Following are some sobering facts and figures from Man in the Mirror that illustrate the problems we face in today’s culture. This isn’t an exercise in finger pointing, but a cry for everyone to recognize the need to develop real relationships with our children, and to be there when kids who are missing a parent need an adult mentor. This is especially true for boys who are living with a single mom. For some ideas on how you can help, see the article “Father Five: Reversing the Generational Spiral” from Man in the Mirror.
- FATHERLESSNESS: There 72,000,000 children in the United States under 18 years of age. Tonight, 33% of these children will go to bed in a home without a biological father (U. S. Census Bureau. 2001. Living arrangements of children [Electronic version] : U. S. Census Bureau, U. S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration).
- DIVORCE AND CHILDREN: About 40% of first marriages end in divorce, and more than 1,000,000 children are part of a divorce each year ( American Academy of Pediatrics. 2003. Family pediatrics report of the task force on the family [Electronic version]. Pediatrics, 111 (6), 1541-1571).
- BREAKDOWN OF FAMILIES: Teachman, Tedrow, and Crowder documented changes in the family over the last three decades. These changes include a tendency to marry later or not at all, increased divorce, an increase in children born out of wedlock, a decrease in households composed of families, a decrease in family households of two parents with children, an increase in children spending part of their childhood in a single parent household, and an increase in multiple changes for children’s living arrangements. Their research led the authors to conclude, “It is no longer the case that a child born today can expect to live his or her childhood with both biological parents.” (Teachman, J. D., Tedrow, L. M., & Crowder, K. D. 2000. The changing demography of america ‘s families [Electronic version]. Journal of Marriage & Family, 62 (4), 1234-1246).
- HARRIED LIFESTYLES: Dobson concluded that “harried lifestyles” are “the primary reason for the breakdown of the family” (Dobson, J. 2001. Bringing up boys . Wheaton , IL : Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., p. 102).
- TWO PARENT FAMILIES: Growing up with both biological parents matters. Lang and Zagorsky found that children who grow up with both biological parents achieve significantly better results educationally, in marriage, and economically. They receive better grades, on average complete one year more of schooling, are 10% more likely to graduate from high school, are more likely to marry, earn more income, and accumulate more wealth. (Lang, K., & Zagorsky, J. L. 2001. Does growing up with a parent absent really hurt? [Electronic version]. Journal of Human Resources, 36 (2), 253-273).
- CHILDREN IN POVERTY: A central question asked by the Family Pediatrics Task Force on the Family was, “What is lost, apart from things related to income, when fathers are not part of children’s lives?” They found women and children are severely punished when a husband and father is not present in the home. Income for single women head of households is only 47% of married couple family income. As a result, the probability of children living in poverty is five times greater in single women households ( Pediatrics, 2003).
- WORKING MOMS: Not surprisingly, 76.2% of widowed, divorced or separated mothers with children under 6 were employed in 2001. Surprisingly, however, 62.5% of mothers with children under 6 and husband present were employed (a 58% increase since 1970), and 77.7% of mothers with children 6 to 17 and husband present were employed (U. S. Census Bureau 2002. Statistical Abstract of the United States . No. 570).
- WORKING MOMS: Peter Drucker observed, “We are busily unmaking one of the proudest social achievements in the nineteenth century, which was to take married women out of the work force so they could devote themselves to family and children” (Drucker, quoted in Gilder, G. 1986. Men and marriage . Gretna , LA : Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.).
- THE PRICE OF DIVORCE: Perhaps the greatest cost to the physical absence of fathers in the home has been to create the practical absence of mothers in the home. Essentially, one person must now do the work of two. As a young woman who grew up in a single parent home said, “When my mom and dad divorced I didn’t just lose my dad. I also lost my mom because she had to work long hours to support us.”