Why children need fathers

by Peter Magee on September 7, 2010

Following the weekend where many of us throughout Australia celebrated Father’s Day, I want to take a moment to focus on the important roles fathers play in our society. This is not intended for one moment to diminish the role that mothers have to play in the lives of children, but simply to acknowledge and appreciate the significance of the role that fathers do play.
From a scientific perspective it is often easier to test or observe the results in the absence of variables. This is also the case when we look at studies from social scientists looking at the impacts of fatherlessness.
• 63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average. Source: US Department of Justice;
• 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. That’s 14 times the national average. Source: Justice and Behaviour;
• 85% of children with behavioural problems come from fatherless homes. That’s 20 times the national average. Source: Centre for Disease Control;
• 71% of all high school drop outs come from fatherless homes. That’s 9 times the national average. Source: National Principals Association Report;
• 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centres come from fatherless homes. 10 times the national average. Source: Rainbows for all gods children;
• 85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average. Source: US Department of Justice.
Author David Blankenhorn, speaking as a social scientist, said, “fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation”. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the father ran off with another woman, whether he lost custody through the family court or whether he was absent through work commitments; the results are the same.

Author Warwick Marsh says “Conversely the opposite is true – when fathers are involved, committed to loving and caring, children do better in school, have better socialisation skills, are healthier, less likely to be overweight, less likely to engage in risky behaviour, have risk of teen pregnancy and are less likely to use drugs or get involved with crime. The same children who have higher father involvement are more popular with their peers, have higher self esteem, have better self control, treat girls better, are no emphatic and are happier as well.”

I have no doubt that there is similar empirical research to support the importance of the role of mothers in the lives of children, however, this piece is about fathers and we will need to leave the mothers research for another day.
No one ever said being a father was easy. Sure there might be crass jokes about fathering a child being easy and natural. We all know that is not what I am talking about. What I am talking about, (using the language of the Family Law Act) is “spending substantial and significant time” with your children. This clearly has a substantial and significant result on your children’s future wellbeing. That is something that is in the best interests of all children provided there is no unacceptable risk of harm. Fathers play this role for children in our society. Fathers, we thank you all, and hope you had an enjoyable Fathers Day.

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