As we approach Fathers Day, the minds of many Americans will drift to fond memories of dear old dad.
Some will appreciate the hard lessons their fathers taught because life has proven his loving firmness was needed, while others will forgive his faults because life has also shown that he was just a man, imperfect and burdened with the challenge of raising children in a difficult world.
Sadly, however, an increasing number of Americans are less likely to even remember having a father around the house — good, bad, or indifferent.
“The percentage of U.S. births to unmarried women has been increasing steadily since the 1940s and has increased even more markedly in recent years,” read a report issued in 2013 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
It found that 40-percent of all children born in Alabama in 2011 were to unwed mothers, and nationally the report found that one in four children were being raised by single mothers.
Anyone with a large extended family probably isn’t surprised by that news. Many of us know children who are being raised by their mothers, or even their grandparents. Many see their fathers regularly. Some see their fathers once and a while, yet a growing few don’t even see them at all.
Does it really matter? In this age when we’re told that families can be made from any sort of arrangement, many would say “no.” Others would say that the quality of the time fathers spend with their children is equal to the quantity of time they’re around, or not around, rather.
They’re fooling themselves. The outlook for children without a father in the home is incredibly bleak. Edward Kruk, a professor at the University of British Columbia who specializes in child and family policy, wrote in “Psychology Today” that:
– “Fatherless children are at greater risk of suffering physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, being five times more likely to have experienced physical abuse and emotional maltreatment, with a one-hundred times higher risk of fatal abuse.”
– “71-percent of high school dropouts are fatherless; fatherless children have more trouble academically, scoring poorly on tests of reading, mathematics, and thinking skills.”
– “As adults, fatherless children are more likely to experience unemployment, have low incomes, remain on social assistance, and experience homelessness.”
“Given the fact that these and other social problems correlate more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other factor, surpassing race, social class, and poverty, father absence may well be the most critical social issue of our time,” Kruk wrote. “We ignore the problem of father absence to our peril.”
So what’s the cause of the precipitous decline of fatherhood in America? With a problem this large, blame can easily be spread around.
Our churches gradually changed their teachings on divorce and fostered a society that accepted single-parent households. The necessity of marriage was weakened, then began to disappear. Years ago we’d tell a young man who got his girlfriend pregnant to “be a man” and marry the girl. Life would be hard initially, but they’d have the basic building block to success — a family. But counselors now tell young unmarried mothers and fathers to “not follow one mistake with another” by rushing into marriage. That’s often horrible advice.
Also, the sexual revolution, combined with abortion and birth control, left the responsibility for sexual activity, and all of the consequences, to the woman alone. Men feel unaccountable, and so they act irresponsibly at all stages of sexual activity, to include fatherhood.
Let’s not forget the government. It’s well-intentioned programs aimed at helping single mothers and fatherless children allow men to skate away free of guilt. They know that their children aren’t going to be homeless, hungry, or uneducated.
But the largest share of the blame lies with men themselves. We’ve allowed ourselves to be fooled by people who are too weak to tell us the truth. We’ve allowed our women to become objects of pleasure rather than partners in life. And we’ve allowed the government to replace us in the home.
Simply said, many American fathers have stopped being real men. The only question that remains is how much longer are we going to keep fooling ourselves?