Study Shows Importance of Both Parents in a Family

Author: Elizabeth Foss


By Elizabeth Foss

The anticipation begins an hour before he is to arrive. The children, peering out the window into the darkness every five minutes, ask "When is Daddy coming home?" He arrives, greeted by their shouts of delight.

Dinner time focuses on questions about their day, as he expands on something Michael learned or he reminds Christian how important it is that children obey their parents. After some time with me, when he fills my very real need for "growing talk," he dissolves to the living room floor, where amidst the tumbling, tickling and squealing of their roughhousing, my boys learn from their dad infinite lessons in toughness, mercy and fair play. They also learn what it feels like to be held in the strong, secure arms of a father who loves them.

Then it is bath time, and my husband, who is six feet four and built like a college athlete, tenderly towels off our baby, making silly noises and goofy faces before holding him high overhead until he squeals with delight. Dad reads stories to the big boys while I nurse the baby. We listen to prayers and the children go to sleep, secure in the knowledge that Daddy is home.

Unfortunately, 15 million American children go to sleep every night in a home without a father. And contrary to the feminist propaganda, mothers cannot fill a father's role. What men bring to their children is vital to their emotional, intellectual, sexual, moral and spiritual development. Consider these statistics from the Family Research Council:

-- At least one out of every three children experiencing a parental separation "demonstrated a significant decline in academic performance" persisting at least three years.

-- Even after taking into account the lower income in single-parent families, the absence of a father has a significant negative effect on the educational attainment of boys.

-- Compared with girls with intact nuclear families, girls who lose their fathers by divorce are overly responsive to males, are more likely to be sexually involved with males in adolescence, marry younger, are more often pregnant before marriage and become divorced or separated from their eventual husband more frequently.

-- Teens from disrupted families have more general health problems, are more likely to have consulted a health professional regarding emotional problems and are more likely to be sexually active than children from intact families.

-- The best predictor of violent crime and burglary in a community is not race or income, but the proportion of households without fathers.

-- Seventy percent of all juveniles in long-term correctional facilities did not live with their fathers growing up.

-- Children in fatherless families are two to three times more likely than children in two-parent families to have emotional and behavioral problems.

-- Three fourths of all children of divorce have contact with their fathers less than two days a month.

Fathers represent the real world to their children, placing them in a broader social context. It is primarily to their fathers that children look for guidance regarding how to behave in the world beyond their home. Fathers are more often associated with behaviors which challenge their children and stimulate them, where mothers primarily guide and comfort them. One set of behaviors is not superior to the other. Indeed, they complement one another.

Fathers are not expendable. Children need both parents. Makes a strong case for working harder at staying married for the sake of the children, doesn't it?

Foss is a freelance writer and managing editor of Welcome Home, a magazine for mothers at home.

This article appeared in the February 9, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.