Janice Shaw Crouse in The American Thinker (January 3, 2009) reported, "The National Center for Health Statistics reported in 2006 that 48 percent of all marriages in the United States ended in divorce." Other studies indicate that cohabitation, delayed marriage, serial marriages, and numerous blended family structures are affecting relationships and expectations between family members.
Studies conclude that after a divorce mothers are less affectionate and communicate less often with their children. Long term erosion of family relationships is common, with the father-child relationship being the most endangered relationship following family turmoil.
The National Center for Fathering (www.fathers.com) provides information on fathering in the United States.Here are some statistics.
- According to 72.2 % of the U.S. population, fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing America. (Source: National Center for Fathering, Fathering in America Poll, January, 1999.)
- An estimated 23.6 million children (32.3 percent) live absent their biological father. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau. Current Population Survey Reports. "Household Relationship and Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years, by Age, Sex, Race, Hispanic Origin: 2004.)
Add to these figures Michael Gurian, a social philosopher and family therapist reported boys without the substantial presence of a father are 70 percent more likely to commit violent crimes, and each year spent without a dad in the home increases the odds of future incarceration by 5 percent. And, girls without the substantial presence of a father are 150 percent more likely to become pregnant during the teen years and will experience 92 percent more marriage breakups than girls raised with two parents. (Michael Gurian, Nurture the Nature, 2007)
These alarming statistics seem to put much of the blame in dad's court. Yet, conceiving a child is clearly the responsibility of both parents. Public sympathy and admiration is heaped upon single mothers who provide an excellent life for their children. Courts and government programs provide support for these mothers while society often paints absent fathers as money-hungry, villainous creatures.
Is Society Stigmatizing Traditional and Nontraditional Fathers?
"The traditional American view of the family - Dad works while Mom stays at home to care for children playing on swing sets behind white picket fences - may be doing more harm than good," according to Brown sociologist Frances Goldscheider. "The traditional definition of a man's role in the family is financial. So when the financing becomes more difficult, the men are opting out or being forced out," said Goldscheider, professor of sociology.
(Richard P. Morin, www.brown.edu)
Research has shown that fathers who cannot financially support their families are not only leaving, but those remaining in the home often do not direct their energies into other areas of parenting, such as helping their children with homework or attending football games or other activities. "I think there is a causal effect," said Goldscheider, "that if you can't be truly defined in this society as a good father, i.e. someone who pays the bills, it is hard to even think about the next tier of priorities."
Jeffery M. Leving and Glenn Sacks (www.glennsacks.com, November 10 2009) reported that Agency Executive Director Cynthia Brown and campaign supporter Kay Cullen of the National Child Support Enforcement Association would have us believe that men should be targeted as high-flying deadbeats who are selfishly stiffing their children.
In reality, research contradicts this. Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement data shows that two-thirds of those behind on child support nationwide earn poverty level wages; less than four percent of the national child support debt is owed by those earning $40,000 or more a year. According to the largest federally-funded study of divorced dads ever conducted, unemployment, not willful neglect, is the largest cause of failure to pay child support.(www.glennsacks.com, November 10 2009)
Richard t. Pienciak and Linda Yglesias reported in the New York Daily News (September 25, 1998) that Edward Stephens, a psychiatrist for 30 years and a member of the American Psychological Association Committee on Children, suffered through his own bitter divorce and custody fight. Now, an avowed fathers'-rights crusader, he said, "Civil rights refer to the class of people that are being oppressed. Fathers are being oppressed. Men are being oppressed." Stephens continued, "In our system the bull always dies. The cow never dies."
Do divorcing dads get a raw deal in court? According to a recent survey of Divorcenet.com users, the answer is a resounding yes. 1,255 Divorcenet.com users weighed in on the question, "Do Divorce Courts Treat Fathers Fairly?" More than 81% of survey respondents answered "No" while less than 19% answered "Yes." (PRNewswire, Newton Mass., May 31 2003)
And what rights do prospective fathers have during pregnancy? Take the sad case of father John Stachokus, who filed an injunction to keep his girlfriend from aborting their child. When a court rejected the injunction, Williams writes that it "regarded him as little more than a soulless contributor of DNA." Williams also says,
"In the continued fight for equality, various feminist groups have refused to acknowledge the basic human rights of the co-equal contributors to pregnancy: the unborn child and the father. Plainly, that is a bad thing."Anna North (jezebel.com) replied to John's situation: "The reason men don't get to decide whether women carry their fetuses to term isn't because they're "soulless contributors of DNA" — it's because they are not the ones carrying the fetus. As much as it sucks for John Stachokus, he has the privilege and limitation of not being able to bear a child." This inconsiderate summary of men's fatherly rights is shared by many these days.
What about the attitude toward adoption of an unwed parents' child? Cathy Young of the Boston Globe (January 24, 2005) wrote, "Public sympathy is typically on the side of the adoptive parents -- while the unwed father is often assigned the role of villain. He's seen as a reckless good-for-nothing who wants the rights of a father just because he took the trouble to impregnate a woman."
And, granted, sometimes, the popular perception of the unwed father may be justified. This is a sad commentary on the casual attitude of some males toward fathering. Lack of responsibility is unthinkable but does take place.
But, Young continued, "Biological paternity isn't everything; but it isn't nothing, either. Where is the sympathy for fathers who lose their children through no fault of theirs? Would we be more sympathetic if a woman's baby were taken away at the hospital and placed for adoption without her knowledge because the birth father signed the adoption papers?"
The father in such a case faces a strong presumption of guilt. It is readily assumed that if the mother doesn't want him involved, he's either abusive or terminally irresponsible. In society's eyes, when a man doesn't want to marry his child's mother, he must be a cad; when a woman doesn't want to marry the father, he must be a creep.
Young concluded, "People can believe that a man would wage a lengthy legal battle out of spite at his ex-girlfriend; yet many won't allow that a woman could want to deny her ex-boyfriend his child for equally base reasons. We stigmatize and prosecute men who refuse to support their children, but not women who willfully conspire to keep a father away from his child."
New Findings On the Need for Fathers
A report published by the Equal Opportunities Commission in 2007 based on research tracking 19,000 children born in 2000 and 2001 found emotional and behavioral problems were more common by the time youngsters reached the age of three if their fathers had not taken time off work when they were born, or had not used flexible working to have a more positive role in their upbringing. (Lucy Ward, The Guardian U.K., March 6 2007) Serious inquiries are being made into the future value of paternity leaves.