---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mary L. Pepper <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Sat, Apr 7, 2012 at 9:55 AM
Subject: Are Fathers Valuable In Our Families? new post on Healthy Relationships 101 blog (see below)
To: Bill Coffin <email@example.com
Are Fathers Valuable In Our Families?
Are Fathers Valuable In Our Families?
When I was a young child, my dad often came up to my bedroom, sat on my bed and would read my sisters and I poetry. My memories of these special times included Edgar Allen Poe’s poem, Annabelle Lee, “It was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea, that a maiden there lived whom you may know by the name of Anabelle Lee. ” When I became an adult, I asked my dad why he had chosen to read that type of poetry to us. (Annabelle Lee is a morbid, sad story, not a Disney style or child-like story). With a joyful face, my dad told me how he loved the rhythm, the cadence, the movement and the flow of the words in those particular poems. My dad took the time to be involved in his children’s life. My 7 siblings and I benefited greatly from having a close relationship with our father.
Do fathers have value in families? What contributions can they make? How might they influence the well being of their children? How might growing up without a dad affect the well being of their children? And how is the father’s role in a family being expanded and/or redefined?
Fathers are indispensable if society is to persevere (Popenoe, 1996). At the Fourth National summit on Fatherhood, the guest speaker, President Bush, stated that raising children requires sacrifice, effort, time and presence. He asserted that children look to their father to provide protection, to provide discipline and care, guidance, and most importantly, unconditional love (2001). Existing data show that father-child interactions are important for children’s development. Father’s involvement both at home and at school have been found to be significantly related to children’s school success (Halle, Moore, Greene & LeMenstrel, 1998). A father’s task is to help raise his children so that they can be constructive members of society. A father needs to transmit to his children those cultural values they must have to succeed in life. A noted psychologist, Henry B. Biller, said that the father is extremely important for the child’s intellectual, emotional, and social development. A father is important for the psychological well being of his children including happiness, life satisfaction, and the absence of psychological distress (Popenoe, 1996). Data from the Fatherhood Initiative shows conclusively that when fathers are involved in their children’s lives, their children evidence greater self-esteem higher educational achievement, a more secure gender identity, and a greater success in life (Levine, 2000).
An involved father brings positive benefits to his children that no other person is likely to bring. A father provides protection, economic support, and a male role model.
A father gives a child guidance, instruction, encouragement, care and love (Popenoe, 1996). A father’s role is to be a protector and provider for his wife and their children. . Fathers also bring discipline and authority especially to raising boys. A father is a role model for their sons and daughters. This is done through identification and imitation. Sons learn how to be a man from their father. Sons identify and bond with their father. Sons learn about male responsibility, achievement, about how to be suitably assertive and independent, and how to relate acceptably with the opposite sex (Popenoe, 1996). Frequent opportunity to observe and imitate an adequate father contributes to the development of the boys overall instrumental and problem solving ability (Parke & Brott, 1999). Daughters learn from their father how to relate to men, about heterosexual trust, intimacy, and differences. Daughters learn that they are love-worthy from their dad as well as learning assertiveness, independence, and achievement (Popenoe, 1996). Finally, fathers are important in helping children make the difficult transition to the adult world. Boys require an affirmation that they are “man enough”. Girls require an affirmation that they are “worthy enough” (Horn, 1999).
Children develop best when they are provided opportunity to have warm, intimate, continuous, and enduring relationship with both their father and their mother.
Mothers and fathers have different but complementary parenting styles. They bring different qualities to children. This is important for optimum childrearing. In regards to discipline, dads often seem more powerful and firm. Fathers provide an ultimate predictability and consistency. Mothers are more responsive and adjust to the child’s needs and emotions of the moment. Mother’s provide an important flexibility and sympathy in their discipline. Both dimensions are critical for an efficient, balance, and humane childrearing regime (Popenoe, 1996). In regards to interactions, men seem to stress physical and high energy activities while women stress the social and emotional aspects (Parke & Brott, 1999). In regards to play, father’s play is more physically stimulating and exciting with a rough and tumble approach (Popenoe, 1996). T. Berry Brazelton states that most fathers seem to present a more playful, jazzing up approach (Parke & Brott, 1999). It is the way that children learn self-control (Popenoe, 1996). A father’s play help children to learn how to express and appropriately manage their emotions and recognize other’s emotional cues (Parke & Brott, 1999). Through father’s physical play and his caretaking techniques, a child learns competition, challenge, initiative, risk taking and independence. Mother’s play takes place more at the child’s level (Popenoe, 1996). A mother plays more visual games with more verbal interactions. In her caretaking role, she stresses the emotional security and personal safety. In regards to moral senses, there are fundamental differences between men and women. Men stress justice, fairness, and duty. These traits are based on rules. Women stress sympathy, care and helping others. These traits are based on relationships (Popenoe, 1996). Mothers and fathers parent differently, but both can parent well and make a difference in their children’s lives (Parke & Brott, 1999).
Children learn about male and female relationships by seeing how their parents relate to each other. Children learn about trust, intimacy, and caring between the sexes. The parents’ relationship provides children a model for marriage (Popenoe, 1996). If fathers treat mothers with dignity and respect, then it is likely that their sons will grow up to treat women with dignity and respect. If fathers treat mothers with contempt and cruelty, then it is likely that their sons will, too. Fathers are also critical for the healthy emotional development of girls. If girls experience the love, attention, and protection of fathers, then they are likely to resist the temptations of seeking love and attention elsewhere- often through casual sexual relations at a very young age (Horn, 1999).
On the other side of the coin is the research of children who are raised without their father. Generally, children from father absent homes have lower test scores, lower GPA’s, lower school attendance than adolescents from two parent homes (Parke, & Brott, 1999). Children with absent fathers are subject to higher levels of physical and sexual abuse, neglect and emotional maltreatment. Fatherless children experience significantly more physical, emotional and behavioral problems than do children growing up in intact families. Many of these problems continue into their adolescent and adult years generating steeply elevated rates of juvenile delinquency, crime and violence, out of wedlock pregnancies, and substance abuse (Popenoe, 1996). Prisons are populated primarily by men who were abandoned or rejected by their fathers (Dobson, 2002). Seventy-two percent of adolescent murderers and sixty percent of America’s rapist grew up in homes without fathers (Parke, & Brott, 1999). A few years ago, a greeting card company decided to set up a table in a federal prison, inviting any inmate who so desired to send a free card to his mom. The lines were so long, they had to make another trip to the factory to get more cards. Due to the success of the event, they decided to do the same thing on Father’s Day, but this time no one came. Not one prisoner felt the need or had the desire to send a card to his dad. Many had no idea who their father even was (Dobson, 2002).
Children in single parent households are disadvantaged by loss of economic resources, too little parental supervision and/or involvement and greater residential mobility (Popenoe, 1996). Patricia Fry in an article, ‘Fathers in America’, states that fatherless children do learn from their father. They learn not to trust and they learn to live with the pain of rejection (2001). Long time affects of absent fathers include the closeness children feel to their father when they become adults. Only 31 % of adult children of divorced parents felt close to their father. An overwhelming 77% of adult children whose parents are still married and live together felt close to their father (Parke & Brott, 1999).
Now, that we know the value of fathers in a family and the flip side of the coin of what happens when the father is absent, what are some of the current roles that some fathers play in their family. The quality of a father’s involvement is crucial. Simply being there is not enough; being available and involved is what really counts ( Parke & Brott, 1999). For those men whom have chosen to stay married and have integrated themselves into the fabric of family life, their role as dad is evolving (Levine, 2000). As Ken R. Canfield in his book The Heart of a Father states “It takes quantity time to build a relationship of mutual trust, and trust is absolutely necessary for real quality time”. Some fathers are choosing to be more involved in the primary child care (Popenoe, 1996). They are walking the walk and talking the talk. They are creating a balance in their lives between work, marriage, and children. Because they are involved in their children’s lives, their children evidence greater self-esteem, higher educational achievement, a more secure gender identity, and greater success in life (Levine, 2000). The expanding role for fathers allows them to be more nurturing than in the past, to share in domestic pursuits and the day to day care of their children. Being an active and an engaged father can be one of the most deeply satisfying and meaningful aspects of his life’s endeavors. Children give men a perspective on what is really important in life as well as the important sense of interpersonal connectedness across the generations. Children enhance these virtues in men: patience, kindness, generosity, compassion and prevents the preoccupation with self (Popenoe, 1996).
Society at all levels can promote and encourage men to be active and involved fathers.
Wives can encourage their husband to engage in the daily childcare by relinquishing some of the control they have of that area. Local agencies can help by giving men the tools they need to know in order to be involved fathers. They can offer fathering classes that teach men about child development and basic skills needed for child care. Everyone can benefit greatly from fathers being involved in their families (Parke & Brott, 1999).
The president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, Wade F. Horn asserts that the best home for a child is one where both the mother and the father are happily married, actively and lovingly involved in the life of their child. Let's strive to give this gift to each and every child!
Change is still needed in our culture’s attitude about the value and importance of a father in a family. Fatherhood must be esteemed and promoted and become a valued,
integral part of our society.
Amato, P.R., & Rogers, S.J.(1999). Do attitudes toward divorce affect marital quality? Journal of Family Issues,20 (1), 69-86.
Ballard, C. (2002). Who But God? The Institute for Responsible Fatherhood and Family Revitalization [On-Line]. Available: www.responsiblefatherhood.org/
Blankenhorn, D.(1995). Fatherless in America: confronting our most urgent social problem. New York: Basic Books.
Bush, G.W. (2001). Remarks to the fourth national summit on fatherhood. Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, 37(23), 859-862.
Dobson, J. (2002, March). The essential father. Family News, 1-6.
Halle, T., Moore, K., Greene, A., & LeMenestrel, S. M. (1998). What policymakers need to know about fathers. Policy & Practice of Public Human Services, 56(3), 21-35.
Horn, W. (1999). No substitute for parents. Child and Family, 22(3), 57-63.
Levine, S. (2000). Father courage – what happens when men put family first. New York: Harcourt, Inc.
Parke, R & Brott, A. (1999). Throwaway dads: the myths and barriers that keep men from being the fathers they want to be. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Popenoe, D. (1996). Life without father: compelling new evidence that fatherhood and marriage are indispensable for the good of children and society. New York: The Free Press.
"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to an all-knowing God."