The Millennials Unaddressed Public Health Issue

father and daughter

I am seeing a disturbing trend for our young people. It is affecting every socioeconomic/racial/religious/cultural background. Fathers are absent. Too many have simply dropped out of their children’s lives. I knew this was a problem for my own children, however I did not realize how common it was among young people until a recent conversation with my young teen daughter regarding an incident at school. She had to go to the office with a friend, for support, because the girl’s absent father showed up to try to guilt her to let him back in her life although he had chose drugs over her. After recounting this story, my daughter went on naming all her friends who have absent fathers… all did but one.

Most research is focused on the effects of the mother’s presence/absence/level of education and the like on their children; very little focus on the effects of fathers on their children. However, with the increase of divorce rates, pregnancy out of wedlock, military deployments, and incarcerations more studies are being done on the effects of absent fathers and some alarming trends are showing up. Of school dropouts, 71% have absent fathers. 90% of runaways have absent fathers. 85% of teen prisoners have absent fathers. Preschoolers of absent fathers are 40 times more likely to be sexually abused. Children of absent fathers are more likely to die young, be sexually active younger, have teen pregnancies, abuse drug and alcohol, suffer psychosomatic health problems, and battle mental health issues. Sadly, girls are adversely affected more by an absent father than boys.

Edward Kruk Ph.d remarked in Co-parenting After Divorce, “Obama’s 2011 Father’s Day speech lamented on irresponsibility of ‘deadbeat fathers’ footloose and fancy free from taking responsibility for their children.” This is sadly the crux of the problem. Many men feel that after divorce or separation their obligations to their children are severed along with their marital ties. The term absent fathers refers to those fathers that are not involved in their children’s lives due to their own choices; whether they stay away or are incarcerated. The separation due to deployment or death affects children minimally in comparison to lifestyle choices creating the separation. David Blankenhorn, of Fatherless America, said that the “‘father deficit’ should be treated as a public health issue” which was supported by a report from University of Birmingham. Men need to own up to their responsibilities to their children. If being a dad spending quality time with their children is beyond their ability, at the very least pay child support fully and on time along with an extra they can afford to give to their children.

Some may feel that they should stay in an unhappy marriage in order to avoid detrimental effects on their children. However, single moms that stay single have less adverse effects than two parent homes in conflict; which is more detrimental to boys than girls. Mothers should not feel that they have failed their children and there is no hope. Studies show that single mothers can have a positive effects on their kids by teaching them adaptive coping mechanisms, financial independence, role modeling, and personal strength. Working single mothers also teach their children family values and responsibility. All these attributes help children to have high career aspirations and financial autonomy. The keys to successful single motherhood parenting are keeping out of the lowest income brackets and remaining single. The influx of men in and out of the children’s lives is the most detrimental. 

As has been the case throughout history, women are the backbone of family and ultimately society. In giving life, we are ultimately responsible for our entire lives for those that we bring into this world. Men may be able to come and go as they please; women cannot and must accept this reality before choosing to have children. In a perfect world, men would be tied to their children and never walk out of their lives. The umbilical cord, however, only connects mother and child and albeit cut in the physical world, it is never cut in the spiritual realm.

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