Fatherhood in America Has a Shelf-Life

A boy's best friend: his Grandpa
A boy's best friend: his Grandpa | Source

Can society move on without fathers?


When a man fails to father his own children, is he not only failing them, but also society as a whole?

"Fatherlessness is approaching a rough parity with fatherhood as a defining feature of childhood," wrote David Blankenhorn, chairman of the National Fatherhood Initiative, in his book, "Fatherless America." Members of the NFI range from former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett to actor James Earl Jones.

Blankenhorn said Fatherlessness is the leading cause of the decline in the well-being of children, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to domestic violence. The late anthropologist Margaret Mead observed the supreme test of any civilization is whether it can socialize men by teaching them to nurture their offspring.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports in 1960, 80.6 percent of American children lived with both parents. In 1990, the number was down to 57.7 percent. Today the number is 46 percent according to the Pew Research Center.

Dr. Lewis Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, "I see a direct link between senseless violence in our streets and a generation of young males raised without the love, discipline and guidance of a father."

Those who would tell us to be realistic argue divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing are here to stay. They say the fact is growing numbers of children simply will not have fathers present in their lives. More programs aimed at substituting for fathers are the only solution.

Is that it? Is that the best we can do in America for our children? How much intelligence does it take to see a connection between a throw-away mentality where children are concerned and a generation of children growing up angry and violent with no respect for life or property? How much intelligence does it take to see kids with no goals are nine times out of ten kids with no one in their own personal lives to look up to?

We spend millions of dollars on social programs whose simply-defined intentions are to fill the empty space left in families without fathers. Is that the best effort we can produce on behalf of the children we are bringing into the world?

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis said, "If you fail at raising your children, no other success in your life matters very much." She was speaking as a mother. It should be obvious the same is true for fathers.

I know many men who absolutely deserve to be honored this Father's Day. To those who don't, you are failing not only your own children. You are failing the rest of us too.


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Comments 12 comments

Linda B. 5 years ago

Wow! Powerful article! As a teacher, I can see the positive influence of involved fathers and the negative effect of absent fathers. You hit the nail on the head.


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Excellent and important article which should get a broader reading. Thanks for taking the time to write this. SHARING


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Remind me to tell when exactly I wrote this!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

Your article is very interesting. Well done. Having lived through the sexual revolution I can see why fathers have disengaged, though I am close to my children despite the times. The availability of "free love" made marriage far less attractive for men than it once was. Women in the workplace led to natural flirtations and eventually a deluge of adultery, which ends most marriages. When a marriage ends there is almost always somebody else and oft times that someone else was met at work.

Soon there is another man living with a man's wife and children in the man's house, lounging on his furniture, screwing on his bed. His children start to call the new guy Dad and he spends a hundred more hours with the man's children than the father can every week. This hurts.

Family Court laws changed in ways that made men feel like nothing but sperm donors and ATM machines. The focus was never on keeping the father in the lives of his children but on back-breaking child support payments backed up by debtors prisons (something that used to be unconstitutional).

I think another big blow was when abortion came into vogue and millions of babies were killed. Now men were really put into place. They were informed that their offspring, their heirs, their children, could be killed and they had no say in it whatsoever. So they could not prevent the death of their children; but if it was born, which they also have no say in, they owe hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next 18 years. This really told men that all they were was suppliers of the sperm. After that, their child was in "a woman's body" and therefore none of his damn business.

welfare laws that made it financially beneficial to women not have the father around certainly did not help matters.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

You have hit on truth in what is happening to family and relationships in America which is leading to a lost generation. I imagine the statistics on single family parents has increased since the last poll and that more families have "blended" unions.

Yes, we are seeing more angry children and having to deal with increased programs to consul these youths. I am sure most programs will help ease the pain but also concerned about how this will form the future definition of family. Great hub article and voted up!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

I hope teachers are receiving some training for dealing with broken homes. They are on the front lines and must see these situations every day. Thanks for the read and the comments.


Chris Dane profile image

Chris Dane 4 years ago from Maryland, USA

Is it any surprise that more young men since the seventies have identified with the Father/Son relationship in Star Wars than in the gospel? When "Darth Dad" is replaced with an Obi Wan Kenobi, things improve. Ultimately, what we need are more mentors. Programs like Big Brother, Big Sister and the like are a step in the right direction, but bringing dad back from the dark side? Alcohol, drugs, and prison make for strong emperors. I think we'll have more luck with a coalition of the willing stepping in than some sort of national rally of fatherhood. Some dads just aren't worth it.


ftclick profile image

ftclick 4 years ago

"Blankenhorn said Fatherlessness is the leading cause of the decline in the well-being of children, from crime to adolescent pregnancy to domestic violence."

Let's also look at more violence on TV & Movies, even music videos from Hollywood, violent video games (are a dehumanizing factor when one just kills, kills all day - Norway shooter) influencing youth, aggressive music, Mixed martial arts popularity.

What a dollar could buy in the 50s was a lot more than today. So, inflation has caused youths to steal, sell drugs, and engage in heinous crimes. Even youths with a Dad go to school with a gun or are forced to join a gang in neighborhood or be a victim.

If all of these kids had a Dad who was engaged with their son and a positive influence would that kid be more likely to not engage in criminal activity? It depends on the Father's job too. Yes, I agree a Dad as a mentor and responsible parent is a good suggestion.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Chris and ftclick: Thank you for adding your well-expressed comments to this conversation. There are so many aspects to this subject, it is good to hear other points. Both of you say it takes more than just having a father on the scene. He needs to be a good father. So true.

Hope you both have reasons to enjoy Fathers Day.


Jim and Beyond profile image

Jim and Beyond 4 years ago from The desert Southwest...for now.

As a happily married father of two, I can say without hesitation that my wife is absolutely irreplaceable in the lives of our kids. But my wife would be quick to pay me a similar compliment, which I would humbly embrace. Thanks for putting this information out there for people to read. I believe the evidence of the negative effect of "fatherlessness" is irrefutable, and hopefully groups like NFI will have an impact.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

Mothers are irreplaceable too, but for the most part, they are there for their children. Too many fathers are not.

Thanks for commenting and taking the time to read this hub.

Happy Fathers Day to one of the good ones.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia Author

James: I want to apologize to you for not responding to your response to this hub. It was intense and brought many aspects of this complicated issue to light.

There are no simple answers. I can say from experience that laws have changed and if a man wants to stay in his children's lives, even if he is the one who wants a divorce, the courts will make sure that he gets to. Spoken as the mother of a woman who is in that very situation.

But I will also say this, I may not be able to say anything good about my ex-son-in-law, but he is actively involved in his children's lives, much more so than he ever was during the marriage. I give him credit for that. And the laws are the only thing that made it possible.

Again, thanks for your well written thoughts on this subject. I appreciated it at the time and I appreciate it now.

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