Magazine article USA TODAY

Redefining the Role of Fathers

Magazine article USA TODAY

Redefining the Role of Fathers

Article excerpt

In TV programs of the 1950s, father always knew best. He was the moral compass and family provider. Today, however, between absentee and stay-at-home dads, the prevailing image of what fatherhood should be is lost.

"It is not easy to define today's dad. We have reached a point where the different ideas of fatherhood are at odds," indicates Michael Lamb, professor of psychology, The Catholic University of America. Historically, there was less conflict over the qualities of a "good father," but the image of fatherhood never has been constant.

Lamb traces four historical perceptions of fatherhood in American culture. In colonial times, the father was viewed as the moral and ethical guardian of his family. "The father was also the educator. It was his job, more so than the mother's to instill values in his children. Most of these values were garnered from the Bible, so it was necessary to teach children to read."

During the Industrial Revolution, fathers became the family bread-winners. In the 1950s, they were expected to illustrate how to become effective men. In the 1970s, "new fathers" became actively involved in child rearing and took on more nurturing roles. …

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