Are Dad's Optional?
Larry Smith is Chairman of 2nd Chance Indiana’s Board of Directors and CEO of Fathers and Families in Indianapolis, which works to support and educate dads, with the goal of improving the connection between fathers and their kids, as they enhance outcomes for children.
In an era where fewer parents are choosing to be married, Fathers and Families is bridging the gap for men who want to fulfill their role as a father. In fact, the share of married U.S. adults has fallen 14% since 1990, which means about 124 million fewer people were married over the past 33 years—that’s a lot of single people who produced many millions of children. In spite of the many single moms who do everything with great results, too many have found life, work, and child-rearing overwhelming and the statistics prove that many children are negatively affected.
Statistically, kids from father-absent homes have been found to be 279% more likely to carry guns and deal drugs than peers who lived with their fathers. They are five times more likely to live in poverty, than the children living in married-couple families, and the most damning of all, is that 75% of juvenile prison inmates report they had no father figure in the home.
Of course fathers can be part of their children’s lives without a marriage certificate. But, over the years, dads seem to have been officially downgraded from being standard equipment to being an option. When you buy a car you know you’ll get a steering wheel, but you can decide not to get the heavy duty drive train—it’s an option. The problem is, life is tough, and two people can do a job so much easier than one. The heavy-duty drive train can come in pretty handy when you are tackling a mountain of kid problems, debt problems, health issues, or just someone to give you a hug on a bad day. Not to mention the balancing act of infusing a child with respect, integrity, responsibility, rules, and love.
Here's what studies have found: Fathers in two-parent families who are involved in their child's schooling realize a “high likelihood of the student getting mostly A’s.” This goes for stepfathers and for fathers heading single-parent families as well. Dads involved in two-parent families also are associated with a “lower likelihood of students ever repeating a grade.” But while statistics from two parent households come out with higher statistical outcomes for children, active parenting from dads who do not live with their children can have the same success levels when they make the effort to have an ongoing sincere relationship with their child.
Married or not, a strong, involved father who is a constant caring force in the life of his child is the first step to raising secure, grounded human beings, who know where they came from as they benefit from the direction, encouragement and love they receive from their dads.
Plus, dads are fun.