By Tonya Cox
My son and his wife just had their first baby and he is thrilled with this new role. It is a privilege and responsibility he has looked forward to and he takes it seriously. In America there are a reported 72 million fathers! Most countries around the globe have a special day, Father’s Day, set apart to honor dads each year. Nevertheless, in society the value of fathers has decreased. Medical advances, feminism, and media play a role in this diminished worth. We must reverse this trend for the sake of our children and our nations.
It takes a man and a woman to create life, but because some couples experience infertility and struggle to conceive medical technologies developed ways to assist them. Unfortunately, these reproductive advances had an unintended consequence: all a woman needs to conceive a child is a sperm donor. Katy Perry, a popular musical superstar, said in a Rolling Stone’s interview: “I don’t need a dude! We live in the future. I’m not anti-men. I love men. But there is an option if someone doesn’t present himself.” A growing number of women choose this option as 41% of babies born in the United States are born to single mothers. Feminism continues to support Katy Perry’s claim that women do not need men, not even to create life. Popular media, including sitcoms and commercials, reflects the notion of capable, successful women, with unneeded or incompetent fathers.
Fathers believe these societal messages! Only 24.6 million fathers live with their wife and children. One in four children live in a home without a father. Today far too many babies are raised without a father in their home, and this living arrangement is hurting our children. When a child is raised without a father in the home they are four times as likely to live in poverty with all of its adverse effects. Without a father in the home children are more likely to experience behavior problems, abuse and neglect, abuse drugs and alcohol, commit crime, and go to prison. Children without a father in the home are twice as likely to drop out of high school and teen girls are seven times more likely to become pregnant.
We need fathers! A recent longitudinal study showed a cognitive gain for 24-month-old toddlers with fathers engaged from infancy. This gain was shown across social classes, education levels, mental health levels, and regardless of the mother’s level of care. The researchers found that “something special was associated uniquely with positive father care for young babies across a wide variety of circumstances. Even good mothering, for all its many benefits, wasn’t a substitute for dad’s added bit of magic.” Dads do add a bit of magic to his child’s life! Men and women are different and those differences together bring a wholeness to a child’s growth and development. Children need their fathers just as essentially as they need their mothers. Dr. David Popenoe, a sociology professor at Rutgers University says: “We should disavow the notion that ‘mommies can make good daddies,’ just as we should disavow the popular notion of radical feminists that ‘daddies can make good mommies.’ …The two sexes are different to the core, and each is necessary — culturally and biologically — for the optimal development of a human being.”
Fathers need to know they are needed! Media directs popular opinion and the minds of both children and adults are shaped by the entertainment they enjoy. It is essential that media reflect and support the critical research surrounding fatherhood. We must teach children and young adults that the value of being a father is more than just a sperm donation. A dedicated father stays involved in a child’s life providing “guidance, instruction, encouragement, care, and love.” Boys and girls who do not have engaged fathers need examples and experiences in their life of men that emulate the ideal. We need policies that support training for new fathers and early interventions focused on this fundamental responsibility. We must teach mothers the importance of fathers and support the development of healthy, satisfying marriages where both women and men thrive in their parental roles.
I know my son was given the example of a loving, involved father. He got to experience that “bit of magic” and is now sharing this magic with his own son. With education, support, and policy changes we can assist the children and young adults of today as they change this disastrous tide and create a “bit of magic” in their own families.