When Daddy’s Not Home
By Darryl James
Yesterday’s single mother household had support from the village consisting of their own fathers, uncles, brothers and other male family members.
Today, more single mothers are disconnected from extended family members and typically from their own fathers, which means that if the fathers of their children are not on the scene, there more than likely will be no male figure in the children’s lives.
There are very few cases of men simply fathering children and willfully shirking parental obligations.
Studies show that even among men who use fatherhood to “express their manhood,” there is a desire to remain involved in the lives of the resulting offspring.
Yet, the overwhelming concept of the Absentee Father is of a man who “donates his DNA,” and abandons the child along with all responsibilities.
The notion of Black fathers abandoning their children is typically the stereotype that many Americans are comfortable with. And this comfort generally comes without any attention to research.
For example, how many people with that comfort would remain comfortable with the fact that there are actually a growing number of single parent households headed by Black fathers?
But the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of children in single parent households are being raised by mothers, frequently in the absence of a father or father figure.
There are a number of reasons why fathers are absent from their children’s lives, even though the one that garners the most focus is the man being a proverbial “Deadbeat Dad,” the father who willfully neglects to pay his financial obligations.
Some fathers may be absent because they were unprepared for fatherhood and are often unwilling, but have little say once the woman is pregnant. Some fathers may be absent because the mother may not actually know who impregnated her, and other fathers may be absent because their assigned financial responsibility is far above their financial capability.
While society seeks to imprison men who fail to pay child support, few focus on the fact that 70% of fathers who are in arrears on child support earn $10,000 a year or less.
In short, the majority of men who are being prosecuted for failure to pay often can not pay.
And, even if there are attempts to be involved, including sharing the care of the child, purchasing groceries, diapers or other necessities, those attempts are discounted if the assigned financial responsibilities are unmet.
The net result when a father is unable to pay, is that he will probably disappear from the child’s life, after either running from the financial burden that he can not carry, or after being jailed for being unable to shoulder the financial burden.
These are the two most prominent results when Daddy can not pay, and while a great portion of society is comfortable with these results, there are some dire consequences of not having fathers in the lives of children.
There are a more than a handful of pieces written about the consequences of absentee fathers, but generally the focus is on the male child. However, there are some very serious issues faced by fatherless females today, which stem from low self-esteem and very poor socialization with positive male role models in their lives as young girls.
These issues include fleeting and unstable love relationships with men, early experimentation with sex, increased out of wedlock childbirth and lower self-esteem. These issues must be addressed.
Increased absentee fathers result in increased poverty for the children. Fifty-one percent of the children raised by unmarried mothers are raised in poverty, while only seven percent of children in a marriage are poor. Even marriage after the child is born decreases poverty for the child by more than half.
That poverty, which typically includes Welfare dependence, has that dependence sustained through the child’s minority years in 50% of the cases, while children in married households are only on Welfare 3% of the time until adulthood. Again, marriage after the child is born decreases Welfare dependence by more than half, while divorce will only increase Welfare dependence to 13%.
Children raised in single parent homes are more likely to have retarded cognitive development, lower educational achievement, increased behavioral problems, lowered impulse control and increased emotional disturbances. Those children are also more likely to engage in criminal activity.
A summary from the National Institute of Child Health and Development found that inner city Black male children in households at or below poverty with little or no fatherhood involvement had lower mental development and decreased cognitive development. They also were more prone to difficulties with self control, impulse control and Attention Deficit Disorder.
Project TALENT, a federal survey, found that children born outside of marriage were more likely to become unwed parents themselves.
Those children have a higher likelihood of becoming single parents because they are experiencing earlier sexual activity and few, if any models of parenting partnerships and/or marriage. They are also more likely to end up on Welfare as single parents.
According to The National Health Interview Survey of Child Health, children of unwed parents have greater behavioral and emotional problems than children of married parents.
A 1988 study by the University of Illinois showed that a boy’s educational achievements are diminished the longer he spends in a single parent home.
In 1988, a study of eleven thousand people showed a dramatic association between rates of violent crime and children from single parent households between the ages of 12 and 20. The study underscored the fact that neither poverty alone, nor race alone can be associated with high crime rates.
And, data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, reveals that young Black men raised in homes lead by a single mother are twice as likely to engage in criminal activities as those from two parent homes.
Society at large and the Black community in specific would do well to understand the importance of the father’s role in child rearing, focusing on more important aspects such as time spent on a regular basis than simple assignment of financial responsibility.
Even if all the fathers pay, who will be there to provide male role models for the children?
Am I making excuses for Absentee Fathers?
What I am doing is underscoring the very real fact that focusing on financial child support has done little to increase the quality of life for the throngs of young boys and girls who are growing up without male influence.
More men have been jailed for child support, but that has not resulted in more men in the lives of those children or even more non-welfare support for the children, which means, quite frankly, that the Child Support Industry has failed.
Single mothers who do not garner positive male models for their children are failing.
Absentee fathers are not the only deadbeats.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” Now, listen to Darryl live on BlogTalkRadio.com/DarrylJames every Monday from 7-9pm, PST. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at email@example.com.