We seem to live in a society where fathers are optional and irrelevant. It is not uncommon for children born out of wedlock to be raised alone by a mother. Many women are choosing to start a family without any intent of having a relationship with the child’s father. Children born into a home where parents are cohabitating are far more likely to be reared by a single mom at some point, even for those couples who eventually marry. Female same-sex couples are adopting children intending to raise them without any father figure in the home. Our society’s entertainment industry lends credibility to all of these choices. Even worse, in movies and TV shows fathers are often portrayed as bumbling, out-of-touch, inept buffoons. It is no wonder that so many fathers are absent in their children’s lives. The western world has lost the idea of and belief in fatherhood. However, research and Scripture demonstrate that fatherhood plays an important and vital role in society and in the lives of our children specifically.
Reportedly, 25% to 40% of America’s children do not have a father in the home. Father absence occurs through promiscuity, abandonment, separation, divorce, and death. Additionally, father absence is also felt through emotional detachment, uninvolvement, long work hours, and other activities that receive a higher priority over fatherhood that have some of the same outcomes as physical absence. With a limited exception of death, these absences often create problems in children’s healthy development that can last a lifetime and beyond as these outcomes of poor functioning are passed on to generation after generation.
Healthy father-child relationships provide many significant protective factors for the whole family. Marriages with present fathers are happier and more satisfying. Children with present fathers report feelings of greater security and higher self-esteem. These children and adolescents do better and tend to go farther in school. Children and teens tend to have better emotional stability, fewer relationship problems, and find it easier to trust others. These outcomes typically last throughout the life cycle with reports of higher satisfaction of life and are passed on to the next generation.
While those who experience fatherlessness are at a higher risk for many poor outcomes in life, it is possible to overcome many of these factors. An intimate relationship with God as Father through Jesus Christ goes a long ways in helping to rise above many of the problems fatherlessness may bring. Seeking out mentors and role models can also mitigate many of the issues.
This month I am leading a three-week study/discussion of the absent father issue on Wednesday evenings. I hope you’ll make plans to attend. Visit http://www.cedarstreetchurch.org for details.