Fathers have been cast aside in our society. Whether it be called out as “toxic masculinity”, “patriarchy”, or is just good old fashioned man hating, the lie has been perpetuated and accepted in society that fathers are unnecessary outside of providing donor sperm. What is not recognized, is it is “toxic masculinity” that teaches boys how to treat women the right way, how to be respectful of others, and how to raise and protect a family of their own. That “patriarchy” is what enables the father to provide leadership for the family.
God’s word is clear, the man is to be the head of the household, “For a husband is the head of the wife as the wife as Christ is the head of the church. (Ephesians 5:23). What the verse does not imply is to rule it tyrannically, as many portray with the “toxic masculinity” or “patriarchy” rhetoric. This verse is a call to men to be the leaders God designed them to be. The passage in Ephesians continues on to make clear that the wife is to submit to the husband, “As the church submits to Christ, so you wives should submit to your husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:24) The passage also makes it clear that a man is to love his wife, whether she submits to him as commanded by God or not (verse 25). That love is to be unconditional in that regard. In this regard, there is nothing toxic or patriarchal about the role of the man and father in the household. It’s been this idea that patriarchy and masculinity are irrelevant to today’s world that has led to the breakdown of the family. It’s been this ideology that has caused a diminishing view of the importance of a father in a child’s life.
Removing the father from a child’s life can lead to many different issues in the development of children who grow up absent this important relationship. If there are not fathers in the family teaching boys how to become men, and teaching girls they deserve to be treated as the precious jewels God created them to be, there can be a whole host of problems that result in that child’s development that potentially carry on into adulthood.
Before moving into the effects of not having a father in the life of a child, it’s important to note that fatherlessness isn’t just due to deadbeat dads. While there are some fathers out there who cut and run from their responsibility, policy decisions and rulings in court custody proceedings have just as big of an impact on keeping fathers away. Policy makers and judges do not consider the social and psychological impacts of relegating the father to the back seat of the parenting bus. As time as gone on, fathers have taken an increasingly active role in the raising and caregiving of their children. However, for all the wokeness that has engulfed society, it appears our courts and policy makers are still stuck in “traditional” gender roles when it comes to raising children. Children need both parents, they benefit greatly in their development from having consistent and unencumbered access to both parents. They should have it in all but the rarest of cases (anything where the child would be in situation where the parent is an addict, puts the child in physical danger or the child is mentally abused). Policy makers and the divorce court justices need to consider the total ramifications of relegating fathers, as Lybi Ma puts it, to nothing more than “accessory parents”. Our social institutions, who are there to supposedly ensure the well-being of our children, often end up causing more harm than good with their short sighted and antiquated ideas of a father’s role as caregiver and importance in a child’s life.
So what do we see in terms of the impacts of pushing the father out of a child’s life? First, there can be behavioral problems. Kids that do not have active relationships with their fathers tend to act out as an expression of frustration to their life situation. They know they are missing something in their life, but they may not yet have the words to express exactly what it is they are feeling. So they turn to manifesting their frustrations through actions and behaviors vs. using words to describe what it is they are experiencing. These behaviors are over and above the normal rebellion and defiance seen within kids who are growing and maturing and are trying to show they are independent individuals. These are disruptive and destructive behaviors that if not recognized and addressed, can lead to bigger issues as adults.
Kids who have a lack of father in their life are more prone to depression and suicide. They experience a sadness that kids aren’t necessarily equipped to handle by not having a father in their life. As a result, they suffer depression and self-esteem issues that unfortunately can lead to suicide. Children who live a life absent a father in the picture are 4.6 time more likely to choose suicide over those who have both parents present and active in their life.
Kids who lack a father can have trouble socializing with others. The absent relationship with their father causes the child to doubt their ability to connect with others. Having the father in their life helps complete the picture for the child as far as how to develop relationships. It not only helps them learn how to connect with a male, but in the case of boys, helps them learn how to respect and love a woman (assuming a good marriage/relationship between parents), and in the case of girls, helps them build the self-esteem they need to know that they deserve to be loved. The first female relationship a child has and builds is with their mother, and conversely, the first male relationship they build is with their father. If they are missing a relationship with one of the parents during their developmental years (and it is usually their father), it is a loss of learning on how to connect emotionally with other males or females. They miss out on the modeling of how to form bonds with other people from the perspective of the father.
For girls, the lack of relationship with their dad can be especially harmful in how they view their interpersonal relationships with men. They become more likely to tolerate abusive behavior from other individuals, particularly from men. The lack of a father’s love and protection over her gives her a feeling of worthlessness, and she feels she does not deserve to be treated well or loved by anyone. The love of a father has the power to build a girl up so she feels she can do anything, and that she deserves only the best. The love of a father helps a girl develop an understanding that she doesn’t need to tolerate obtuse behavior from anyone, that she has worth and that she should not settle for anything less than what brings her absolute joy. A good father models for his daughter the kind of behavior she should expect and deserves from a man.
Kids without fathers in their life often feel angry. They feel that they have been rejected. Again, kids do not necessarily have the words to express their feelings, so they lash out at others. This anger can lead them into self-destructive behaviors like drug addiction, crime, dropping out of school, running away, and teen pregnancy.
Having the father not in the life, and in reality, in the home of the child, can lead to kids not being as academically successful as those who have both parents in their lives/home. Single parents are the sole bread winner for the household, which means there is less time to devote to helping with homework. There’s typically less discipline and follow up being used in a single parent households because that parent is the breadwinner and doesn’t necessarily have the time to do so. Is this an absolute that the child will be less successful academically? Of course not, there are plenty of cases of successful people who came from single parent homes. Support structure is the key in these situations. The studies suggest, however, that kids from single parent homes have a farther to climb than those from two parent homes, and are statistically more at risk of not achieving as much academically as those from two parent households.
What can these things lead to? The anger and behavioral issues can continue with grave consequences. The lack of a father in their life a common theme among those who commit mass shootings. The vast majority of mass shooters are male (98%), and largely had absentee dads. They are depressed individuals who are socially awkward. The shooters, for the most part tend to be described as loners and kept to themselves, never really developing a relationship with anyone. Also, the ramifications of a child growing up without their father in their life can lead to more permanence of the self-destructive behaviors. The drug and alcohol addiction becomes an impediment to holding down a job. The crime as a child can lead to bigger crimes and prison time, sticking that individual in what can become an endless cycle of committing crime and subsequent prison time. Dropping out of school becomes an impediment to securing a job that pays a livable wage, and that can drive that individual down the path of some of the other issues mentioned above in perpetuity.
What can be done to change the trajectory of the situation? Pushing back on those that want to diminish the role a father has in a child’s life is a good start. There’s nothing toxic about masculinity. Patriarchy as it relates to the family is a good thing. It’s a part of God’s design for us as people. Fathers are the protectors of their family, they are the encouragers and coaches for their children. They are one half of the input into the development of a child. Fathers are essential to a child’s life. Taking a father out of a kid’s life is like taking the motor out of your car. Without a father, a child can become stuck in life, just like that car without a motor would be stuck in your driveway.
Don’t have kids outside of marriage. Seems old fashioned, I know, but studies show kids get a better start in life when both parents are married. Children in two parent homes are better off financially, have less social issues, are more involved in community activities, are better primed to go to college and are in general, healthier both as a child and when they grow into adulthood. A child born into a married family reduces that child’s probability of living in poverty by 82%.
In the case of a divorce or out of wedlock situation where the courts or social institution fails to see the value of the father being in a child’s life when ruling on visitation, the father needs to fight for their right to be in their child’s life when they get the short end of the stick in the judgement. Fathers need to fight for their rights if the mother of their child is not abiding by the court ordered decision on custody. In these instances, showing as a father that you are willing to fight to see your child, that you are willing to fight to be in their life, can go a long way in quelling a lot of issues I’ve outlined here. In the instances where the relationship the child’s mother is cordial, call your kids every night when they are not with you. Any and every effort a father can show that they are willing to do what is necessary to be a part of their child’s life will go a long way in helping that child have as healthy of a view of themselves as possible, and will help them be able to develop those meaningful connections we all desire as human beings. Fathers are an integral part of a child’s development, continuing to cast them aside will only continue to exacerbate the societal problems we see today. Having a father involved in the family is neither toxic, nor feeding some oppressive “patriarchy”, it is fulfilling the design our creator has set forth for our lives to be complete.