Friday, June 17, 2011

Honoring Fathers

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”—17th Century English Proverb

In honor of Father’s Day this Sunday, I thought it might be worth mentioning just how important fathers are in nurturing civilization. 

In the United Families International Blog today, there’s an article on Fathers that includes this quote from the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan: 

From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of the Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future—that community asks for and gets chaos. 

This was back in the 1960s, and the fatherless problem was mostly a black problem, with some 20% of black children born to unmarried mothers. But today (or according to 2009 census data), that’s the statistic for white children, but blacks now have above 60% born to single mothers—with the assumption the rate would be even higher if the data included children living with two unmarried parents. 

According to the Spherical Model for Civilization, you get out of the chaos of savagery and rise into the security of civilization in two ways: have a religious people living essentially the Ten Commandments, and honor family as the basic unit of society. Family in its basic form consists of married father and mother with their children. Is a single-parent family still a family? Yes, but it lacks the civilizing power of a two-parent family. Only a critical mass of two-parent families can compensate for the deficiencies of inevitable single-parent households. 

There’s a summary of family research I often turn to for data, called Why Marriage Matters. I’m going to list some of the conclusions here, to show how important it is to children and to civilization for fathers to be present in the family. (Please go to the original for sources and more details, available through 

  1. Marriage increases the likelihood that fathers have good relationships with their children. (Children of divorce report having much worse relationships with fathers.)
  2. Cohabitation is not the functional equivalent of marriage. (Outcomes for children are equivalent to single-parent households, with higher incidents of abuse.)
  3. Growing up outside an intact marriage increases the likelihood that children will themselves divorce or become unwed parents.
  4. Marriage is a virtually universal human institution. (It is a significant factor in every civilization in history.)
  5. Divorce and unmarried childbearing increase poverty for both children and mothers.
  6. Married couples seem to build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.
  7. Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.
  8. Parental divorce (or failure to marry) appears to increase children’s risk of school failure.
  9. Parental divorce reduces the likelihood that children will graduate from college and achieve high-status jobs.
  10. Children who live with their own two married parents enjoy better physical health, on average, than do children in other family forms.
  11. Parental marriage is associated with a sharply lower risk of infant mortality.
  12. Marriage is associated with reduced rates of alcohol and substance abuse for both adults and teens.
  13. Married people, especially married men, have longer life expectancies than do otherwise similar singles.
  14. Marriage is associated with better health and lower rates of injury, illness, and disability for both men and women.
  15. Children whose parents divorce have higher rates of psychological distress and mental illness.
  16. Divorce appears significantly to increase the risk of suicide.
  17. Married mothers have lower rates of depression than do single or cohabiting mothers.
  18. Boys raised in single-parent families are more likely to engage in delinquent and criminal behavior.
  19. Marriage appears to reduce the risk that adults will be either perpetrators or victims of crime.
  20. Married women appear to have a lower risk of experiencing domestic violence than do cohabiting or dating women.
  21. A child who is not living with his or her own two married parents is at greater risk of child abuse.
The study summary ends with this conclusion: 

Marriage is more than a private emotional relationship. It is also a social good. Not every person can or should marry. And not every child raised outside of marriage is damaged as a result. But communities where good-enough marriages are common have better outcomes for children, women, and men than do communities suffering from high rates of divorce, unmarried childbearing, and high-conflict or violent marriages.  

So, marriage, which puts fathers in the home, is essential for civilization. Now, here are more specifics about fathers, from United Families International’s “Fatherhood Fact Sheet.” (I saved this from their blog last year for Father’s Day; I can’t find it in the same form now, but the site has a wealth of information.)

  • High-crime neighborhoods are characterized by high concentrations of families abandoned by fathers, and youths in father-absent households have significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.
  • The weight of evidence increasingly supports the conclusion that fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men.
  • Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. The lack of fathers is a key factor in child poverty worldwide.
  • Higher father involvement with their children leads to fewer child behavior problems, higher levels of sociability, and higher levels of academic performance in children and adolescents.
  • Fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school. But father involvement in schools is associated with higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. (This was true for biological parent families and also for stepfathers and single-parent fathers.)
  • Teens without fathers were twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent. Girls with strong biological father relationships reported fewer depressive symptoms than peers and were less likely to suffer from sexual abuse or early sexual activity.
So there’s plenty of scientific evidence in favor of fathers. I also have personal evidence. I grew up with a good father. And my husband, Mr. Spherical Model, is an exemplary father, which is a major reason we so proudly enjoy our children, Political Sphere, Economic Sphere, and Social Sphere.

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