Where are the Fathers? Part 1

In April 2012, I presented a six hour symposium on the subject of Father Absence.  The symposium was sponsored by The City Mission, In Cleveland, Ohio.  Over 400 people attended, many of them social workers who were heavily involved with families in that city.

I grew up with an emotionally absent, and at times, an abusive father.  I also have three sons, so I have had a long-term interest in the subject of fathering.  My interest in the subject was also sparked by an article published in the journal, The American Psychologist, in l992 titled “Where’s Poppa?”

In the article, the author reviewed five years of research in child and adolescent development, which were reported in eight different clinical journals.  She found that in almost half of the research projects reported, the focus was only on the mother.  A fourth of the projects separated fathers and mothers, seeing the mother as the nurturer, and the father as irrelevant except as a provider.  A little more than a fourth of the research projects lumped the father and mother together, and only investigated the role of mothering.

The author of the article interviewed all of the researchers, asking them why they only looked at the role of mothers.  She found their responses basically fit into four reasons:

1.  Practical issues:  They felt the father was less willing to participate, but        they never asked if the father would participate.  They assumed the fathers were too busy working.

2.  They generally felt the role of the mother was more relevant to parenting.

3.  Some went further, seeing parenting as a specifically female domain.  They not only equated parenting with mothering, but deemed that fathers were minimally important in parenting.

4.  Some used outdated social norms that assumed the mother was in the home and the father was at work, even though at the time, 60% of mothers worked full-time.

The author definitely found the researchers had a strong bias against fathers.  Their work and their theories greatly influenced what would be taught in most graduate programs on child and adolescent development.

All of this flies in the face of the research that looks at what happens when there are no fathers in the home.  For example, you double the risk of drug and alcohol abuse in kids raised without the influence of their father.  Academic achievement drops and the risk of suicide increases dramatically.

In a study by INTERPOL, the international police force, it was found that the absence of fathers in the home strongly correlated with violent crimes committed by the grown children from those homes.  They also noted that this was not true in a study done 18 years prior.

We’ll look at another article published seven years later in our next post.  And then we’ll have a Part 3 that will show what happens when we assume that fathers are irrelevant.

What was your father like?  What was your relationship with him like?

This entry was posted in Marriage & Family Matters, Role of Fathers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Where are the Fathers? Part 1

  1. I like the helpful information you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!

  2. When I view your RSS feed it just gives me a page of weird text, may be the problem on my reader? TY for putting this up, it was very helpful and explained tons.

  3. chris says:

    My dad was the best. Thank you for this important reminder of the need for a present dad.

  4. Great stuff from you, man. Ive read your stuff before and youre just too awesome. I love what youve got here, love what youre saying and the way you say it. You make it entertaining and you still manage to keep it smart. I cant wait to read more from you. This is really a great blog.

  5. Regenia Clifton says:

    My father was abusive and I was happy to avoid him at all cost. Mom did not protect me nor my brothers from his abuse. My oldest brother got big enough to challenge him and my dad then backed down in being so abusive to him. My youngest brother never confronted my dad and to this day is so afraid of many things. After I married (a wonderful, kind man) I confronted my dad about his abuse and we didn’t speak for a year. In that year’s time he apparently thought he should respect me more sooooo…..we were able to connect somewhat, but in a wary way. Both parents have died and I remember the good times as much as possible but I am sure to never forget the bad times so that I will never allow that kind of abuse to happen to me again.

    • drstoop says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. I wrote a book on my issues with my father title, “Making Peace with your Father.” I’m glad you stopped the abuse.

  6. Great post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Cheers!

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