Near the end of his book, Do Fathers Matter? What Science is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, Paul Raeburn writes this:
Multiple studies suggest that fatherlessness is a major contributor to crime and juvenile delinquency; premature sexuality and out-of-wedlock births to teenagers; deteriorating educational achievement; depression, substance abuse, and alienation among adolescents; and the growing number of women and children in poverty. That list comes from David Popenoe of Rutgers University, who says the decline of fatherhood “is a major source behind many of the most disturbing problems that plaque American society.” (Emphasis mine. P. 221)
That a book with the title, Do Fathers Matter? has to be written at all, is telling. In the beginning of the book Raeburn says that up until the 1970’s almost every major scientific study done on parenting was done on moms. And the research discovered what we intuitively know: Moms are absolutely necessary. Very few studies were done on the impact of Fathers. And even though no studies were done to suggest that dads are irrelevant,
The irrelevancy of fathers had become an article of faith among researchers, and why would any of them question what they knew to be true? (p. 6)
But once research was done on dads, Science showed that not only do dads matter, they matter a lot.
The belief that dads don’t really matter, however, runs deep in our culture. Magazine articles and news pundits often debate the importance of dads around Father’s Day. You’d never have those conversations about moms around Mother’s Day. You’d never see a book published with the question, Do Moms Matter?
Could it be that dads have been made to feel irrelevant so they make themselves irrelevant and then it becomes a cultural norm that dads are irrelevant? It doesn’t help that fewer American dads are participating in the lives of their children now than at any time since the U.S. began keeping records (p. 13). A self-fulfilling prophecy?
And yet, as the opening quote suggests, making dads irrelevant creates all kinds of family and societal problems. Could it be the much of the unrest in our country today traces itself to the marginalizing of dads?
While debates about flags and guns are important, perhaps we can start on something that the majority of us can buy into; something that speaks to the systemic issues:
· What if communities and religious groups and the Government put a full court press on raising boys to be relevant, good dads?
· What if media presentations of dads/men were positive rather than the stereotypical picture of the dad/man as a buffoon? (See, for example, Cheerios excellent dad commercial!)
· What if we believed and embraced the science that says that dad is crucial to the well-being of our society?
· What if we affirmed what the Bible says, that men/dads are created in the Image of God—male, and that we need the male and female Image of God working together to bring healing to our families, our communities, and our country?
Could dad be the key to bringing healing to our country?