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What is the number one indicator of a child’s success? Is it race? Income? Education? IQ? Try fatherhood. A father’s consistent presence in a child’s life predicts many different measures of child success, such as college graduation rates, low conflict relationships, prevention of teen pregnancies, suicide, and domestic abuse. Fathers even affect children’s relationships far later in life. For instance, a woman’s ability to avoid divorce or enjoy marital intimacy in adulthood correlates to the quality of relationship she had with her dad.

Statistically speaking, children who grow up without fathers are more likely to face disease, abuse, increased crime, drugs, poverty, depression, ADHD and other neuroses. They are also more likely to pass these patterns of suffering into the next generation. Fatherhood inoculates our society against practically every social ill we know of.

  1. Father’s give purpose to a child’s identity. A child is an eternal, living witness to the physical union of his mother and father. The love that brought him into being has significance and meaning about his origins and purpose that other relationships can rarely, if ever, provide.
  2. Father hunger: Single mothers everywhere are surprised to find in their children a painful hunger, even for those fathers who abandoned or mistreated them. Children instinctively search for a man to be the male archetype in their lives. As one author states, father hunger is “a longing for a man, not a woman, who will care for you, protect you, show you how to survive in the world.

    For a boy, especially, it’s the raw, persistent, desperate hunger for dependable male love and for an image of maleness that is not at odds with love.” And that longing can hardly be extinguished: a never-married San Francisco professional with a young child was stunned by it: “My son began asking for his father before he was two. I’ll never forget it. He said, “Why no daddy?”[1]

  3. A Father’s love is irreplaceable. No other human can replace a father’s love because that human cannot address the existential question such father absence creates. And while children will do anything they can to cobble together this male archetype from their current resources, the statistics illustrate the troubled returns on this reparative attempt. Step-parenting can be successful and adoption can be good and fulfilling, but indicators show that biological ties should be retained whenever possible. [2]
  4. Children are entitled to experience a father’s love. Biology promises every child the critical gift of a father. And yet 100% of babies are born to women. The question for society, religion, and even law, is to find a way to attach fathers to the new lives they create. Lifelong marriage between a man and a woman is the only way to deliver the promise of fatherhood to a child, and to make that promise last for the decades a child needs to reach functioning independence.
  5. Children can’t protect their own relationships with their mother and father, and rely on marriage culture and family law to do so. By the time a child is old enough to defend these “property rights,” the benefits of an intact family has long since disappeared. [3] For millennia, marriage between a man and woman has been the only institution to bind a father to his child. This is the way society has created to turn the father’s aggression and competitive nature toward serving the life that is created by his love. Recent “redefinitions” in marriage have made fathers legally optional in children’s lives. LDS temples remain as an authoritative institution capable of binding a child to his own mother and father.
  6. Million-dollar love. Married fathers[4] voluntarily generate and invest tens of thousands of dollars in their children over their first 18 years, far more than any government program could provide or even require a man to provide. Within the context of an intact family, a father often views this sacrifice for his children as investing in himself, and he rarely requires any personal return, outside of the hope that his children will grow to have good character.

    This kind of foundational selfless love teaches a child about their worth as a human being. It allows them to measure the different qualities of love they experience in other relationships. This father-inspired ability to differentiate between lust and love is particularly important for daughters who later bear the larger burden of reproduction and who must make life changing decisions based on promises surrounding love. It is not surprising then that daughters of married fathers are better able to avoid teen pregnancies, abusive relationships, and even eventual divorce.

  7. Fathers determine the stability of a child’s home. Marriage drives a man to domesticate his behavior and make himself compatible with family life. Turning himself toward the service of his family,  allows a mother the freedom to focus on nurturing a child. “If we were asked to design a system for making sure that children’s basic needs were met, we would probably come up with something quite similar to the two-parent family ideal. Such a design, in theory, would not only ensure that children had access to the time and money of two adults, it would provide a system of checks and balances that promote quality parenting. The fact that both adults have a biological connection to the child would increase the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child.”[5]
  8. Fathers teach boys to become prosocial individuals. “Let me suggest that there are two basic categories—good and bad. The bad thing that men can do is become violent, isolated, and sexually irresponsible. The good thing they can do is to become husbands and fathers. Becoming husbands and fathers is the universal prescription of human societies for the socialization of the male. It’s how societies link male aggression, energy, purpose—maleness—to a pro-social purpose. The way human societies do that is by linking them to the lives of their children and to the lives of the mothers of their children through marriage.”[6] “Women it is true make human beings. But only men can make men.”[7] “Boys have a deep need to be respected by other boys and men. They do this by excelling at what the men around them are doing. The need to be respected and accepted by peers and elders is why manhood initiation ceremonies are so important.”[8]
  9. Fathers Model the appropriate use of power At the personal level, It is “precisely because the father is physically powerful, he is the one who must protect the family morally as well as physically….The Father needs to harness his power for the good of his family. “… It is not in the interests of the family for him to renounce the use of power altogether.”[9] UCLA  Professor James Q. Wilson further this impact beyond the personal. “Neighborhood standards may be set by mothers but they are enforced by fathers, or at least by adult males…“…Neighborhoods without fathers are neighborhoods without men able and willing to confront errant youth, chase threatening gangs, and reproach delinquent fathers. The absence of fathers deprives the community of those little platoons that informally but effectively control the boys on the street.”

    By contrast, boys who do not regularly experience the love, discipline, and modeling of a good father are more likely to engage in what is called “compensatory masculinity,” where they reject and denigrate all that is feminine and instead seek to prove their masculinity by engaging in domineering and violent behavior.” [10]

  10. The harmonization of opposites: According to the 2006 child protective services manual “One of the most important benefits of a positive relationship between mother and father . . . Is the behavior it models for children. . . . Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict within the relationship in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have boys who understand how they are to treat women and who are less likely to act in an aggressive fashion toward females. Girls with involved respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.” [11]

For better or worse, our concept of the power and purpose of gender is formed by the sacrifices our parents have modeled or failed to model. These ancient male and female archetypes, far from being outdated, will be the redemption or destruction of modern civilization.

Notes: 

[1] Maggie Gallagher, The Abolition of Marriage, pg. 54-56.

[2]Jennifer Roback Morse, Love and Economics, pgs. 34, 105-107.

[3] Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, panphlet, 77 Non-religious Reasons to Support Man Woman Marriage.

[4] It seems to be the premeditated commitment to marriage itself as well as the life a marriage may create that causes a man to anticipate and execute these sacrifices. In contrast non-resident fathers view such financial burdens as a tax used to support someone else’s household.

[5] http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674364080

[6] Blankenhorn, Fatherless America, Published on the blog Thinking America.

[7]Glen Stanton quoting Margaret Mead in Secure Daughters, Confident Sons.

[8] “Anthropologists tell us that the primary problem in every human community throughout time and place is always the same: the unattached, undisciplined male. His male nature—with its raw physical strength and energies, appetite for food drink and sex and even violence—needs to be domesticated and even socialized.” Glen Stanton, 71-73, 76.

[9] Jennifer Roback Morse, Love and Economics, p 117.

[10] Ryan T. Anderson, Truth Overruled, pg 28 footnote 17. In his book, Life without Father, David Popanoe furth explains, “Boys who grow up without fathers have to disengage themselves from the dominance of women in a ‘socially problematic’ way. Such boys may find it nescessary as a ‘defense mechanism’ to devalue and reject their mothers becoming angry and hostile toward women in the process. Sociologists believe that “protest masculinity or attempts to prove manliness through threatening or violent behavior and daring acts of physical strength and athletic prowess, was based laregly on “an unconcious fear of being feminine” that arose in the ascence of male role models. Their cross cross cultural study of childbearing provided strong support for this belief: “Most cases of assault and homicide were found to occur in the two most father-distant” cultures that they examined.”[10]

[11] Child Abuse and Neglect User Manual Series.  The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children, pgs. 11-12.  US Department of Health and Human Services To obtain copies of other manuals in this series, contact the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information at:800-FYI-336 nccanch@caliber.com http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/profess/tools/usermanual.cfm