Magazine article IPA Review

Fathers Needed

Magazine article IPA Review

Fathers Needed

Article excerpt

THIRTY years ago American Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a report called The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. In it he wrote these words: "The break-up of the black family is the single most important social fact of the United States today." The central insight of his report was that family stability should be the basis of social legislation. Said Moynihan, "A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future---that community asks for and gets chaos."

Unfortunately his words went largely unheeded, and today the disintegration of the black family is nearly complete. Less than a third of all-black children in America are born into a family where a father is present and, according to some projections, only six per cent of black children will live with both rents through age 18.

Social scientist: Charles Murray has warned that white families are heading. in the same direction, and we will soon see the emergence of a white underclass. "Illegitimacy," he warns, "is the single most important social problem of our time---more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else" ('The Coming White Underclass', The Wall Street Journal, 29 October, 1993).

While Moynihan's words went unheeded 30 years ago, today most people accept his conclusions. Even President Clinton is now taking about the importance of marriage and the right of children to be born into a home with two parents.

But is it too late?

WELL-BEING AT STAKE: The disappearance of marriage and the collapse of fatherhood are admirably examined by David Blankenhorn in Fatherless America. The book is based on a wealth of statistical information, including the fact that "tonight, about 40 per cent of American children will go to sleep in homes in which their fathers do not live." (In Australia, the number of children who live in one-parent families totals over a million or 15 per cent of all children.) "Fatherlessness," argues Blankenhorn, "is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation." The primary results of this trend are "a decline in children's well-being and a rise in male violence, especially against women."

The problem is not just the absence of fathers, but "the absence of our belief in fathers." Recalling the findings of Margaret Mead and others that the supreme test of any civilization is whether it can socialize men by teaching them to be fathers, Blankenhorn traces the disappearance of the idea of fatherhood in contemporary culture, and the effects this has on our children and our society.

While he acknowledges that the so-called traditional family was not without problems, he sees the move to a fatherless society as a far greater dilemma. As fatherhood becomes devalued, decultured and deinstitutionalized, the problems associated with inner-city America will only compound themselves. We now know without question that the overwhelming generator of violence among young men is the fatherless family. There are now a multitude of studies available which make it perfectly clear that fatherlessness is the major factor in crime, more than race, poverty or any other social variable.

This affects every aspect of life. …

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