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The Effect of Fatherlessness in America


A strong family unit is the bedrock of society, and without the foundation of the home, society begins to buckle. The root of many societal ills stems from the home and a society’s health can be judged by first looking at the strength of the family.


In a 2012 New York Times article, former U.S. secretary of education William Bennett said that in order for a civilization to succeed, the family must succeed. He pointed out how research shows the institution of the family is the first form of community and government. Bennett called the family the “nucleus of civilization” and the “basic social unit of society.”


“If we have stronger families, we will have stronger schools, stronger churches, and stronger communities with less poverty and less crime. The family is the linchpin of society, both economically and socially,” Bennett said.


A strong family unit keeps a civilization grounded and at the core of the institution of the family is the irreplaceable role of the father. The presence of the mother, of course, is vital, as well. But due to the absence of the father in the home being more rampant, the effects of fatherlessness are more widely evident.


On Father’s Day, good fathers are placed on a pedestal as we honor their love and legacy in our lives. For some, fathers are present in their lives and make a lasting impact. For others, Father’s Day is a painful occasion as they remember fathers who played either a distant or destructive role that led to more harm than good.


The Family Research Council called fatherlessness “one of the most important, albeit ignored, social issues of our time.” More than 1 in 4, or 19.7 million American children, live without a father in the home, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2017).


A child in a fatherless home is more likely to go to prison, commit a crime, face abuse or neglect, and abuse drugs and alcohol. A child without an active father is also 4 times more likely to experience poverty, 2 times more likely to drop out of high school, and 7 times more likely to become pregnant as a teen.


Data speaks to the importance of dads in the lives of both sons and daughters. Boys without a father figure are more likely to have behavioral problems, and girls are more likely to have psychological problems and engage in risky sexual behavior, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative.


A father’s presence or absence can make or break a child’s upbringing and lead to his or her wellbeing in the future. Not having an active father figure does not set a child up for failure, and there are many happy homes and prosperous children without a father. The presence of a father does, however, help pave a clearer path for the future and decrease many risks.


Today, illegitimacy rates soar, the divorce rate is at nearly 50%, and we see the redefinition of family.  With the legalization of abortion in a nation, studies show the rate of fatherlessness dramatically increases, and the percentage of children in a single-mother home doubled in the U.S.


The rate of children being born into fatherless homes has increased from 28% in 1990 to 40% in 2016 in the U.S., according to Child Trends, with 69% of black children, 52% of Hispanic children and 28% of white children being born to single-parent mothers.


“The Father Effect” is the term used to emphasize the impact a father, or a father figure, has in his child’s life. The effect of fatherlessness in America, especially, is a tear in our national fabric and we see its effects as disrespect for authority is widespread, and crime rates soar.


While we try to blame our world’s problems on systemic racism, failing school systems, the influence of the media, and other external forces, much of the blame can be placed on the lack of accountability and attention in the home.


Dads matter and the effect of fatherlessness is evident in many of today’s social ills.


When the family unit is in shambles, society often follows. The value of the family is more than a political talking point or policy issue. Because the family is a cornerstone of society, it must be protected. Civilization cannot prosper without its backbone.