“Because he loves me,” the young girls said, in response to Dr. Amanda Boyd’s question of why they would commit a crime with their romantic partner. They admitted to her that they probably wouldn’t have committed the crime if not for their boyfriend.
Dr. Boyd said that, of the girls she met when she volunteered at a facility for juvenile delinquents, only one of them had a father that they knew. They sought the affirmation of men in other, less healthy ways, most likely because of this lack in their life.
Children need a father.[i] They need a man to look up to, and to emulate (in the case of a boy) or to learn how they should be treated by one (in the case of a girl). Check out some of the research that shows the effect of fatherlessness on our kids.
This isn’t some ideological stance that is particular to the Church. Even Oprah talks about how “daddyless daughters” struggle with self-worth. Secular authors write about how dating a woman without a father has particular challenges and that women can have Fatherless Daughter Syndrome. There’s a Fatherless Daughter Project just for them. There’s loads of social science research backing it up.[ii]
There are some initiatives out there that seek to alleviate some of these effects, such as “Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” and these are laudable. But no one can really take the place of your own father.
Question: What can our society do to encourage men to be good fathers and to be involved in their children’s lives even if they are not married to the mother?
[i] An interesting (secular) take on this need is Paul Raeburn, Do Fathers Matter? (New York: Scientific American, 2014).
[ii] There are too many studies out there to even begin to do a systematic review. Here’s a nice simple one from 2014: Anna Sutherland, “Yes, Father Absence Causes the Problems It’s Associated With,” Institute for Family Studies, http://family-studies.org/yes-father-absence-causes-the-problems-its-associated-with/ (accessed February 10, 2017).