The role of fathers has shifted over the years. In the 17th and 18th centuries, fathers were not only the breadwinners for the family, they were the dispensers of moral values and religious teaching. Books on parenting were aimed at the father, and sermons on parenting were also aimed at the father.
The industrial revolution created major changes in the role of the father. Men were taken from the farm and from cottage industries to the large, impersonal factory. This led to an increase in illegitimacy and to fathers abandoning their homes and families. This led to the government getting involved with support for moms and children, a well intentioned move, but it also let the men off the hook.
Then the dramatic rise in divorce started in l960, a time in which women increasingly moved from the home to the work force. All of this was in addition to what happened with black families due to the effects of the end of slavery and the associated problems of employment for the fathers.
Today, there are approximately 25 million children who live in homes without their biological father, most of them (20.3 million) live in homes without any father figure. That’s over 33% of all children, and some suggest that number could be 50% by 2020. Today, 64% of African-American children, 34% Hispanic children, and 25% Caucasian children live in father-absent homes. In 1960, it was 11% of children who were living in father-absent homes.
Children in father-absent homes are five times as likely to be poor. That child is also 54% more likely to be poorer than his or her father. Girls from father-absent homes are much more likely to become pregnant as a teen, drop out of high school, and marry someone without a high school diploma–all a guarantee of life-long poverty. They will also have a higher rate of anxiety and depressive disorders as adults.
For boys, a father-absent home is a highly accurate statistical predictor of behavioral problems, and income is not a factor. Both boys and girls in father-absent homes are more likely to be obese as adults. Kids of never-married moms are more likely to be expelled or suspended from school, more likely to display emotional problems, and to engage in antisocial behavior.
90% of all homeless and runaway children are from father-absent homes. When there is a father who once was there, only 57% of those absent fathers will visit his child under two years-of-age once a week. By the time the child is seven, only 23% do. 40% of kids in a father-absent home haven’t seen their father in a year or more. 35% never see their fathers
In addition, unfortunately, 40% of mothers will interfere with the father’s visitation, often out of anger at the ex-husband. 50% of mothers in father-absent homes see no value in the father’s continued contact with his kids.
We’ll do a Part 4 in the future which will report on what some communities are doing, including what I saw happening in Cleveland.
We all have friends whose kids are being raised in a father-absent home. What can you do to fill in the gap for that mother?