The Daddyless Society y Brittany Wiggins AP English Language and Composition Mr. McRaith February 28, 2009 Wiggins 1 Have you ever had a feeling something was missing from your life? Felt your heart was broken in half like a charm at the end of a necklace and wondered from day to day when the other half would arrive? Well, this is how many people all over the world feel. They are missing that part of their lives that seems to be needed the most. They have this lonely feeling because they are missing that one. That special person is their father. Fatherlessness is a major social problem in the United States. Fatherlessness is when a child is born into a one parent home. A one parent home can have the mother or the father, but usually the one parent is the mother. The World Future Society states in “The Daddyless Society” article that, “In some 87% of single- parent families in the United States, that parent is the mother.” This percentage is not only bad because the percentage is over half of the population but because this number displays the amount of homes that are broken because fathers refuse to take on their fatherly duties and responsibilities. Children should not have to grow up and live their lives in mystery. They should be able to grow up in a home where they have two loving parents that support, love, and care for them. I ask these questions above because I have had those feelings of loneliness for many years of my life. About ten years ago, I talked to my biological father on the telephone. It was the Christmas holidays. My father had promised me a huge Barbie Playhouse. I was so jubilant. I went and told my mother, but all she did was gave me this blank look and I did not understand why. I could not wait until December 25th to roll around the corner. Well, it rolled around the corner quite quickly, but my jubilance had gone down to an extreme low. As I opened my last big box, I was thinking to myself, “This is it,” but as I opened it, I realized something different. This was not my dream Barbie playhouse. I became sad suddenly. Shortly after, my mother told Wiggins me that I had another present in the guest room and rapidly my spirits rose again. I stepped into the guest room and, to my surprise, there it was. It was all mine. It was my dream Barbie playhouse. The only thing that was different from the way I imagined it was that on the 2 Christmas wrapping it read, “To Brittany — From your loving Mother.” All I could do was stand there because I was so confused. All I could do was run up to my mother and give her the biggest hug that I was capable of. Even though I was happy, I still did not understand why it said from mommy and not daddy. As I grew up, I became knowledgeable to the common fact that I had become a fatherless child. Being a fatherless child was not easy for me. I always wondered when he would come back or when I would hear from him. I thought him leaving was my fault because I had asked for a present for Christmas. My mom had to explain to me that it wasn‟t my fault, but that he needed to get himself together. As I grew up, I learned that it wasn‟t that he had to get himself together, but that he wasn‟t ready for the responsibilities he had produced so he needed a way to escape and him leaving was the portal. This is not just something in my life. Fatherlessness has become a growing problem all over the world. Fathers tend not to be knowledgeable to the fact that they play a very significant part in their children‟s lives and that their absence can become very harmful. Princeton University professor Sara McLanahan speaks on this when she says, “Across time and cultures, fathers have always been considered essential — and not just for their sperm. Marriage and the nuclear family structure is considered to have — mother, father, and children — as the most universal social institutions in existence” (35). After researching and reminiscing about my past experiences, I have come to the conclusion that growing up without a father negatively determines the outcome of a child‟s life. Wiggins One reason why growing up without a father determines the outcome of a child‟s life negatively is because fatherlessness impacts the well-being of a child. David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values, explains. “It is necessary because in all societies, child well being and societal success hinge largely upon a high level of paternal investment: the willingness of adult males to devote energy and resources to the care of their 3 offspring” (3). The “It” that Blankenhorn speaks about is the presence of a father in a child‟s life. He is saying that fathers are necessary in today‟s society because the success of the child is put into the parents‟ hands. The well being of a child is primarily based on the upbringing of a child. For example, if a child grows up not knowing anything about life, people tend not to blame the child in particular but the parent or parents themselves. If this particular upbringing is with one parent, it decreases the child‟s chances of learning everything that they might need to know. Blankenhorn also says, “On the whole, two parents — a father and a mother — are better for a child than one parent” (36). For instance, if a male is born into the world and their father is absent, the male will have trouble learning how to become a real man because his mother might be able to teach him some things that are basic but she will not be capable of teaching him everything there is to know about becoming a strong man. Parents who invest in their children tend to get good results in the end. Fatherless homes not only impact the well being of a child negatively, but absent fathers take away from their children‟s future. David Blankenhorn, who helped found the National Fatherhood Iniative, says, “Children who live with their biological fathers are on average at least two to three times more likely not to be poor, less likely to use drugs, less likely to experience health, emotional, and behavioral problems, less likely to be victims of child abuse and less likely to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live without their married, biological, Wiggins (or adoptive) parents.” When a child has a father, he/she is more likely to succeed in the future and have fewer problems with things in life physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, when fathers are absent, the child tends to have slighter chances of life‟s opportunities. This means that when children grow up with their fathers in their lives, they grow up to learn the values of what life has in store for them. The father can encourage his child to become a lawyer, doctor, or any other profession that he/she would like. The father can instill in their child that they can become anything that they want to become. However, if the father is not there, they only have one parent to encourage them in which some cases that might not be enough encouragement. If impacting a child‟s life negatively is not good enough, absent fathers take away from their children‟s future because consistent patterns link fatherless children to different negative 4 problems whereas children with fathers have patterns but they are positive ones. “A consistent if not invariant pattern is that children with their biological/ongoing father in residence have higher cognitive skills, greater emotional stability, maturity, greater school achievements, and more security in their gender role than children raised without a father” (3). As seen in the evidence, patterns of children with good skills and maturity and other good things all lead back to the children that have fathers in their lives. On the other hand, children that grow up without fathers mature slower and have difficulties with succeeding in school. Dr. Horn Wade who launched his career as an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University says,” Youngsters living in homes where fathers are absent are far more likely to be expelled from or drop out of school.” The reason this happens is because males might feel that they have no purpose and their future is not going anywhere so why go to school and waste their time if they will not need what they are learning in school for their future. Wade also says,” Youngsters living in homes without Wiggins fathers develop emotional or behavioral problems.” The reason why they develop these things 5 are because they feel that they are capable of doing what they please because they have no one at home to tell them not to do these things. A second reason why growing up without a father harmfully determines the outcome of a child‟s life is because for females when fathers are absent, they tend to face social problems. Sara McLanahan, who is also the founder and director of the Bandheim-Thoman Center for Research on Child Well Being, agrees by saying, “Teenage boys without fathers are notoriously prone to trouble. The pathway to adulthood for daughters is somewhat easier, but they still must learn from their fathers in ways they can not from their mothers, how to relate to men. They learn from their fathers about heterosexual trust, intimacy, and difference. They learn to appreciate their own feminine side from the one male who is most special in their lives. Most important through loving and being loved by their fathers, they learn that they are love worthy” ( 39). Females that have absent fathers tend to have problems with security as far as males. For example, some males have this stupid way of thinking that they can beat on a woman because they are stronger and they call the shots. However this is not how life works. Women are as strong as any man and have the right to do what they want or please without having to explain themselves to anyone. When females have their fathers in their life, they know how a woman should be treated and would not stand to be treated any other way. Their fathers teach them things that their mothers can not when it comes to being and feeling secure around a man. “Men who do remain in their children‟s lives are apparently becoming better nurturers” (World Future Society). This quote is explaining that even though some fathers are not in their child‟s life, the fathers who do chose to stay better themselves as a person. The reason for this is because when Wiggins they stay, they find themselves being closer to their children and being able to support them and protect them [females] from harm. 6 Some social problems that females go through are caused by fatherlessness. Described in a profile of the New York Times as a consensus builder for a moral base in society, David Blankenhorn says, “As a result, societal praise or blame for a child‟s outcome was customarily bestowed not (as it is today) on the mother but on the father” (13). Girls tend to go through problems such as teenage pregnancy, rape, intimidation from males, and relationships with men. When fathers are absent, they have to struggle harder to learn about these situations. Many social problems that are faced today all lead up to the same aspect of life which is children growing up without fathers. Also described in USA Today as a pioneer in the fatherhood movement, Blankenhorn states, “There is debate, even alarm, about specific social problems. Divorce. Outof-wedlock childbearing. Children growing up in poverty. Youth violence. Unsafe neighborhoods. Domestic violence. The weakening of parental authority. But in these discussions, we seldom acknowledge the underlying phenomenon that binds together these otherwise disparate issues: the flight of males from their children‟s lives” (23). Females feel that fathers are put into their lives to protect them from life‟s ups and downs along with their mothers but if their fathers are not there, then what man do they have to protect them. “Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation. It is the leading cause of declining child well being in our society. It is also the engine driving our most urgent social problems from crime to adolescent pregnancy to child sexual abuse to domestic violence against women” (1). Fatherlessness is the cause of many societal issues regarding females! Some of these problems could be prevented if the female‟s father was in her life to teach her about certain situations. Wiggins 7 Lastly, growing up without a father negatively determines the outcome of a child‟s life is because for males, when fathers are absent, they tend to behave like criminals. Fatherlessness has a huge negative impact on young males which results in negativity. Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, Wade Horn, says, “Youngsters living in homes where fathers are absent (males) are far more likely to become violent criminals.” Fatherlessness is a very serious issue that tends to effect young males mentally which usually leads their pathway to violence. For instance, boys that grow up without fathers tend to be in violent gangs. The reason they make that decision is because they go out looking for manly love that they cannot get from home because their fathers are not there. When males are in these gangs, it results in even bigger consequences such as death and prison. When fathers are absent from their sons‟ lives, young males, if they haven‟t turned to criminal ways, tend to be prone to trouble. With his most provocative book, Fatherless America, described as the bible of the fatherhood movement, Blankenhorn starts off with a story of himself. He says, “When my father died, I found myself repeatedly running away from home, getting caught stealing, and spending time in reform school” (11). When males are young, they need to be occupied with positive activities such as sports, video games, and/or clubs. Usually when boys have their fathers in their lives, the boys are involved with something as such or they just spend their idle time with their fathers, but when boys don‟t have their fathers in their life, they do other things that lead to trouble. Blankenhorn states, “In 1990, more than 36 percent of all children in the nation were living apart from their fathers- more than double the rate in 1960” (18). This quote displays that as a whole, the society‟s percentage of fatherless children is rapidly increasing as time goes on. As this rate increases, the amount of institutions and prisons are also increasing. Prisons that will take seven years to construct are being built. Therefore, children Wiggins who are only at the age of eleven are having institutions made especially for them so that when they turn eighteen, they will have a place to go. In addition to males having a tendency to behave as criminals and be prone to trouble, it results in males whose fathers are absent not to have a bright future. Mr. Wade Horn, who 8 received his Ph.D. in Clinical Child Psychology from Southern Illinois University in 1981, says, “Men who grew up without fathers represent seventy percent of the prison population serving long term sentences.” Fatherlessness has many effects on young males. Prison, death, gangs, violence, and many other horrible factors are all results of fatherlessness. There are many opinions on the different perspectives on fatherless children. Some people feel that fatherless children are damaged for the rest of their lives while others might think that fatherless children can still have a bright future and become successful in spite of this aspect. During an interview, Linda Bobo, a thirty-eight year-old African American woman, was asked if she thought “a child could grow up without a father figure and be the opposite of the stereotype.” She replied by saying, “Yes, I think that children can grow up without a father and still have a normal and good life for many different reasons. I feel that people including the parent (mother) and child should not use this hardship as a crutch through their life. Once they do, it will only bring more pressure and stress on them. They should use the hardship as motivation to help them want to better themselves as a person to show their father that they can still achieve their goals or aspirations whether they are in their lives or not. I like using myself as a prime example. My father was absent from my entire life. He chose the luxuries of street life over mine. I am now thirty-eight years-old and I have my high school and college diploma. I am also a service clerk at Galapagos Charter Elementary School. I personally think that I have done well for myself without growing up with my father. I especially thank my mother for what I have Wiggins become. I think that answers your question…” (Laughing) This interviewee states her opinion that growing up without a father does not always have to result in negativity. She uses herself as an example because she feels that her not growing up with a father made her the successful person that she is today. She feels that she is the complete opposite of the typical stereotype that 9 children who grow up without a father usually have a bad life. While her statements may be true, there are more statistics and studies that show that growing up without a father negatively determines the outcome of a child‟s life. In conclusion, the well being of a child is primarily based on the level of participation of a father in a child‟s life. The reasons for this is because growing up without a father impacts a child‟s life, for females, when fathers are absent, they face social problems, and for males, when fathers are absent, males tend to become criminals or behave in such a manner. “Today, the principal cause of fatherlessness is paternal choice” (Blankenhorn 22). This means that when fathers are not in their children‟s lives, it is because they choose not to be there. They feel that other things are way more important than the well being of their child and the success of their child‟s future. Blankenhorn supports this by saying, “With each passing year, fewer and fewer men are living with their children. Fewer and fewer fathers are willing or able to sustain cooperative partnerships with the mothers of their children” (18). If fathers were able to take on their responsibilities and participate in their child life, it might make a difference. For instance, if fathers stayed in males‟ lives, then maybe the percentage of prisons being filled with young males would dramatically decrease or even better maybe the prison or institution will not have to be the last place that males end up. “In the meantime, while children are waiting for „good dads,‟ we ought to think about ways of ensuring that children‟s futures are not so tightly linked to their parents‟ choices of whether or not to live together” (2). Wiggins 10 Works Cited Blankenhorn, David. Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem. New York: Harper Perennial, 1996. Browning, Carol, and Don Browning. Crisis of Fatherhood (Turning the Corner on Father Absence in Black America Report). 25 Aug. 1999. 24 Oct. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/retrieve.do?subjectparam=locale%2528en%252c%252c %2529%253afqe%253d%2528su%252cnone%252c20%2529crisis%2bof%2bfatherhood %2524&contentset=iacdocuments&sort=datedescend&tabid=t002&sgcurrentposition=0 &subjectaction=display_subje>. "The Daddyless Society." Nov.-Dec. 1992. World Future Society. 24 Oct. 2008 <http://find.galegroup.com/srcx/retrieve.do?subjectparam=locale%2528en%252c%252c %2529%253afqe%253d%2528su%252cnone%252c21%2529the%2bdaddyless%2bsociet y%2524&contentset=iacdocuments&sort=datedescend&tabid=t002&sgcurrentposition=0 &subjectaction=display_subj>. Hanson, Gayle. "Calling Home Fathers." 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