor of sociology at Rutgers University wrote a book titled “Fathers, Marriage, and Children in American Society.” In his book, he identifies the two main reasons for fatherlessness in America. According to the author, out-of-wedlock births and the high divorce rate are the primary culprits.
Popenoe points out that most fathers lose contact with their children after divorce. Moreover, many will eventually have little to no contact with their children. While there are multiple reasons why this occurs, one of the most common causes of absentee fathers is our local and state governments handling of the issue of parenting after divorce.
Courts Marginalize Fathers
The left believes that the government has a role in protecting families, but it is clear that legislation regarding the role of fathers in the event of a divorce is severely ineffective. Terry Brennan, co-founder of Leading Women for Shared Parenting, wrote a piece for The Daily Caller titled “The Establishment Creates Fatherless Kids” in which he highlights the ways courts make it more difficult for parents to co-parent after splitting up.
Brennan contends that courts marginalize dads by imposing visitation schedules that undermine the father’s presence in the lives of his children. He provided a sample schedule given by Michigan courts:
“Parenting time shall occur on alternating weekends from 6:00 p.m. Friday evening until 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening. Parenting time shall occur one evening per week from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on a day of the week to be determined by the parties.”
Brennan also cited a Nebraska study showing that children with divorced parents only spent about five days per month with their fathers. He also points to a Massachusetts study’s findings that, “It is not rational for fathers to fight for custody because their chances of winning primary or shared parenting are insignificant.” In many cases, it is easy for mothers to limit the amount of time fathers are allowed to spend with their children.
This reality is difficult for the children, but it also has a debilitating impact on fathers who want to spend time with their kids. The Daily Caller also pointed out four ways fathers are impacted by this:
“Some men commit suicide because they can’t handle the anguish. Others resort to violence and anger against the ex-wife. The thirds set take the difficult road, and sacrifice years of their happiness, battling on a hopeless battle with the ex, just to maintain some sort of contact with the kids. The fourth way, is to simply give up, and decide that the cost to the child through seeing the conflict, and to oneself, is too high.”
Our Culture Is Anti-Father
While government policies are one of the main contributors to the problem of fatherlessness, we cannot forget the importance of our culture, which is increasingly downplaying fatherhood. We can see the negative messages against fathers in our entertainment industry, political discourse, and learning institutions.
While popular sitcoms used to respect the father as an integral member of the family, this is no longer the case. Now, many of our most-watched television shows depict the father as an overweight boor with no intelligence whatsoever. We have replaced Andy Griffith with Homer Simpson. We have abandoned Ward Cleaver in favor of Family Guy’s Peter Griffin. Fathers are typically the butt of the joke.
The Role Of The Father
The truth is that fathers are important. They are essential to the health of our society. The change in cultural attitudes toward fatherhood is a disturbing trend that all Americans should oppose. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the constant demeaning of dads, and if we are not careful, we will only see more single mothers. We will have more fatherless children and it will have a decidedly negative impact on the future of our nation.
While it is important to honor fathers on this day, we must not become complacent. Cultural forces are working to make fatherhood obsolete. Those who value fatherhood must continually remind our communities of the importance of dads in our culture. The future of our children depends on it.