When most people think of the word epidemic they think of diseases like cancer and AIDS. These are incredibly damaging diseases, to be sure, but there’s one epidemic that has been increasing rapidly over the last few decades, and that is the epidemic of fatherless children.
The fact is that in poor, developing countries like Honduras but also in first world countries like the United States and France, there is an ever growing population of children that are growing up in homes without fathers. One problem that is compounding the epidemic is that, in many circles, it can be politically incorrect to talk about fatherlessness as, for some people, it’s akin to saying that a one parent home is inferior to a two-parent home. (In many cases it simply is.)
No matter what your opinion, the simple truth is that nearly every social problem in every culture around the world, from poverty to violent crime, suicides to school shootings, fatherlessness is either a contributing factor or the root cause. Not only that but fatherlessness is now growing completely out of control, literally destroying our society and causing huge social problems across the globe.
The reason is simple; more than just a ‘second adult’, an involved, caring and nurturing father brings many other important benefits to a child that no other adult can replace. A father’s influence can and will have a direct and lasting impact on the life of a child and, without that influence, the results can be severe and quite shocking.
Fatherlessness is a problem for both male and female children, of course, but in fact many of the biggest problems in the United States, as well as other countries, are caused by boys growing up without fathers. Take a look at the statistics below if you don’t believe that statement.
In the United States today, boys who grew up without their fathers are responsible for;
· Over 60% of all rapes.
· 63% of suicides.
· Over 70% of long-term prison inmates.
· 70% of high school dropouts.
· Over 85% of juvenile detainees
In Honduras these statistics are even higher, unfortunately. The vast majority of Honduras’ homeless children get the food that they eat out of rotten, nasty dumpsters, oftentimes staying there all day long and scavenging for food, clothing and other items as it gets thrown away. Since they don’t go to school and have practically nothing else to keep them busy during the long, hot days, many spend most of their time smoking cigarettes, huffing paint thinner and getting high on whatever drugs are available.
Even when there are schools available, many of them are located in areas that are so dangerous that the police don’t even go in on patrol. In these areas the children are left to fend for themselves and many turn to theft and prostitution to survive. By the time the majority of these children turn 18 years of age they have absolutely no social tools or physical skills that they can use to better themselves, a fact that simply increases the amount of criminality and prostitution that they become involved in down the road.
It’s certainly not a problem in Honduras alone. In developing countries around the world approximately 130,000,000 children under 17 years of age have lost their father and, in many cases, their mother as well. Nearly 20% of these children are forced to work in child labor situations, where they are exposed to multiple dangers.
Upon hearing all of this information, the first thing that most people asking is simply this; why? Why is it that a father’s influence is so important on a child, especially a boy child? It’s an excellent question, to be sure, and it’s possible that some of the answers may startle you.
First, it has been noted that one of the most important types of influence a father will have under child is actually indirect. The reason why is that much of the influence the father has over child is due to the relationship that the father has with the child’s mother. When a child is in a home where a father has an excellent and respectful relationship with the mother, that father is much more likely to be involved with their children, spend plenty of time with them and show them that he cares. This of course will positively affect the child both emotionally and psychologically.
Of similar importance of course is the affirmation that her mother feels when her husband is happy in their relationship and happy with his children. In this situation both parents will be more affectionate, responsive to their children and more confident, factors that have positive long-term effects on any child.
When it comes to education and achieving success, it has been shown time and time again that children who have involved, caring fathers do much better in school and in life. There have even been studies that have shown that children who have been involved with a nurturing and caring father actually end up having higher IQs, better linguistic skills and stronger cognitive capabilities. It is also been shown that these children are more patient, handle stress better and achieve faster than children who are fatherless.
It is also been shown that children who grow up in a household where there is an involved father will be more emotionally secure, more confident in who they are and will have much better communication skills with their parents, teachers and their peers. Statistically speaking, a child who grows up in a family with a caring father is much less likely to get in trouble at home or at school.
This positive influence extends well beyond adolescence and into adulthood. There have been numerous studies that have found that children who grow up with an active, nurturing father go on to become adults with superior verbal skills, above-average intellect and also above average academic achievement. It is also been shown that a child is 43% more likely to get mostly A’s in school if the father is present and attentive while they are growing up.
As far as boys are concerned, the fact is that in order to truly become a man a boy must have a man’s influence in their life and, in most cases, that man will be their not only their father but several men. Studies have shown that, ideally, it should be a community of men who, with their combined skills life experiences, will provide a boy with a variety of male role models on which to base his choices and decisions.
Today nearly 25 million boys in the United States are growing up without a father in their household. Among minorities the problem is even worse, with nearly 40% of all Hispanics and a whopping 70% of African-American boys growing up in a home where there is no father figure available.
In many countries like Honduras, Bolivia, Haiti, India and others fathers are truly becoming an endangered species. In many of these countries when you talk to children you will hear the same sense statement; “ our father abandoned us and left us to fend for ourselves”.
In the animal kingdom there are very few species where the father takes an active role in raising their children. This just isn’t so with humans however, and the statistics support this fact. While it is well-known that a mother’s nurturing and caring can and does have a lifelong impact on a child, a father’s influence is just as important and, for young boys, possibly even more so.
Study after study has shown that, a father spends much more of their time interacting with their infants, their preschoolers and their teenagers in a stimulating, physical and playful way. These interactions, especially for young boys, help them to learn how to regulate their feelings, their emotions and their behavior. A boy who ‘rough houses’ with his father will better learn how to deal with their aggression and their emotions so that, in the future, they can better control themselves physically when those same emotions are put to the test.
Fathers also have a great influence on the child’s feeling of independence and the way they orient themselves with the outside world. While mothers stress nurturing and caring, fathers stress achieving and winning, both of which are vitally important to a child’s mental and physical development.
At the end of the day the seriousness of this problem can’t and should not be overlooked. No matter what country a child is from or where a young boy grows up, the influence that their father can have and should have in their life cannot be taken for granted. A father, as much as a child’s mother, will have a powerful impact on their child’s development and their future life. Many countries are finally beginning to see the importance that fathers have but the fact is that it’s going to take a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot more understanding to defeat this epidemic.