Since as far as we can remember, fathers were important and very necessary to the family for two main reasons. The first reason is procreation. Women are unable to conceive and give birth to children by themselves. A woman’s egg needs to be fertilised by a sperm provided by a man. And after the child is born, the father is needed to provide for him and the family. Even this is changing.
Recently, the geneticist J. Craig Venter showed that the entire genetic material of an organism can be synthesized by a machine and then put into what he called an “artificial cell.” This was actually a bit of press-release hyperbole: Mr. Venter started with a fully functional cell, then swapped out its DNA. In doing so, he unwittingly demonstrated that the female component of sexual reproduction, the egg cell, cannot be manufactured, but the male can. (Greg Hampikian, Men, Who Needs Them)
Even the father’s role as Provider is not as crucial as before. Thanks to feminism, women received protection from abuse and exploitation, were given access to education (women have been a majority of college graduates since the 1980s, and their numbers are growing), and has become more financially independent (between 1948 and 2001, the percentage of working age women employed or looking for work nearly doubled–from less than 33 percent to more than 60 percent). Their increase in financial power made paternal financial support less necessary for some families. In short, fathers grew increasingly unnecessary, redundant in the family.
Over the last 2 to 3 decades, we have seen families changing. Some would disagree and say that, rather, they are breaking down. They are breaking down as a result of a deliberate conspiracy to deconstruct the family. It is believed that it all started with John Stuart Mill who, in his book On Liberty, famously called for ‘experiments in living’ so that we might learn from one another. He argued that there could be a public benefit in permitting lifestyle experimentation. His reasoning was that, just as we distinguish truth from falsehood by the clash of opinion, so we might learn how to improve human lives by permitting a contest in lifestyles. For about 30 years we have been conducting such an experiment with the family. The time has now come to appraise the results.
In the 1970s and 1980s many people argued that the traditional family – based upon a married biological father and mother and their children – was outdated. Under the guise of ‘freedom of choice’, ‘self-fulfilment’, and ‘equal respect for all kinds of families’, feminists and social rebels led a campaign to experiment with different family structures. Sometimes it was claimed that women and children did not need men, and were, in fact, often better off without them.
Gone are the days when only husbands had the prerogative to divorce their wives because they were financially independent. Today, more divorce are initiated by the wife and one of the reasons is because they have taken over from their husbands as the breadwinners of the family. And now that they are capable of supporting themselves and their (the wives) children, husbands are seen as unnecessary and are pushed out of the family. I personally know of at least one family in which this is happening as I write.
So, fathers, if you want to remain relevant in your family, it is beneficial for you to take on an added role of care-giver and nurturer of your children.
Many studies back up the fact that infants, children and teens of highly involved fathers fare much better socially, emotionally and cognitively as compared to those with absent fathers. Here are some of the findings:
- Cognitive Development: Infants of highly involved fathers, as measured by amount of interaction, including higher levels of play and caregiving activities, are more cognitively competent at 6 months and score higher on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (Pedersen, Rubinstein, & Yarrow, 1979; Pedersen, Anderson, & Kain, 1980).
- By one year they continue to have higher cognitive functioning (Nugent, 1991), are better problem solvers as toddlers (Easterbrooks & Goldberg, 1984), and have higher IQ’s by age three (Yogman, Kindlan, & Earls, 1995).
- Emotional Development: Father involvement is positively correlated with children’s overall life satisfaction and their experience of less depression (Dubowitz et al., 2001; Field, Lang, Yando, & Bendell, 1995; Formoso, Gonzales, Barrera, & Dumka, 2007; Furstenberg & Harris, 1993; Zimmerman, Salem, & Maton, 1995), less emotional distress (Harris et al., 1998), less expressions of negative emotionality such as fear and guilt (Easterbrooks & Goldberg, 1990), less conduct problems (Formoso et al., 2007), less psychological distress (Flouri, 2005), greater sense of social competence (Dubowitz et al., 2001), higher levels of self-reported happiness (Flouri, 2005), fewer anxiety symptoms, and lower neuroticism (Jorm, Dear, Rogers, & Christensen, 2003).
- Social Development: Children of involved fathers are more likely to demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress and frustration (Mischel, Shoda, & Peake, 1988), have superior problem solving and adaptive skills (Biller, 1993), be more playful, resourceful, skilful, and attentive when presented with a problem (Mischel et al., 1988), and are better able to manage their emotions and impulses in an appropriate manner.
Sadly, only 20 per cent of American households consists of married couples with children, and in most of them the fathers are missing. As a result:
- 43% of US children live without their father [US Department of Census]
- 71% of pregnant teenagers lack a father. [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services press release, Friday, March 26, 1999]
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes. [US D.H.H.S., Bureau of the Census]
- 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes. [Center for Disease Control]
- 85% of youths in prisons grew up in a fatherless home. [Fulton County Georgia jail populations, Texas Department of Corrections, 1992]
I could go on citing statistic after statistic…but I think you’ve got the idea. Fathers are not just needed to produce children, his presence and active involvement is vital for their development thereafter.
Now that we have established that fathers play a very important role in their families and in the lives of their children, yet the fact remains that men enter fatherhood very unprepared.
Women have been prepared from a young age for motherhood through the toys they play with – dolls, doll houses and cooking sets. If a girl has younger siblings, she typically becomes the de facto ‘second mom’ to them. Men, on the other hand, are not taught how to be a father in the same way that women are taught how to be a mother. Society sends men the message that fatherhood is merely a stage in a man’s life in which he has the responsibility of taking care of another human being. In our capitalistic society, taking care of another human being for a man boils down to being able to provide for them. To be Provider, Breadwinner.
Are you entering fatherhood soon? Or perhaps you are a father already? Do you feel inadequate for the role? If you do, help is just a click away.
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