Amid Talk of Absentee and Deadbeat Fathers and Working Mothers, One Fact Shouldn't Be Ignored: Many Men Are Changing the Face of Parenting by Becoming More Involved Than Ever in Their Children's Lives. Generation Dad Fathers, Kids Both Benefit from Interaction

By Bull, Roger | The Florida Times Union, June 21, 1999 | Go to article overview

Amid Talk of Absentee and Deadbeat Fathers and Working Mothers, One Fact Shouldn't Be Ignored: Many Men Are Changing the Face of Parenting by Becoming More Involved Than Ever in Their Children's Lives. Generation Dad Fathers, Kids Both Benefit from Interaction


Bull, Roger, The Florida Times Union


These can be busy times for fathers.

Reginald Iszard fills his free time volunteering at his daughter's school, helping her with her homework, taking his son and daughter to the park. He's given up his league bowling night, but he's got big plans to teach his children to swim this summer.

George Francisco will coach both his children's soccer teams this fall. That's four practices a week and two games every Saturday. He attends 8-year-old Travis' Cub Scout meetings every week. And 5-year-old Kaitlyn wants to join Daisy Scouts. That'll take some more of Dad's time.

"That pretty well eliminates golf," Francisco said.

Kevin Eggleston has been big into Girl Scouts for 10 years now. He's a troop leader.

And even though Clive Morgan shares custody with his ex-wife, he's still in the Indian Guides with 7-year-old Kyle and 5-year-old Brett. He's at all their soccer and T-ball practices and games. He'll be coaching next fall, that's after the summer reading program, of course.

Today is Father's Day, and fatherhood is a very talked-about thing these days, what with absentee dads, deadbeat dads and working moms. About 1,000 fatherhood programs have popped up nationwide, most encouraging men to be better fathers.

Many, like Iszard and Francisco, Eggleston and Morgan are working pretty hard at it already.

When Wade Horn, president of National Fatherhood Initiative, describes fatherhood at the end of the 20th century, he pulls out the old Charles Dickens quote: "It's the best of times, it's the worst of times."

His group's ambitious aim, he said, is "to improve the well-being of children by increasing the number of loving, involved fathers."

The bad news, the worst-of-times part of the equation, is that about one of three children, about 25 million of them, are growing up without their father in the home with them.

"That doesn't mean that children who don't have fathers in the home will all be basket cases," Horn said. "But studies show that problems come much quicker for those children."

It's the best of times, Horn said, "for children who are lucky enough to grow up with a love-the-mother, married father. They are likely to have significantly more interaction with fathers than their fathers had with them."

It's that interaction between father and child that so many experts are analyzing and encouraging. They're finding it has many benefits.

Studies show that the children of involved fathers have fewer behavior problems. Girls with fathers actively involved in their lives are more likely to delay sex and less likely to do drugs or alcohol. And so on.

There are plenty of people, such as Horn, who think that the fathers who are around -- the non-absentee, non-deadbeat dads -- are spending much more time being dads than past generations of fathers did.

Even fathers think that. In a survey last month, BabyTalk magazine found 85 percent of dads say they get more joy out of fatherhood than their own fathers did.

Ross Parke is a professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside who has spent his career studying fatherhood. By the way, he's 60 years old and has six children, ages 8 to 33.

"I'm walking the walk," he said.

There has been substantial change in the 30 years Parke has been studying father involvement. More dads are simply spending more time with the children, he said.

"It's still not equitable," he said. "Women are still doing more. I started studying this in the late '60s. By the 1970s, I thought there'd be a revolution by now, that man would be right alongside the woman, changing diapers. Instead, they're just helping more. The revolution is more of a slow evolution."

The central factor for the change, he said, is that more women are working. Mothers can't devote all their time to the children and fathers can't bask in their once-role of sole breadwinner. …

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