June 17, 2005

Fatherless in America

Many families will celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, but the tragic reality is that some 24-million children live absent or apart from their biological fathers. One in three children – and only one in five inner-city children – are in homes with their fathers.

Of course, any assertion that fathers are critical to the well-being of children will undoubtedly offend the PC NOW crowd – you know, those enlightened liberals who have, for the past four decades, insisted that mothers can do it all. Indeed, they’ve dismissed men as little more than a nuisance – one necessary for procreation but detrimental to proper parenting.

The Grande Dame of the so-called “women’s movement,” Gloria Steinem, once declared, “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.” Liberal columnist Maureen Dowd’s forthcoming book, “Are Men Necessary?” is the latest manifestation of the man-hater movement.

Of course, many moms have no choice but to do it all because many fathers (in and out of their homes) have abdicated their responsibility for proper love, discipline, support and protection. The disastrous social consequences of this abdication are clearly evident and well documented. Though some single parents do manage to bring up relatively well-adjusted kids with the help of extended families, churches and schools, the correlation between social deviancy and fatherless homes is irrefutably linked.

Not all fathers are separated from their children voluntarily – many are forcibly removed by mothers who’ve bought into the lie that fathers aren’t necessary. Of course, there are also mothers who just want to upgrade. Under such circumstances, most state courts provide fathers limited responsibility or visitation with their children, and only now are some states acknowledging the critical role fathers play in the lives of their children.

Here is the truth – and it is a hard truth for men who have abandoned their families, but a harder truth for their children: Most social problems – crime, drug abuse, unwed pregnancy and abortion, youth suicide, school dropouts and the like – are the direct consequence of fatherless households.

“Children who grow up with their fathers do far better – emotionally, educationally, physically, every way we can measure – than children who do not,” notes Institute for American Values president David Blankenhorn. “This conclusion holds true even when differences of race, class and income are taken into account. The simple truth is that fathers are irreplaceable in shaping the competence and character of their children. … [The absence of fathers] from family life is surely the most socially consequential family trend of our era.”

Indeed it is.

Here are some sobering statistics: According to the CDC, DoJ, DHHS and the Bureau of the Census, of the 30% of children who live apart from their fathers, they will account for 63% of teen suicides, 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 71% of high-school dropouts, 75% of children in chemical-abuse centers, 80% of rapists, 85% of youths in prison, 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders, and 90% of homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. In fact, children born to unwed mothers are ten times more likely to live in poverty as children with fathers in the home.

“[The causal link between fatherless children and crime] is so strong that controlling for family configuration erases the relationship between race and crime and between low income and crime,” notes social researcher Barbara Dafoe Whitehead. More to the point, a counselor at a juvenile-detention facility in California, which has the nation’s highest juvenile-incarceration rate, protested, “[If] you find a gang member who comes from a complete nuclear family, I’d like to meet him. … I don’t think that kid exists.”

“Maturity does not come with age, but with the accepting of responsibility for one’s actions,” writes Dr. Edwin Cole. “The lack of effective, functioning fathers is the root cause of America’s social, economic and spiritual crises.”

History also records the exploits of those who grew up without fathers, or with weak or abusive fathers. They became Adolf Hitler, Iosif Vissarionouich Djugashvili (Joseph Stalin), Mao Zedong and Saddam Hussein.

In any case, never let it be said that the Left allows facts to get in the way of its agenda. Arguably, liberal social policies are directly responsible for generations of homeless children, particularly black children. As we’ve noted before, Democrats have a vested interest in keeping blacks and other constituencies dependent on the state; such a dependency, after all, creates a strong allegiance.

The man-hating Left is not content merely to eradicate the traditional family. They also want to eradicate Judeo-Christian values from the home. Take NOW’s website, for example, which proclaims, “Underneath the facade of Christian religion are the workings of the radical religious right, mobilizing men against the rights of women, lesbians, and gays.” The University of Virginia’s Bradford Wilcox notes in a recent Heritage Foundation report that the Left sees religion as “a key factor in stalling the gender revolution at home.”

Is this agenda what generations of Americans have toiled and died to preserve?

Founder John Adams understood well: “The foundation of national morality must be laid in private families…. How is it possible that Children can have any just Sense of the sacred Obligations of Morality or Religion if, from their earliest Infancy, they learn their Mothers live in habitual Infidelity to their fathers, and their fathers in as constant Infidelity to their Mothers?” Abigail Adams wrote, “What is it that affectionate parents require of their Children; for all their care, anxiety, and toil on their accounts? Only that they would be wise and virtuous, Benevolent and kind.”

So where to from here?

On Father’s Day, we should, indeed, pay tribute to the irreplaceable institution of fatherhood – and the importance of a father’s love, discipline, support and protection for his children. On this and every other day, those of us who are fathers should encourage other fathers to be accountable for their children. There is much that can be done for the fatherless – mentoring through Boy Scouting, coaching little-league sports, teaching in Sunday school, becoming a school tutor, and volunteering to work with high-risk kids through an inner-city ministry, to name just a few.

As for this father, it is a privilege beyond all others to be a husband and father of three, and no reward could be greater than the smiles and hugs that attend a close relationship with my children.

Quote of the week…

“A special bond exists between a father and his children. On Father’s Day, we recognize the important role fathers play in the American family, and we honor them for their strength, love, and commitment. A father’s words and actions are critical in shaping the character of his children. A father’s love helps teach them right from wrong, explains to them the consequences of bad decisions, and strengthens them with encouragement. We honor our fathers on this [Father’s Day and] express our heartfelt appreciation for their leadership, support, and protection for their children and families. We particularly recognize the many fathers who are far from home, serving our Nation and defending the cause of freedom around the world.” –President George W. Bush

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