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Families need loving fathers

Last week, after reading a column by fellow Lott student Tim Abram where he recounted experiences and lessons that he learned from his family, I began to wonder about the true effects of family on children as they age and mature. So, I researched the issue and found many studies with alarming, though not surprising results.
A 2006 report by the US Department of Health and Human Services analyzed hundreds of studies and other reports on the effect of involved fathers on children’s health, educational attainment and likelihood to commit crime. One of these studies showed that children who grew up in a home without an involved father were seven times more likely to be incarcerated in their lifetime. Another study found that paternal involvement was far higher in households where the parents were in their first marriage than it was households where parents were unmarried, remarried or divorced.
One of the primary reasons for these results is the relationship between the mother and father. Couples in their first marriage with children tend to consider the relationship with their children as strong, while unmarried parents or couples in a subsequent marriage tend to consider the relationship with their children as moderate.
However, this isn’t true for all single parent families. In his book The Children of Divorce, Andrew Root points out the differences in child development and health between children who lost a parent to death and those who lost a parent to divorce. In the cases of divorce, children and teenagers are similar to other children and teens who were raised by an unmarried parent. However, in the cases of death, children and teens were similar to those of two parent families.
This boils down to the choice of the parents. Where the parents either never married or later divorced, then one or both of the parents were choosing not to be with the child. Meanwhile, with an unintended death, the parent is not given the choice. The fact that parents would choose to divorce causes the children to question, “Why don’t they want to be with me?” even though most divorces cite causes completely unrelated to the children.
Things that seem trivial, such as throwing the baseball or reading a bedtime story, are often put near the bottom of a parent’s priority list. However, it is the seemingly trivial matters that show a child what he or she really means to the parent.
In the movie Courageous, the lead role, Adam Mitchell asks, “When did you first think of yourself as a man?” A few of the answers were about moving out of the house, going off to college, or turning 21. However, one of the characters answered, “When my father told me I was.”
We can continue to fund welfare, dropout prevention, and crime prevention programs, but these will never have the effect on kids as a loving father will.
Trenton Winford is a junior public policy leadership major from Madison.