Are Fathers Essential? - From Dad's Point of View
by Dr. Ken Canfield
Copyright 1999 National Center for Fathering
Reprinted with Permission
In the News ...
Here's the latest in the continuing discussion around the question, "Are fathers essential?" In the June issue of American Psychology, Yushiva University professors Silverstein and Auerbach have drawn three conclusions: First, fathers are not crucial to a child's development. After reviewing the research, they argued, "We do not believe that the data supports the conclusion that fathers are essential to a child's well being." In the authors' view, the data suggests that neither a mother nor a father is essential to a child's well-being. Second, they debunk the notion that fathers parent differently than mothers, citing studies of other mammals-marmosets--where fathers are the primary care-givers. Third, they argue that divorce has little if any effect on children, concluding that, for boys, the lack of a male role-model after a divorce does not have a significant negative impact on their development.
To Think About ...
Do fathers contribute anything to their children that is different from what mothers bring? If you have any doubts, ask children. The differences are real. Children know it, and any thorough review of fathering research will bear it out.
Despite my disagreement with Silverstein and Auerbach, I'm thankful for their article. It reminds us of the growing number of children who have no father. We must be sensitive to this and must be certain that our discussions of the parenting differences between moms and dads aren't merely rubbing salt in these children's wounds. Instead, our discussions must focus on encouraging more men to fulfill their role as responsible fathers and father-figures. Policy makers, opinion leaders and researchers are searching for examples of men who are assuming responsibility for their children while displaying respect for the fatherless and for mothers.
In the Trenches ...ACTION POINTS for Committed Fathers
State policy makers are considering many initiatives to promote responsible fathering. In Oklahoma yesterday, we met with a cabinet secretary whose agenda to improve the overall well-being of families and children may include some special efforts designed to engage fathers. This support at the state level is important, but ultimately it will be individual dads--in Oklahoma and across the nation--who decide that being a dad is a top priority.
1. Ask your children how you and their mom differ in your parenting.
2. Ask your wife if you can assume some of the traditional or historic roles that she has played in parenting your children.
3. Review your own job description and goals this weekend in relation to your fathering. Look for areas where you can expand your role--and look for actions to demonstrate that you're a growing father.
4. If you have any doubts about what the research says about the important role of fathers, check out our web site at www.fathers.com and click on "research."
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