Now you see him--now you don’t! When it comes to disappearing dads and fatherless homes, the American family isn’t what it used to be.
In short, fatherlessness has become a crisis in this country, as pillars that once upheld the traditional American family—heterosexual married parents, at-home moms, generational boundaries, and parental discipline--give way to a new, looser morality that affects America’s children, and not for the better.
The National Center for Fathering maintains that almost every social ill faced by today’s children is related to fatherlessness. The Center cites data showing that children raised in fatherless homes are more likely to be poor and to become involved in drug and alcohol abuse.
“They are more likely to drop out of school, and suffer from health and emotional problems,” the site points out. “While boys are more at risk of becoming involved in crime, girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens.”
A blog on Fathers Incorporated blames “broad changes in family demographics” for leaving many of America’s children without the support or involvement of their fathers. That’s another way of voicing a truth that more and more describes the plight of America today: the breakdown of families.
It isn’t something you can easily discuss, even among friends. An article in the National Review described family breakdown as “a subject that many people are uncomfortable with.”
“Everyone either is or knows and has a deep personal connection to someone who is divorced, cohabiting, or gay,” author Michael Barone writes. “Great numbers of people simply want to avoid awkward talk of what are seen as primarily personal issues or issues of individual morality.”
In other words, the concept of traditional morality has changed, and society is now tracking the number of “nonmarital births”—children born to a mother, without the blessing of a father. It reflects the current national trend: couples living together or “hooking up” after a few dates, but not marrying anymore when children are on the way.
When did all this start to happen? Most young people today can’t relate at all to the TV families like Ozzie and Harriett or The Waltons that served as models for the nation before divorce rates began to spiral in the mid-1960’s. As religious and social barriers started to crumble, children found themselves fatherless with divorce leaving single moms and weekend fathers who didn’t always live up to visitation rights.
By 2012 statistics and research by the US Department of Census showed 43 percent of US children living without their father. A startling 90% of homeless and runaway children were from fatherless homes.
The problem was universal, not confined to a single ethnic group. But a Vespa survey in 2013 revealed that 58 percent of black children and 31 percent of Hispanic children were living without their biological fathers.
As the numbers continue to climb today, we are inclined to ask, what is happening to the American family? Is it becoming a vanishing species? Certainly this isn’t the way it was from the beginning, not the way God’s word says he intended life on this planet to be.
“God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:6.
“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” Psalm 127: 3-5
Father absence has become so rampant in the African-American community that Pastor T.D. Jakes, whose sermons regularly fill the 8,000-seat Potters House in Dallas, has made it the topic of many of his books and sermons. Recently he has produced videos like Fatherless Child and Healing Fatherless America.
Jakes’ “ManPower” conferences encourage African American men to assume the roles of faithful husbands, caring fathers, and dependable providers. He regularly reminds men and women in his church that they can have a positive effect on building healthy families.
“For children raised without fathers, there is a hole in the soul many try to fill with promiscuity, drugs and other unhealthy behavior,” the pastor said. “But there is a way everyone can fill it in a positive way—by giving what you didn't get. You can fulfill that role for another fatherless child.”
Another timely question is, what about teenage boys who father children? Watchtower Online Library notes that teen fathers rarely take any long-term responsibility when it comes to a girlfriend’s positive pregnancy test.
An article on the Library site quoted one teenage boy whose girlfriend became pregnant: “I just told her, ‘See ya’ round,’“he said. The article pointed out that without parental pressure, many boys are content to go their own way and let paternity become a girl problem.
Neither do millennial men always step up the plate to acknowledge the consequences of their sleepovers and casual dating hookups. When those consequences involve the untimely announcement of a new life on the way, suddenly a guy’s freedom never looked so good.
As for women facing an unexpected pregnancy, many soon realize they’ve been looking for love in the wrong places with all the wrong partners. The glow of romantic love suddenly fades when they consider single motherhood without a father willing to help protect and provide for little ones.
Sometimes then, the American dream of happily ever after fades and both parties begin to look for a way out. For men particularly, it’s bug-out time.
A woman left alone may consider several options, none of which are promising for the new life about to come on the scene. She can choose to carry her baby and raise the child alone or opt to use the services of an accredited adoption agency.
But more and more in this country, what used to be the last option---one that no one really ever spoke about--is now becoming the first. Today’s culture has conditioned many young pregnant women to find benefits in becoming pro-choice, willingly following the callous crowd to centers like Planned Parenthood for an abortion.
So the would-be dad is let off the hook, never to have to confront the fate of the child he fathered. The attitude often is, just give me my freedom, and I don’t want to know the rest.
But this scenario flies in the face of God’s plan for mankind to marry, have children and populate the earth. In fact, the Bible tells us that children are a sign of God’s blessing on the family.
“So God created man in his own image….Male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’” Genesis 1:27,28
“Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” Psalm 127:3
The message, according to God’s word, is clear: Procreation and children equal blessings for a nation while a land without fathers becomes largely, a land without God and a moral society.
David Blankenhorn’s book Fatherless America, was written in the 1970’s when he looked ahead and saw a time when the nation would suffer from father flight, a trend that he predicted would change the shape of our society. He foresaw that the U.S. of our generation would be divided into two groups, separate and unequal.
“They will live fundamentally divergent lives,” Blankenhorn wrote. “One group will receive basic benefits—psychological, social, economic, educational and moral—that are denied to the other group.”
He maintained that the primary fault line dividing the two groups would not be race, religion, class, education or gender. It would be patrimony—the presence, or not—of a father.
“One group will consist of adults who grew up with the daily presence and provision of fathers and the other did not. It will create a dual citizenry—the haves and the have-nots of our nation’s adult world.”
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