Fathers are important in the lives of their children. They interact with kids differently than moms and provide a male role model for both boys and girls. Why is that important? Studies show that boys with involved dads are less likely to get in trouble with the police as they get older and having a positive role model helps boys to adopt a healthy gender identity as well as a better awareness of their feelings and emotions. Girls reap similar benefits. Researchers at the University of Oxford noted that girls who had more involved fathers were less likely to experience mental health problems later in life. Authentic praise and admiration from a father can help his daughter grow into an independent, confident woman.

Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, stated, “Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers.”

Unfortunately many children grow up in homes without dads. The number of children living in two-parent, married households has decreased significantly during the past 30 years, from 88 to 69 percent, yet the need for both paternal and maternal influence is critical to a child’s wellbeing.

Homes without Dads

Researchers believe that more than 17 million American children live in households without their fathers present. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics released last November, America has experienced a drop of six percent in the number of two-parent families during the past 15 years, from 75 percent in 1990 to 69 percent last year. Of single-parent households, 23 percent of children lived with only their moms and four percent lived with only their dads.

The report also states that of the 50.7 million children living in two-parent families, 47.7 million live with two married parents and 3.0 million live with two unmarried parents. In fact, the Bureau reports that about 38 percent of opposite-sex unmarried couples have a child under age 18 living with them.

Experts estimate that one out of four American children reside in households without a father; about 40 percent of those live in poverty.  Nearly half of all single moms have never been married.

The Importance of Fathers and Father-Figures

Whether a child’s father has died, abandoned his kids, or is absent due to divorce or not in relationship with the biological mother, the absence of a positive male role model has been attributed to a myriad of problems, including poverty, crime, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and infant mortality. Additionally, kids raised in father-absent homes are more likely to drop out of high school, and therefore, have less chance of stable, satisfactory employment.

Research indicates that children from fatherless homes account for 90 percent of runaway or homeless kids, 85 percent of youths in prisons, 75 percent of teens in drug treatment programs, 71 percent of pregnant teens, 71 percent of high school dropouts, and 63 percent of youth suicide. Research also shows that children who are mentored by positive father figures are less likely to use drugs or alcohol and to resort to violence and are more likely to get better grades in school.

Dads provide positive influences upon their children, from attending and supporting baseball and basketball games to experiencing hiking and fishing adventures. One of our staff members lost her father-in-law a few years ago. Her husband, now more than 60 years of age, remembers camping trips and baseball games shared with his dad as well soap box derby cars made with his help and car races attended with him. Those memories are engrained forever, positive times treasured in the son’s heart, even as he ages.

What Can You Do?

Check out “Single Mom: Why Include Dad in your Child’s Life?” for ideas on how to include Dad when he lives outside of the household. If it’s not possible to include the father in your children’s lives, there are other options to help them. Children whose fathers are absent can benefit from father figures, including step-fathers, uncles and grandfathers. There are also mentoring programs, including Fathers in the Field and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Another True Care staff member, who is a widow, saw the benefits of Fathers in the Field on her own children after their father’s passing. If you’re a single mom in the Casper area, consider enrolling your son or daughter into one of these local mentoring programs.

Father’s Day is Sunday, June 18. Casper Housing Authority will host, for the fifth year, a big Father’s Day event in Washington Park on Saturday, June 17, from 11 am to 4 pm. This weekend, celebrate dad, celebrate being a dad, or perhaps take on the role of a dad and speak positive words to and engage in positive actions with a young person. And, if you’re a single mom wishing your child had a positive male role model, look into the above-mentioned programs for your child – his or her life may be drastically impacted for the better.