English Writing 302
11 April 2011
Daddy-less and Disadvantaged
“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.” --Sigmund Freud, Standard Edition, 1956
Growing up without a father or strong male role model in the United States is extremely difficult. Fatherless children are disadvantaged in American society and face a greater struggle to become successful in their personal, educational, and professional lives. The decline of fatherhood in one of the most unexpected and extraordinary trends of our time. Its dimensions can be captured in a single statistic: In just three decades, between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers more than doubled, from 17 percent to 36 percent(Popenoe). Analysts predict that by 2016, nearly fifty percent of American children may be going to sleep each evening without being able to say good night to their dads (F. Furstenberg). Does this statistic bother you? It should and its ramifications are widespread.
No one predicted this trend; few researchers or government agencies have monitored it; and to this day is still not widely discussed. But the data that is available suggests that the decline of fatherhood is a major force behind many of the most disturbing social problems that plague American society: crime; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock births to teenagers; domestic violence against women; child abuse; deteriorating educational achievement; depression; substance abuse and alienation among adolescents; and the growing number of women and children in poverty (Popenoe). These problems that urge our attention are not separate issues, but are linked in an important way by the family trend of our time, which is the break-up of the mother-father-child rearing unit, and the increasing number of American children who spend all or a significant part of their childhood living apart from their father. The fact is that children absent of fathers are at much greater risk of negatively contributing to our society and negatively affecting themselves while, simultaneously, struggle to become successful and productive individuals of society. Poverty affects fatherless children to a greater degree than those with both parents present. Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. In 2002, 7.8 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 38.4 percent of children in female-householder families (Bureau). Almost 75 percent of American children living in single-parent families will experience poverty before they turn 11 (Bureau). Only 20 percent of children in two-parent families will do the same. The facts display a disproportionate distribution of wealth between single and married households. Women are oftentimes forced to raise children on a single income and are unable to advance their educational level due to financial and time constraints. This means less money, less time, and less education which all equal to a lower standard of living for their children.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states, “Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse (Statistics). Single-parent children are oftentimes left at home alone for extended periods of time while the mothers are at work; more often than not, working two jobs. Children left unattended often find themselves getting into trouble; oftentimes involving drug and alcohol misuse. Furthermore, the psychological effects on the children growing up without fathers also lead to depression and substance abuse. Children living apart from their biological fathers are 4.3 times more likely to smoke cigarettes, abuse alcohol, and partake in the use of controlled narcotics (Stanton).
The effects of single-parent children also reach to physical and emotional health. Unmarried mothers are less likely to obtain prenatal...