Reuniting Fathers With Their Families

By Stuart A. Miller and Rich Zubaty

This appeared as an article in the Washington Times (12/19/95 - A19) and is distributed by the Texas Fathers Alliance

85% of prisoners, 78% of high school dropouts, 82% of teenage girls who become pregnant, the majority of drug and alcohol abusers - all come from single-mother-headed households. Less than 1% of any of these categories come from single-father-headed households. This seems to indicate that the problems children encounter are not related to single-parent households, but are related specifically to single-mother-headed households. So, should we blame the mothers or the fathers? Perhaps, neither. There is no question that father-absence has reached epidemic proportions. According to Wade Horn of the National Fatherhood Initiative, we must reverse the trend in 7 - 8 years or it will be too late to do so.

And, how has our government responded to this crisis? By continuing to drive fathers out of the family. It is bad enough that some fathers abandon their families, but it is unconscionable that our federal and state policies drive fathers away from their families. With 80+ percent of divorces involving children resulting in sole-mother-custody, combined with a "no man in the house rule" and "presumptive sole-mother-custody" in welfare cases - we are not blameless from a policy perspective. We must change our policies, practices and procedures to specifically include fathers in families. If not, we can be certain that social spending will continue to increase and we will be plagued with an ever burgeoning population of maladjusted children who will fill our prisons and wreak havoc on society.

Social research data reveal that our blind reliance only on the nurturing value of mothers is inadequate and misplaced. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a child living with his/her divorced mother, compared to a child living with both parents, is "375% more likely to need professional treatment for emotional or behavioral problems and is almost twice as likely to repeat a grade of school, is more likely to suffer chronic asthma, frequent headaches, and/or bedwetting, develop a stammer or speech defect, suffer from anxiety or depression, and be diagnosed as hyperactive."

However, these afflictions were surprisingly uncommon in the 15% of single-parent households headed by men. A study of all state child protective services agencies in the country - by the Children's Rights Coalition, a child advocacy and research organization in Austin, Texas - found that biological mothers physically abuse their children at twice the rate of biological fathers. The majority of the rest of the time, children are abused because of single-mothers' poor choices in the subsequent men in their lives. Incidences of abuse were almost non-existent in single-father-headed households.

The data show that placing children only with mothers is likely to be detrimental to children and society, so why do we continue public policies favoring sole-mother-placement? Have we become so paternalistic toward women that it anesthetizes our common sense?

Surprisingly few people realize that, until the end of WW I, U.S. laws and courts automatically placed the children of divorce not with their mothers, but with their fathers. For thousands of years societal conventions instructed the placement of children with their fathers in most cultures all over the globe. Why? Because it works. It puts children with their strongest protectors and it puts boys with their traditional guides to civilized manhood. Yet, these essential fatherhood roles - protector and civilizer - seem to have been forgotten, today.

Never before have fathers been cast aside as they have been in the United States during the last 30 - 40 years. Never before has such a strong society become as threatened as we are, for this solitary reason. Regrettably, as long as we continue to hold to the relatively new idea that only mothers are capable of being parents, and ignore the essential role of fathers, our children will remain at risk.

The single-mother-headed-household must go the way of the slum high-rise dwelling. Both are human disaster zones. Both are exalted attempts at social engineering that ignore God's blueprint for human society.

What is needed? Our Father in heaven and our fathers here on earth - as well as a society that values them, includes them, and encourages their involvement in their families.

Stuart Miller and Rich Zubaty are Political Analysts with the American Fathers Coalition in Washington, D.C.
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