Dick Lyles: Kids need fathers now more than ever

It is past time for us to stop ignoring reality with regard to parenting and the importance of kids growing up with both a mom and a dad.

Dick Lyles

Although some single moms perform heroically and raise healthy kids prepared to face the challenges of adulthood, most don’t. We have to stop letting our sympathy for the plight of single parents interfere with the reality that single parenting is the worst option for raising kids.

A year ago the New York Times published an article titled “For Women Under 30, Most Births Occur Outside Marriage.” For some time we had been sobered by the statistic that four in 10 U.S. babies are born to unwed parents. Then came this news, a turning point of epic proportions: More than half of births to American women under 30 now occur outside marriage. “It used to be called illegitimacy,” the article written by Jason DeParle and Sabrina Tavernise began. “Now it is the new normal.” Unfortunately, normal doesn’t mean good.

The research about what kind of future awaits most of these children is unequivocal. “According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, 85 percent of all children exhibiting behavior disorders come from fatherless homes. Studies going back a quarter century show that 80 percent of all rapists and 70 percent of all juveniles in state-operated institutions are from fatherless homes.” Adolescents, particularly boys, in single-parent families are at higher risk of committing crimes. Moreover, students attending schools with a high proportion of single parents are also at risk. Youths are more at risk of first drug use without a highly involved father. Living in an intact family decreases the risk of first substance abuse.

According to Patrick Fagan, “When you control for marriage, the crime rates between blacks and whites show no difference.” In other words, if you compare crime rates between black and white families with two married parents and black and white families without two married parents, the statistics don’t vary across racial lines. It is the family relationship that makes the difference, not race. It is unfortunate that sociologists are just now beginning to examine the correlations between family, fatherhood, and the overall health and well-being of our society. On the other hand, we should appreciate that they are finally starting to explain what many have always known: Healthy family environments with strong father role models lead to a healthy social environment.

Sociologist and researcher Bradford Wilcox, author of the book “Soft Patriarchs,” explains why this is true. “Boys who grow up in fatherless homes engage in compensatory masculinity,” he said. “They try to separate themselves from their mothers, yet prove their masculinity by being more aggressive, more violent, and more sexually active. Without an appropriate model in the home, they do not learn the appropriate clues.”

Wilcox adds that the role of a father is indispensable. Nonresidential dads, such as an uncle or big brother, cannot easily fill in for a missing father. “They tend to treat kids to a movie or a sporting event. That’s not what kids really need from men. They need men who can challenge them and show them how to handle stress.”

Girls need fatherly role models as well. Evidence shows that girls raised in fatherless homes often suffer lifelong negative consequences of low self-esteem and underachievement.

It’s hard to avoid letting our sympathy for single mothers and their kids get in the way of facing the tough realities ahead. But we’re not helping anyone by letting them choose this path without confronting those realities.

Lyles, a Poway resident, is a business/management consultant and best-selling author. Reader comments are encouraged at www.pomeradonews.com.

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Posted by Staff on Feb 7 2013. Filed under Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Comments for “Dick Lyles: Kids need fathers now more than ever”

  1. Amy Roost

    As the child of divorce (my mother had 100% custody) and the mother of two children of divorce (their father and I split custody), I concur with you that a two parent household where the parents model a loving respectful relationship is better than a one parent household no matter how competent that parent is. Quite simply, parenting is the hardest, most exhausting (and rewarding) job there is and it takes (at least) two parents to do the job justice. That said, I think if the choice for children is b/w a toxic two parent environment and a non-toxic one-parent environment the choice is in my mind a easy one–non toxic. Growing up, even tho I missed my dad, I had 2-3 surrogate fathers who provided me guidance and a steady hand.

    Also, I think your perspective is a little slanted against women. It is sexist for you to suggest that most moms (but not dads?) don't rise to the challenge of single parenting. Most courts award 50/50 custody as default these days, and in many cases men get full custody when a mom is proven unfit. Also, in those circumstance where the mom is doing the heavy lifting, why not ask where's the dad(?!) instead of pointing the finger at the mom? We need to educate our boys/men that having sex with a woman (whether he thinks she's protected or not) comes with consequences. If the consequence is pregnancy and the mom and/or dad choose to keep the baby then the father has a responsibility to raise the child either with or without the mother in the same household. My sons' dad and I (after a rough start) have co-parented in such a way that if you asked my kids they'd both tell you that they'd rather we divorced and be in the happy/healthy relationship we both are and where we can both model love, than to be in a home where there is constant tension. The four of us and our new partners now spend holidays and birthdays together and travel together to move our children into their dormitories. We have a better relationship now then we ever did as a married couple. Our children LOVE this and comment on it frequently. More emphasis should be placed on finding ways to co-parent effectively and good parenting in general whether it's under the same or separate roofs. A GREAT resource for divorcing families it Kids Turn. It teaches parents and children how to cope and takes a child-centered approach to co-parenting.

    I would also like to put the word our to any unwed pregnant women out there that I have two dear friends (Michael and Manuel) who are looking to adopt. How fortunate that the child they do adopt will have not one, but TWO fathers!!

    • Dick Lyles

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I want to take issue with one point. In no way is my column slanted against women. It takes issue with fathers who are absent. The problem isn't people who have effectively worked out co-parenting relationships. It's with single parent families lacking a father.
      As an aside, I've not seen any research that focuses on single parent families lacking a mother, but I suspect they create a different set of problems for kids.

  2. Clariece

    Dick – your column makes excellent points. I would recommend for your readers a book by Dr. Kevin Leman entitled "What a Difference a Daddy Makes." It should be required reading for all dads and husbands. I have given it as gifts for the dad at baby showers. It provides tremendous insight into how important a strong father is to the healthy emotional development of daughters. Husbands would receive much needed insight into their wives as well – since they will instantly recognize their father-in-law (either good or not so good). Mothers are an essential component in healthy families but when it comes to girls – they really do need their dads!

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