Responsible fathers are indispensible

Published 8:59 pm Monday, November 29, 2010

Although an involved, responsible father cannot guarantee his child’s success in the world, there is ample reason to wonder about the future of a child who grows up without such a man in his or her life.

Surely, there are many children of single mothers who turn out to be fine, upstanding individuals. But the statistics overwhelmingly prove that they fight an uphill battle on the road to adulthood.

Children who grow up without fathers are prone to psychological problems at an alarmingly higher rate than their counterparts in two-parent households. According to the U.S. Department of Health, for example, 63 percent of teen suicide victims come from fatherless households. Ninety percent of all runaways and homeless children come from fatherless households.

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Children who grow up without fathers present also have more problems in school. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 85 percent of children with behavioral problems come from homes without fathers. And the National Principals Association reports that 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.

A missing father also can be a predictor of the likelihood that a child will be involved in criminal activity, statistics show. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 70 percent of all youth in state correctional institutions grew up without fathers present in their lives. Other studies show that even in two-parent households, teens who have a poor relationship with their fathers are 68-percent more likely to smoke, drink or use drugs than their counterparts.

Clearly, an engaged, responsible, loving father can do a lot to give a child a boost, while an absent or uncaring one can do even more to cripple that child. The only thing surprising is that this comes as a surprise to so many people. Sadly, though, a significant and growing percentage of our society considers fatherhood to be an optional consideration at the end of an unplanned pregnancy.

In a world in which the hookup culture resulted, according to the Guttmacher Institute, in 750,000 pregnancies in 2005 to girls younger than 20, it might be too much to expect teens to overwhelmingly turn to abstinence and safe sex. That’s why programs such as the Up Center’s Responsible Fatherhood courses are so important.

There will always be children born out of wedlock. And the teenaged boys and young men whose actions result in those new lives will always be frightened at the prospect of unplanned fatherhood. It might seem sad that these boys and young men need to be taught to take responsibility for their offspring, but such is the world we live in. Better to acknowledge that fact and do what can be done to limit the damage to young lives than to ignore it and allow more innocent children to suffer.