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We wish all fathers a happy day. It’s a day worth celebrating — even more now, as positive trends are being reported regarding fatherhood.
U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that more American children are growing up with the influence of a father figure at home. While almost twice as many children live with a single mother compared to 1968, the percentages began leveling off in 2011 and have risen slightly since then. According to the 2020 Census, more than 70% of all U.S. children now live with two parents.
It’s worth noting, however, that before 2007, the bureau listed children as living with both parents only if they were married; otherwise children were reported to have a single parent even if an unwed father was in the home.
The importance of having a father has been reported for decades. Pediatricians say the presence of a father is critical to a child’s cognitive development and emotional well-being. Fathers set and enforce rules of behavior that become lifelong habits. Children grow up with a stronger sense of security and confidence.
More importantly, fathers set examples for behavior regarding responsibility and work ethic, and personal relationships with the children, their mother and others. Researchers say daughters tend to seek partners based on the qualities they see in their fathers, while sons model their own behavior on that of their fathers; if a father is nurturing and supportive, those qualities likely will be perpetuated in subsequent generations.
Conversely, the absence of a father has been linked to social and personal issues that range from higher crime rates to obesity. Children who grew up without a male presence have higher rates of emotional and behavioral problems that manifest themselves in higher crime rates, poor school performance, teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide.
Reports show that 71% if all high-school dropouts, 90% of homeless and runaway children and 63% of youth suicides were among children who had no father presence in the home. Those who did have fathers were 80% less likely to spend time in jail and twice as likely to attend college.
Also, fathers’ roles are changing, and this is benefiting our children. Psychologists report that as fathers take on more nurturing roles and are more active in activities that once were primarily mothers’ duties, such as involvement with school teachers and administrators, attendance and participation in social, sports and other activities, homework assistance, etc., children have shown general improvement in language skills, social skills and peer relationships.
Many people over the years have talked about simply having a father at home can help address many of society’s ills including reducing crime, violence and incarceration rates. Increasingly, data show that such comments aren’t as exaggerated as some people might think. A father helps shape children’s character not only through direct guidance, but also indirectly by proving an example of how to behave, accept responsibility and interact with others.
It’s comforting to see that more fathers are committed to their children. Their children — and our society in general — is better for it.