Judging by the way they’re often depicted in pop culture, the answer would seem to be no. From the big screen to the small screen, from books to advertisements, fathers are mostly bumblers, abusers or dullards.
When they’re around at all, that is: Many a plot revolves around deadbeat dads who are simply gone, and no one seems the worst for it. As a recent article in The Washington Post noted, “There’s an increasingly endangered species on modern television: functional marrieds.” The dysfunctional ones, by contrast, are legion. The message is clear: If you don’t have a father in your life, don’t sweat it. Heck, you’re probably better off.
Well, with Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to explode this so-called conventional wisdom for what it is: a vicious lie. In fact, a wealth of social-science data, much of which can be found on www.familyfacts.org shows the opposite to be true: Loving fathers bring a vital dose of love, security and stability to their wives and children and they make a very positive difference, indeed.
Here’s one finding about fathers -- published in the journal Child Development and compiled from samples of girls in the United States and New Zealand, who were followed from age five to approximately age 18 -- you can read in just two clicks from the familyfacts.org home page:
Even when controlling for differences in family background, father absence was associated with the likelihood that adolescent girls will be sexually active and become pregnant as teenagers. This association was strongest for daughters whose fathers were absent when they were younger. Compared with the pregnancy rates of girls whose fathers were present, rates of teenage pregnancy were 7 to 8 times higher among girls whose fathers were absent early in their childhoods and 2 to 3 times higher among those who suffered father-absence later in their childhood.
Another factor that positively affects the children in a family is whether a father is religiously active. W. Bradford Wilcox, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, conducted an extensive amount of research in this area for his book “Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands.” From it, the familyfacts.org site pulls this eye-opening finding: