Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Father Presence in a Community and Levels of Violent Crime A Dynamic beyond the Arm of the Law

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Father Presence in a Community and Levels of Violent Crime A Dynamic beyond the Arm of the Law

Article excerpt

The perception of the influence of the American father-figure upon his developing children has undergone several revisions since the middle of the 20th century. Academic literature and government policies have tended to minimize or marginalize his influence - qua father - as either supernumerary or irrelevant. This article suggests that the father-presence correlates strongly with lessened violence in a community whereas the absence of a father is also strongly correlated with elevated levels of violent crime within that community. The predictability is found both concurrently and with a generation lag. Although correlation does not equate to causation, and other factors affecting the respective types of families may play all or part of the causal role, the correlations are highly suggestive that paternal presence is at least a contributory factor.

Key Words: Violent crime; Unemployment; Non-marital births; Fatherchild relations; Father-absent families; Father-present families; Family contributors to violent crime and promiscuity.

The image of the father figure in the United States has been, in effect, a kaleidoscope that has been repeatedly turned by academics, the literati, and policy makers within the last half century.1 This article addresses the relationship of the presence and absence of fathers (1) to violent crime committed by male children and (2) to the promiscuity of female children, a relation that, in turn, involves the criminal justice system.

Background

Until very recently - the latter part of the 20th century - the social father was a given in virtually any and all societies around the globe.2 Two very distinct and opposing interpretations are now given about what the father's role may be within the United States today (and, indeed, within any other society with an industrialized or service-oriented economy).

First, the argument is made that fathers in the past have served the dual roles of protector and provider, both essential to the survival of their wives as well as their children, but that current governmental protectors, viz. local police, state police, the National Guard, and the nation's armed forces, have efficiently and successfully undertaken the role of protector. The husband/father, who is less well trained for this role, is not needed. Similarly, governmental agencies, through local, state, and federal programs, have made death from privation and malnutrition extremely unlikely. Hence, the father's role of provider can also be supplanted either by working mothers and/or by governmental agencies. The argument finishes with the conclusion that social fathers in an industrialized, service-oriented, informationbased economy represent an anachronism and are best understood as being somewhere between supernumerary or optional.

An opposing view argues that the sheer omnipresence of social fathers strongly infers important functions of fatherhood that transcend differences in economies, religions, political structures, ecologies or diets.

This article initially examines the second position and argues that, across generations, social dynamics lend an inherent advantage to the public safety of those communities that adheres men/fathers to the mother-child dyad and lend an inherent disadvantage to the public safety to those communities that systematically exclude men from the status-role complex of the social father. Framed a little differently, it is argued that those communities that keep the nuclear family intact will have more of a ply of public safety than will the communities whose expectations view the social father as either superfluous or optional. The focus of this inquiry is more upon the relationship between father absence/presence and rates of (violent) crime and not upon making value judgments about social desirability or about appropriate versus inappropriate lifestyles.3

This article then addresses a (presumed) lack of developmental theory that would cogently and parsimoniously link the increased absence of a community's on-going biological and residential and social father with an elevated level of violent crime a generation later. …

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