Frequency of church attendance is a stronger predictor of paternal involvement in one-on-one activities with children than employment and income, and its effect is comparable to that of race, ethnicity, and education. Both active conservative and active mainline Protestant fathers have significantly higher one-on-one and youth involvement scores than their unaffiliated counterparts.
Yet where are the fathers that we so desperately need? Despite clear evidence of the positive difference that they make, we’ve seen their numbers drop precipitously over the last few decades. According to family expert Patrick Fagan of The Heritage Foundation, in 1950, 12 out of every 100 children born entered a broken family -- four were born out of wedlock and eight saw their parents divorce. Fast forward 50 years, and the number quintuples: For every 100 born, 60 wind up in a broken family -- 33 born out of wedlock and 27 see their parents divorce.
As Fagan concludes, in the space of one half century, America has transformed itself from being “a culture of belonging” to being “a culture of rejection.” And the children caught in the middle pay the price. As Fagan writes:
How much of a difference do these absent fathers make? Plenty. Survey data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for example, show that teen-agers without a dad around are almost twice as likely to be depressed as teen-agers from an intact married family. They are more than four times as likely to be expelled from school and three times as likely to repeat a grade. Drug and alcohol abuse is much more common. On top of that, they are also more likely to have sex before they are married-setting the stage for yet another fatherless generation.
Life without a father also is a good way to miss out on the American Dream. The poverty rate for all children in married-couple families is roughly 7 percent, NIH data show. By contrast, the poverty rate for all children in single-parent families is 51 percent.
Maybe the folks in the make-believe world of television and the movies can get by without “functional marrieds” and the dads who make up one half of that vital equation. But for those of us in the real world, fathers play an irreplaceable role. As I point out in my book, Home Invasion, they help us mothers raise the happy, healthy children who make a thriving society possible.
So to all the fathers out there: Don’t let the pop culture relegate you to oblivion. We need your leadership and your love – we need you. You are vital to your families, to our society and to our nation’s future. Please make every day a day of fathering.