TV Dads Run Gamut from Great to Awful
Wetzstein, Cheryl, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
On one recent TV show, a father has an eloquent heart-to-heart talk with his teen daughter about her new boyfriend.
Switch the dial, and here's another father - a stay-at-home dad - stoutly defending his expertise in raising the children while his wife works.
Switch the dial again, and there's a father who tosses his young son into a lake, telling him it's time to sink or swim. As the boy struggles in the water, the father cavalierly tosses in another son, orders him to save his brother and pops open a can of beer.
Such are the varied portraits of American fathers on prime-time TV, as compiled by the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI).
According to five parenting criteria, a third of 31 prime-time fathers were portrayed positively, NFI President Wade F. Horn said yesterday.
Another 12 fathers were given mixed reviews and eight characters scored low enough to be judged as negative portrayals of fatherhood.
While some fathers are portrayed as "competent and involved providers who place their families' needs above their own," others are "dimwitted dolts who are dominated by their bosses, neighborhood pubs or tee times," Mr. Horn said.
TV portrayals of fathers are important because nearly 40 percent of American children do not live with their biological fathers, said Don E. Eberly, chairman of the NFI, which was founded in 1994 to confront the growing problem of father absence.
For millions of these children, "that fictitious model is the only model they see," he said.
This, the second NFI review of TV fathers, is the first to include mothers.
During March and April, NFI researchers identified 31 prime-time TV shows on six networks with mothers or fathers as central recurring characters. The 31 fathers and 30 mothers included married couples, stepparents and divorced or widowed parents.
The characters were rated in five categories - their involvement in family activities, their interaction with their children, their guidance to their children, their competence as parents, and the priority they placed on their family.
The researchers found that:
* Eleven fathers and 13 mothers were "positive" characters, ranking high in the five categories. …