It is a common belief that “the decline of fatherhood is one of the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary social trends of our time” (Tischler, 2001, p.19). However, the opposing view of this standpoint is that there is no decline in fatherhood. There are very few people saying that they doubt the fundamental importance of mothers, yet there are those that believe that the importance of a father figure is diminishing (Tischler, 2001). There are even those who see the father position in a family to be easily replaceable with another figure such as a stepfather, aunt, uncle, grandparent, or any other person (Tischler, 2001). My view on the topic of whether or not a father is needed in a family, and yes I mean the birth father, not a replacement, is based upon my own upbringing. Since I am a male and am in the position of being a potential father, it only makes sense that I see the position of the father as an instrumental one pertaining to the upbringing of a child. I am constantly surrounded by those who are in a family where either their parents are divorced and remarried, or those who live in single-parent household. I am biased on the issue of why a father figure is necessary due to the fact that I was raised, and am still being raised in a household where my parents remain married. I couldn’t possibly imagine being raised in a family that is “broken” because I’ve never experienced that situation. Therefore I find it a necessary that there be a father present in the lives of their children.
After deciding on the topic of fatherhood and why it is important, I gathered the necessary information pertaining to my topic out of the book: Marriage and the Family Issues by H.L. Tischler. After reading through the article written by David Popenoe entitled “A World Without Fathers” I was informed on the stance of why it is imperative to have a father in the house while a child is growing up. Then I was informed of the ideas and concepts that support the view that finds the father figure unnecessary by reading the article “Deconstructing the Essential Father” written by Louise B. Silverstein and Carl F. Auerbach. At the end of the chapter in the book there were related websites where I could find more information. I visited these sites, however I found them to be of little use in developing, and portraying my stance on this issue. They each seemed to be commercialized and I didn’t find any information that fit my position in this argument. From there I went to the search engine (ixquick.com) and searched for more information. I found the website (fatherhood.about.com) to be a very good site with which to research. Located at this address on the world wide web were different articles from newspapers and other publications containing information on fatherhood, fatherlessness, single fathers, and more. Under each of the previous mentioned topics, there were links to articles written with many different viewpoints, some pro, some con on the issues. The most convincing data, other then the two opposing viewpoints offered in Marriage and the Family Issues, came from one of these articles entitled, “Contributions of Dads Cover Many Fronts” written by Dr. Wade Horn. This article taken from the Washington Times gave the three different views on understanding why a son needs a father. Its answer to this dilemma is for the father to be around to do those “fatherly” duties such as;
? A father needs to be a breadwinner and support the son
? A father must be a “second pair of hands,” ultimately coming down to two is better then one.
? A father needs to sustain that unique combination of the mother-father relationship where the father takes care of the machismo acts and the mother offers the typical sensitive side (Dr. Wade Horn, 1999).
Another article that offered a great deal of information not only for my side of the argument, but for both, was the article entitled “Effects of Fatherlessness.” This study of data collected by way of population surveys includes such data as: “Children from a fatherless home are 5 times more likely to commit suicide, 32 times more likely to run away, 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders, and so on (Stuart Birks, 1996, p. 1). There are many other statistics like the ones previously mentioned in the data sheet that discuss and support the idea that fathers are a necessity in the lives of their offspring. My research concluded after I started to find the sociological views that support these theories, both my view and it’s opposing view, found in the textbook that accompanies the class. In Lindsey and Beach’s book I found three direct quotes discussing the views of different sociological methods that pertained to the family role of the father. As pertaining to support my view that fathers are necessary figures, I found that the Functionalist point of view supports my claim. It mentions that it is more beneficial to the child if there are “nonoverlapping instrumental and expressive gender roles where the husband-father has ultimate decision making power” (Lindsey & Beach, 2000, p.376). The other sociological view, the Conflict Theory, supports the other claim, that there is not a need for a father due to the social placement which “promotes female subservience, neglect and poverty” (Lindsey & Beach, 2000, p.377). After successfully completing the research phase of this project I gathered my information by quoting the different sources. After compiling my highlighted quotes on note cards I was ready to shape the paper in an outline. From the outline, I wrote my paper.
Sociological Analysis and Discussion
“Some observers maintain that the United States is being divided into two groups, separate and unequal. One Group receives basic benefits… that are denied to the other group. The line deciding the two groups, say these observers, is the daily presence of a father” (Tischler, 2001, p.18). Throughout time and in many cultures fathers have, and always will be, considered essential (Tischler, 2001). Much of what they do is contribute to the growth of their children and this is simply the result of helping the mother from the position of the second adult (Tischler, 2001). The opposition of the idea that puts the father position as essential says that the advantage of living in a two-parent household has nothing to do with there being a mother and a father in the home (Horn, 1999). Only that merely the fact that when it comes to parenting, two people are better then one (Horn, 1999). The question then can be raised based on studies is if this were so, then why is it that children growing up in a single-parent household, but with another adult figure present, such as a grandparent, do not do as well as children who grew up in two-parent households (Horn, 1999)? “Apparently, it mattersgreatly to whom the “second pairs of hands” are attached” (Horn, 1999, p.2).
In order to support the reasoning behind the statement made by Dr. Horn that children in a two-parented household are better off then those who come from a single-parented household, it is necessary to show some statistics. All of the following bulleted statistics come form the survey-like data gathered in the article “Effects of Fatherlessness” gathered by Stuart Birks.
? 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
? 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes
? 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
? 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes
? Children from a fatherless home are:
? 5 times more likely to commit suicide
? 32 times more likely to run away
? 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
? 14 times more likely to commit rape
? 9 times more likely to drop out of high school
? 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances
? 20 times more likely to spend part of their lives in prison
Another fact that is of importance is what happens directly after a divorce. “The impact of parental divorce and subsequent father absence in the wake of this event has long been thought of to affect children quite negatively” (Lohr, 1989, p.3). “For instance, parental divorce and father loss has been associated with difficulties in school adjustment, social adjustment, and personal adjustment” (Lohr, 1989, p.3).
Conflict theorists argue that “when social placement
operates through patriarchal and patrilineal systems, wealth is further concentrated in the hands of males, which promotes female subservience, neglect, and poverty (Lindsey ; Beach, 2000, p.377). It is a problem that this example is often times set in a household by the father, yet this should not be considered and offense to the argument that a two-parent household is better then a single-parent household. This example set by the father figure often leads to a divorce, and this would leave the situation as a single-parent abandoned to raise the child(s).
“Functionalism tends to favor a family unit with nonoverlapping instrumental and expressive gender roles, where the husband-father figure has ultimate decision making power” (Lindsey ; Beach, 2000, p.376). This means the child, mainly the son, is seeing that the roles his parents each play are two different things. Recent research reveals that the physical play of fathers helps children, especially sons, in finding the capacity to self-regulate their emotions and behavior (Horn, 1999). At the same time however the fact that mothers often talk more to their children then their male counterpart is extremely important (Horn, 1999). “This is not to say that the “rough and tumble” play is better or worse than reading stories to one’s children, it is that kids need both” (Horn, 1999, p.2)
It is said that there are some people who think that fathers will become extinct in the future (Grant, 2000). Then there are those who think the opposite that the role of the father will become a more important one as time passes (Grant, 2000). The topic of technology being an important factor is mentioned as another reason in thinking that the father is going to be around more often (Grant, 2000). The thinking is that the world may go back to the type of society that was around in the pre-industrial era due to the internet and fathers working out of the home (Grant, 2000). This thought can not be well supported because it is only a prediction, but it is one of many that is possible.
So to answer the question; Is fatherhood being devalued? By some, yes, due to the fact that there are so many marriages ending in divorce. Fathers are often “tossed” aside because they’ve either fallen’ out love with their mate, or many of the other reasons couples divorce or separate. But it stands true, based on the facts that there is no one else who can do the job and tasks that are deemed necessary of a father better then the one person who was given the title, “birth father.”
Conclusions and Reflection
My initial thought on the father issue before all of the research and writing was that the father figure is an important one. On a deeper look into things I also thought the father in the family, in order to be most beneficial, must be the birth father. My stance did not change in researching this topic, but I did have to stop and think. While researching this topic, I thought, “hey it might not be so bad for the father to be a step-dad” because I did find some information that said a stepfather can be beneficial. I did go back to my original thought however because I found a source, which was mentioned previously, which totally debunked the thought. Horn (2000) mentioned that children get their identity from their birth parents and without them in their lives, they go through “identity crisis,” which is one thing that is not needed.
By looking at both sides of the issue I’ve found that it is easier pick apart the opposing side’s argument by looking at one issue within the main issue, and knowing what is wrong with the other side’s opinion. While researching I found that there are many issues that can be looked at with two different point of views. Take for example the issue of having a father live in the house as opposed to anywhere else found in R.C. Lohr’s article. He talked about “distant dads” and how there are many fathers who work and live in an apartment or some type of dwelling while they work and make it back to their family every now and then. He mentioned that here are these types of families who have problems with their children. The opposing side may view this topic as a way to say, “look, there’s a family with the father figure still intact and there’s a dysfunction.” My standpoint however would be that the father is gone most of the time like a father in a divorce so there are most likely going to be some problems.
In closing I’d like to give quote that put the whole topic of how important a father is in a family. But not just fatherhood, parenting as a whole. Dr. Wade Horn (2000) wrote: “Fathers are important, critically important, to the healthy development of their (children). And so, of course, are mothers. Lucky is the child who has both.”
Birks, Stuart. (24 January, 1996). Coalition of Family Support
(12 paragraphs). Effects of Fatherlessness (US Data). [On-line serial]. Available: http://fatherhood.about.com/parenting/fatherhood/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.masey.ac.nz%2F%7EKBirks%2Fgender%2Fecon%2Fnodad.htm
Grant, Travis. (14 January, 2000). Fatherhood (14 paragraphs).
Fatherhood: Past, Present, and Future. [On-line serial].
Horn, Wade. (9 March, 1999). Fatherly Advice (20 paragraphs).
Contributions of Dads Cover Many Fronts. [On-line serial]. Available: http://fatherhood.about.com/parenting/fatherhood/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fatherhood.org%2Fhorn%2Fhorn-030999.html
Lindsey, Linda L. and Stephen Beach. 2000. Sociology: Social Life
and Social Issues. Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Lohr, R.C. (Winter 1989). Clinical Observations on Interference’s
of Early Father Absence in the Achievement of Femininity (15
paragraphs). Clinical Social Work Journal V.17, #4. [On-line serial]. Available: http://fatherhood.about.com/parenting/fatherhood/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.vix.com%2Fpub%2Fmen%Fnofather%2Feffects.html
Tischler, H.L., ed. 2001. Debating Points: Marriage and the
Family Issues. Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice-Hall.