Yet another study confirms the beneficial effects of fathers on children, particularly boys. Read about it here (Science Alert, 11/25/11).
It’s not like we don’t have enough of these studies. They’ve been pouring in for decades. Indeed, over 18 years ago, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead quoted prominent family sociologist David Popenoe saying that, at the time, there were at least 30 years of data confirming the importance of intact families to children. Back in the late sixties, Daniel Patrick Moynahan becamee the target of much misidirected ire when he pointed out that too many African-American children were growing up without a father. He was right then, but quixotically enough, instead of trying to change the behavior of African-American mothers and fathers, we’ve emulated them.
What was true in the sixties is true today. Fathers benefit children, but we act like they’re expendable. Everyone from state legislatures to family courts to child welfare agencies goes merrily along pretending that fathers are uniquely dangerous to children and that, even if they aren’t, they’re not interested in raising them. That’s complete nonsense, of course but public policy remains in thrall to a radical anti-father ideology that ignores known facts.
The latest study is concerned with children and delinquent behavior. It was conducted jointly by Deborah Cobb-Clark of the Melbourne Institute of Apllied Economic and Social Research and Erdal Tekin at Georgia Tech. The researchers used American data collected by the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.
The study, undertaken by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research at the Faculty of Business and Economics, found that the presence of a father figure during adolescence was most likely to have a preventive effect on whether male youths engage in risk-taking and deviant behaviour.
While active involvement and interaction between fathers and youths was found to be beneficial, it did not explain the positive benefits of children who grow up with fathers in the household.
“The sense of security generated by the presence of a male role model in a youth‟s life has protective effects for a child, regardless of the degree of interaction between the child and father,” Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Director of the Melbourne Institute said.
“Fathers provide children with male role models and can influence children‟s preferences, values and attitudes, while giving them a sense of security and boosting their self-esteem. They also increase the degree of adult supervision at home, which may lead to a direct reduction of delinquent behaviour.”
Using American data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, three factors were studied in the role of fathers influencing youth delinquency: parental involvement and interaction, contribution to household income and engagement with a father figure by simply being present at home.
Unlike previous studies in the field, “Fathers and Youths‟ Delinquent Behaviour‟ which was co-authored by Professor Erdal Tekin from Georgia State University, examines the full range of father figure roles and modern family structures, Professor Cobb-Clark said.
“Our study included residential and non-residential, biological fathers and residential stepfathers and their influence on adolescent behaviours,” Professor Cobb-Clark said.
“We find that adolescent boys engage in more delinquency without a father figure in their lives. Adolescent girls‟ behaviours are less closely linked to this, which may be attributed to the inherent levels of risk-taking that vary between males and females.”
Additionally, higher family incomes were found to have little effects on solving the problems associated with youth delinquency.
That last of course is particularly important. Often, the anti-dad crowd claims that the effect of dads on children is really just a proxy for their income. That is, two parents earn more than one, so two-parent households have greater affluence, and children from more affluent homes tend to engage in less delinquent behavior. That’s all true of course, but study after study shows that the presence of fathers in children’s lives by itself confers significant benefits. In fact, income level isn’t the only category across which fatherless children do worse than those with dads in their lives. The Father Effect cuts across all the usual statistical boundaries including race, religion, ethnicity and geographic location.
So add this study to the pile. Maybe if it gets large enough, it’ll tip over and bury the various politicians who know the facts but can’t be bothered to pass laws that would connect children to their fathers. It continues to be one of the most shocking dysfunctions of our political and judicial systems, that we continue to do so little about a problem whose consequences are so well known and so devastating to children, fathers and society.