By- Wade Horn, PhD, Past President of the National Fatherhood Initiative
Today, 1 out of every 3 children in America is living in a home without his or her natural father. Think of that. One out of every 3 children in America will go to bed tonight without a father to read them a story, bring them a glass of water, kiss them good night, or comfort them if they have a bad dream.
And the problem of fatherless ness is getting worse, not better. By some estimates 60 percent of American children born in the 1990s will live a significant portion of their childhoods in a home without their natural father present. Indeed, for the first time in America's history, the average expected experience of childhood now includes a significant amount of time living absent one's natural father.
There are two major pathways to fatherless ness. The first is divorce. In America today, 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce, compared to just 16 percent in 1960. And, since 3 out of 5 divorces involve children, each year approximately one million children enter a fatherless home due to divorce.
The second major pathway to fatherless ness is men fathering children out of wedlock. Today in America, one third of all children - over one million each year -- are fathered by men out of wedlock. That's up from 5 percent in 1960 - a more than 600 percent increase over the past 40 years.
There are, of course, those who say these trends do not mean much of anything - that it doesn't really matter whether there is a father in the home or not. Some even go so far as to say that children in the modern world don't really need fathers at all.
Research, however, suggests otherwise. Studies have shown that children in America living in homes without fathers are 5 times more likely to live in poverty than children who live with both their mother and their father. Fatherless children are also 2 to 3 times more likely to develop an emotional or behavioral problem requiring psychiatric treatment. Studies have shown that children who grow up without fathers also are more likely to commit crime, and do poorer in school. Perhaps most tragically of all, children who grow up fatherless also are more likely to commit suicide than those who grow up in a home with both their mother and father.
What seems clear is that children growing up without their father in the home face an increased risk of developing significant problems. This does not mean that all children who grow up in fatherless homes will encounter problems. Indeed, many of them will do just fine. But research indicates that fatherless children face more obstacles than those who grow up with both a mom and a dad, and are at greater risk for a host of developmental problems.
Unfortunately, fatherless ness is not just an American problem. Increasingly, fatherless ness is becoming an international problem as well. For example, half of all children born in Sweden today are fathered by men out of wedlock, as are almost half of Danish children and more than a third of Canadian children. Roughly 20 percent of all families with children in Britain, Canada, Australia and Norway are growing up in father-absent homes.
The increase in the number of father absent households is not restricted to industrialized nations. Seventy-five percent of marriages in Cuba are now expected to end in divorce. And single-parent families account for nearly one-third of households in Trinidad and Tobago and almost one-fifth of households in Cameroon, in sub-Saharan Africa.
Studies show that the consequences of fatherless ness encountered in the United States are the same as those encountered in other countries. One study of Dutch adolescents found that children growing up in single parent households had higher levels of psychological problems and higher rates of suicide attempts than those who grew up with both a mom and a dad. A Swedish study found that children who did not live with their married mother and father did poorer academically compared to those who did. A study in Finland found that children fathered out of wedlock are more than twice as likely to engage in criminal conduct compared to those born into a married family, even after taking into account social and economic factors. And in Australia, a study found that 64 percent of father-absent families live in poverty.
Capital Youth Empowerment Program was founded to assist fathers develop and maintain a safe and loving relationship with their child. We firmly believe that if fathers play a greater role in the lives of their children that the child will have a greater chance to succeed in life.