Friday, January 25, 2008

Why Fathers Count

Interview with Wade F. Horn

Dr. Wade Horn is a clinical child psychologist and President
of the
National Fatherhood Initiative

Fatherlessness is our most urgent social problem, says Wade
Horn of the
National Fatherhood Initiative.

Nearly 23 million American children do not live with their
fathers. And 40 percent of the kids of divorced
parents haven't seen their
fathers in the past year. These
statistics aren't just disturbing, they are
alarming, says Wade
F. Horn, Ph.D., a child psychologist and director of
the National
Fatherhood Initiative, a new organization that promotes
rights and responsible fatherhood.

"Over the last three decades we
have engaged in a great
social experiment to determine what will happen if
numbers of children are reared without their fathers. And the

conclusion is children suffer greatly," says Horn, former U.S.
for Children, Youth and Families in the Bush
Administration. "I don't
believe it's possible to significantly
improve the well-being of children
without first reconnecting
them to their fathers." We talked with Horn
recently about why
fathers count.

Q. What effect does fatherlessness have on children?

A. If you look at any measure of child well-being, you see that
kids are
placed at great risk when they grow up absent
their fathers. They're more
likely to have psychological
problems, abuse drugs and alcohol, live in
poverty and fail
in school. Seventy percent of kids in state reform
grew up without their fathers.

Q. Some might take that as a criticism of the ability of single
mothers to
raise their kids correctly.

A. This is not a black mark on single mothers. There is an
number of children growing up in single-father
households, and it seems the
outcomes for those kids aren't
very rosy either. What we are saying is that

children really need both a mother and a father.

Q. But we know a lot of people who were raised by only their
mothers after
their fathers died, and they turned out just fine.

A. That's about the only father-absent situation where a child
isn't at
risk. And it's because the father's memory is typically
kept alive in very
positive ways as opposed to a divorce
situation where the father is
generally not revered - you know,
where the mother says, "Oh, your father's
a bum; we don't
need him."

Q. Why do we need fathers? Why do they count?

A. Fathers parent differently than mothers do. For example, we
know mothers
tend to be more verbal with their children
and fathers much more physical.
Particularly with boys,
fathers engage in rough- and-tumble play. What we're

discovering is that this serves as practice for boys to develop
over their aggression. So, it's a combination
of the father's tendency to
challenge achievement combined
with the mother's typical nurturing that
creates happy kids.
Now, fathers play an extra role when it comes to
They give girls the experience of having a relationship with a

man who shows that the definition of love is "I care more about
you than
myself." That's important, because when girls start
looking for mates, if
they have the expectation that a man should
be like Dad, they will be more
likely to hold out for that positive

Q. So how do you fix the problem of so many children
growing up in
fatherless homes?

A. First, we have to recognize the importance of fathers.
Right now we say
they are money - breadwinners or child-
support checks. Well, that's
nonsense. We have to understand
that fathers provide something unique and
irreplaceable. Second,
we have to change our minds about marriage. We've

communicated that marriage is an impermanent institution.
But if we
reconnect marriage with a sense of permanence,
then when you hit the rough
spots, you'll be more willing to
work through them, and that has a direct
impact on children.

Q. Admirable goals, but you're always going to have divorce.
What can a man
who's divorced or facing a divorce do now
to make sure he plays that
essential role in his kid's lives?

A. Settle the question, "How am I going to stay involved with
my children?"
Make that the first issue the court must focus on.
If you find yourself
post divorce and are having trouble with visitation,
go back to the courts
and ask them to enforce it. If you don't have
visitation rights or if you
have meager ones, go to court and ask
them to renegotiate them. But go
armed with the argument that
what you want is to ensure that your children
have the opportunity
to benefit from your involvement in their lives.

1 comment:

He said...


I have just got interested in the topic of men's rights, and I been reading through your archive, I'm not there yet but I will get there in the end.

I certainly agree then children need fathers, after my parents divorce as a small child, I was brought up my by father; and I believe that without his moral backbone I don't think I would be where I am today.

I went to a 'bog-standard' comp school and most of my friends that had divorced parents lived with their mother. Quite a few of these ended up having behavioral problems and dropped out of school at 16. I do not think it is a coincidence. Children need the values and confidence that comes from a positive male role model.