In Part 1 in our look at the question “Where are the Fathers?” we pointed out the changes in graduate programs on Child and Adolescent Development in de-emphasizing the role of fathers in family. Seven years after that study was published, the same journal, The American Psychologist, went a step further in an article titled “Deconstructing the Essential Father.”
Here, two highly respected psychologists stated their goal: “We are opposed to fathers being essential to positive child development.” They went so far as to say they were convinced that neither a mother nor a father are essential to healthy child development. All that is needed is “at least one responsible care-taking adult who has a positive emotional connection to them and with whom they have a consistent relationship.
The authors based their ideas on research focused that focused on animals, in part because there just was very little human research that supported their point of view. We’ll review some of the findings of that research in our next post. But this wasn’t a problem to them. They also claimed that 75% of children are not affected negatively by divorce. This finding was based on the conclusions of one study, and flies in the face of the findings of countless other studies. Again, they dismissed studies that didn’t support their point of view, and drew heavily from the few studies that did support their viewpoint.
Perhaps in a reaction to this article, an article was published two years later in the same journal titled “(In)visible Men.” In this article, the author looked at the research on low-income, unmarried, and minority fathers. She proposed that there were four roles that a father is to play in his family. He was to 1.) Provide financially; 2.) Provide care for his children; 3.) Give emotional support to his children, and 4.) Provide legal paternity–in other words, claim them as his.
In the growing absence of fathers in the home, the government has tried to offset that absence of fathers by getting involved in financial support and the determination of legal paternity. But the government has little ability to get involved in the caring and emotional support that is supposed to be given by fathers.
The conclusion drawn by this research is more in line with the multitude of research findings that say when a father is involved in parenting, nurturing, and in father-child activities, the cognitive development, school achievement and academic attainment of these children is greatly increased in a positive direction.
In our next post, we will look at the consequences identified by a large body of research which clearly shows the importance of a father that goes far beyond just providing and paternity.
What did you gain of what did you miss in your relationship with your father?