Over the past half-century, America has gone from “Father Knows Best” to Father Knows Nothing. That path has been strewn with sorrow for millions of families in this country. The reality shows that play to diminishing audiences today tend to show the seamier side of life and to revel in the revealing.
The need for involved, loving, strong, and responsible dads is not some wistful hat-tip to the 1950s. Now, not every father always knows best – men are not omniscient, and moms are just as critical to the well-being of their children as are dads. One could even say, “Father and Mother Together Know Best.”
But the principles of fatherhood found in Robert Young’s “Father Knows Best” – a father who loved his wife and was loyal to her and their children, who entered into all of their lives eagerly yet retained, with his children, the appropriate distance as a father, not a buddy – are timeless and, in our time, much too neglected.
My organization, Family Research Council, is home to an important study center we call MARRI—the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (www.marri.us). Our college interns—all Millennials drawn from across the nation and from a diversity of backgrounds—like to tweak their elders with wall posters saying “May your days be MARRI and bright” and “The more the MARRIer.” Those bright and idealistic young folks are onto something important.
MARRI uses social science research—the best data from government and academia we can find—and applies the most reliable statistical analysis to these data. Again and again, the fundamental truths are confirmed: The family that remains intact and that worships regularly provides the safest and happiest outcomes for children.
I’m not saying and never would say that such families—united by marriage and blood or adoption—are the only models that can work. Yet MARRI studies demonstrate that children do best with a mom and a dad.
President Obama extols the virtues of fatherhood but celebrates same-sex unions in which fathers and mothers become “parents.” This is incoherent: He argues for the need for dads, yet implies that gender is unimportant to child-rearing.
Children need more than two loving adults. They need a mother and a father.
The data prove it. As MARRI research has shown, “Children deprived of a father are robbed of physical, emotional, intellectual, and economic benefits throughout their lifetime. The fatherless family is the root cause of the majority of social ills today.”
When fathers are meaningfully involved in the lives and conduct of their teen children, the outcomes for those young people are better. When those dads are themselves regular in worship and practice of their faith, their children see it and it makes a difference. Values, as they say, are more often caught than taught.
We saw this demonstrated in vivid terms earlier this year in Baltimore. A MARRI study compiled in response to the unrest in that city showed that only 16 percent of 15-17 year-olds in its inner city have been raised by both their married parents. It is not hard to deduce that the lack of family stability and of homes in which a father was present have had a profoundly negative affect on countless Maryland youth.
“Every father rises to his tallest stature as he selflessly cares for his family, his wife, and his children,” said Ronald Reagan on Father’s Day, 1984. That selfless care is needed more today than ever.
To access MARRI resources about all facets of family life, go to www.marri.us