Larry Elder

In "Boyz n the Hood," Tre, played by Cuba Gooding Jr., has an active father in his life. Doughboy, played by Ice Cube, was raised without a father. His mother resents him because she dislikes his father. On the other hand, Gooding's hardworking, responsible father, played by Laurence Fishburne, stays on his son. He warns him against hanging out with the wrong people and that becoming a street criminal was a trap. He lectures his son that "any fool with a (penis) can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children."

Studies show that children of divorced parents can have outcomes as positive as those coming from intact homes, provided the father remains financially supportive and active in his children's lives.

But what happens without dads in the 'hood?

In 1979, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that fatherless kids were twice as likely to drop out of school and that girls who grew up without dads were 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant teenagers.

Rutgers University sociology professor David Popenoe published "Life Without Father" in 1996, where he describes the "massive erosion" of fathers in America. Popenoe concluded that boys raised without fathers were more likely to have problems with drugs, alcohol, behavior and social interactions. Several studies during the '90s found that disruption in family structures was a predictor of children's gang involvement.

Many on the left dismiss the importance of fathers as "right-wing," blame-the-victim propaganda. Well, the late rapper Tupac Shakur, in the posthumously released documentary "Resurrection," said: "I know fora fact that had I had a father, I'd have some discipline. I'd have more confidence." He admits that he starting hanging out with gangs because he wanted to belong to a family structure, and it offered structure, support and protection -- the kind of thing we once expected home and family to provide.

The formula for achieving middle-class success is simple: Finish high school; don't have a child before the age of 20; and get married before having the child. Preparing for the future requires dedication. It requires deferring gratification, precisely the kind of "discipline" that Tupac admitted he lacked because he grew up without a father.

Doing what you want to do is easy. Doing what you have to do is hard. Dads, by getting up and going to work each day, send a powerful message every day to their children: Hard work wins. There are no short cuts. The outcome is unknowable. But the effort is entirely within your control.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.