American fathers are more removed from family life today than in any other time in American history. There are two approximate reasons for this recent outbreak of fatherless families: recent research suggests that a sharp increase in the divorce rate and the fact that it is more socially acceptable for women to conceive children outside of marriage are the reasons why fathers are not in the lives of their children. Fathers leave for many reasons. These reasons can range from repeating the cycle of their own fatherless childhoods, to low self-esteem, and the want to start a new life with another woman who does not want his “baggage”. Whatever the reason may be, the effects of not having another father leave a scar on a child for the rest of his or her life.
Families without fathers in their household suffer in many ways. One of the universal effects on children when a father abandons his family is a decreased standard of living. Children with a missing father are five times more likely to be poor. Statistics show that the household incomes of divorced or separated families instantly decline by about twenty-one percent on average and will stay in a steady decline afterwards. The main breadwinner is now the mother who usually earns considerably less than the father did. The courts can award child support but it is usually not enough to support the same standard of living.
In the case of unmarried mothers, the financial picture is usually worse. Single mothers start out with only one income, usually low paid and if the father is not working or if he is working and decides to quit his job because he does not want to pay child support, the mother is stuck in a difficult situation. If the mother is receiving public assistance and turns the father in for child support, it is a good chance that the child will become an adult before he or she gets any type of financial support.
Fathers who live in a separate household tend to become economically selfish in caring for the children and distrustful of how the money they give is being spent. A decreased standard of living affects the child in many aspects. In some cases, families are forced to move to low income housing. The quality of education declines and the money for after school activities and childcare are almost nonexistent. Children in these cases suffer a kind of “culture shock” and most are two young to understand what is happening.
Children with a missing father are two times more likely to drop out of high school or get a higher education. A college education can be problematic for two reasons. The first is the inability of the mother to afford the costs of a college education. In addition, it also common for absent fathers to refuse to pay for a child’s higher education, even if they have paid regular child support . The second reason is relevant to daughters than to sons. In search of a lost sense of security, women tend to forgo college and enter the workforces. Earning money of their own gives them a feeling of independence from men. Young women who have watched their mothers beg for money in court for child support vow to never be put in that situation. They view neediness with disgust and see a paycheck as freedom from those chains. Unfortunately, most of these young women do not realize that in today’s society, a higher education is necessary to meet career success and monetary compensation.
When a child’s father abandons him or her at whatever age, he sends the message loud and clear that the child is not worthy and if he makes little or no attempt to continue the relationship, these children will find the road to adulthood hard. Young boys tend to get involved in gang activity and young girls tend to become sexually active at a younger age. Many become teenage mothers and raise their children alone without fathers, continuing the cycle. They have a greater than average for male attention and tend to seek men who will ultimately disappoint them. When these women do find a mate, the often need to reciprocate the unmet needs of closeness and communication they did not get from their fathers. When these needs are not met, they either retreat or prove irrational behavior. The term for this repetition compulsion; the need to get out our unconscious conflicts, to keep replaying the unfinished business of our lives until we work it out or destroys us (Goulter & Minninger p. 185).
A child can lose their parent by abandonment or by death. Of the two, death is considered healthier for children. Death, unlike abandonment, is not seen a failure of love. A child knows their parent did not want to die, but will know that a parent who leaves out his or her life did not want to be bothered and will be affect by this act forever. Fatherlessness is social problem brought on by the breakdown of traditional family values. The victims are innocent children who did not ask to be born. David Blakenhorn (1995) studied the epidemic of fatherless families and concluded that it is one of America’s most urgent social problems. He states that it weakens the family unit, harms children, causes or aggravates some of society’s worst problems, and makes individual adult happiness harder to make.
As a little girl, I never had the pleasure of having a father in my life. I grew up without having the most special man in young girl’s life, the one who would love you unconditionally, even if you got pimples and fat. I had to struggle alone without a father and make my way through life with having this type of security. I never knew what it was to feel safe and secure in a father’s love. Tonight, almost forty percent of children in America will go to bed without their fathers in their lives, just as I did. I hope that their fathers will come back to them unlike mine.