Fatherhood is frequently under attack in today’s world. In an effort to help support mothers who must raise their children alone, we have sometimes gone too far in that we end up suggesting fathers are unnecessary. Studies have shown that children raised without fathers suffer. While a good mother who is raising her children alone is to be admired and supported, few of them would suggest their children would not have benefitted from having a good father as well.
Studies Support the Importance of Fathers
Studies, in fact, show that children who do not have their fathers in their lives suffer serious consequences. Children whose fathers are involved in their educations have better school performance, higher IQs, and better language skills. Their literacy skills are higher and their behavior is better. Involved fatherhood leads to children with more compassion, a better understanding of gender roles, and better decision-making skills.
Children whose father has a good relationship with their mother and who spends time with her have better emotional health. Boys who see their fathers treating their mothers well are more likely to have successful romantic relationships as adults and to treat women with respect. Girls with this type of father are less likely to enter or remain in an abusive relationship. Studies show that children whose fathers are married to the mothers of their children are more likely to achieve the positive outcomes outlined above.
(See Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, U.S. Children’s Bureau Rosenberg, Jeffrey., Wilcox, W. Bradford, The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children Year Published: 2006.)
Unfortunately, despite the overwhelming research that proves that children need and benefit from strong fathers, society has launched an attack on fathers. It has made a selfish and false argument that children need a parent, but that any parent will do. The truth is that children need a father and a mother and when those two parents are their natural parents, the outcomes are better than when the adults are not. This is not to say that stepfathers and single mothers don’t play important roles in the lives of the children. A stepfather or adoptive father can provide the role-modeling and emotional support a child needs from a man. However, in the best-case scenario, children also have their natural fathers in their lives. When that best-case scenario is not possible, stepfathers and adoptive fathers can make a world of difference to a child.
Both Fathers and Mothers Are Needed as Role Models
Regardless, however, children need both a male and female parent to provide appropriate role-modeling and to demonstrate gender behaviors. Studies have shown that men and women parent differently, and so having one parent of each gender gives children a balance that is what God had in mind when He determined that children dould be born only with the participation of each gender.
The media often portrays fathers as bumbling and incompetent, something to laugh about. By doing so, they encourage the myth that fathers are unnecessary or only useful for entertainment. We need to start showing more respect for fatherhood if we want men to take their fatherhood roles seriously and if we want women to put a father into their children’s lives. Women need to be taught the importance of selecting good fathers for their children—ultimately, they have control over that choice and so they need to be taught how to recognize a potentially good father before they themselves become adults.
Society has to move away from pretending fathers are an unimportant part of a child’s life if we want to have any possibility of changing the world. World-changing begins with family-changing and that begins with mothers and fathers protecting both roles as sacred and essential. It also requires both men and women who understand the importance of fatherhood to teach those who do not understand. They need to provide the role-modeling children (and adults) do not have from their own fathers and to not be afraid to talk about fatherhood as a wonderful role for a man.
It’s time to celebrate fatherhood—not to pretend it’s an obsolete role in a child’s life.
“In my opinion, members of the Church have the most effective cure for our decaying family life. It is for men, women, and children to honor and respect the divine roles of both fathers and mothers in the home. In so doing, mutual respect and appreciation among the members of the Church will be fostered by the righteousness found there” (James E. Faust, “Fathers, Come Home,” April 1993, General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).