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The Importance of Fathers - June 14, 2001

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

In our brave new world society, the image of "father" is definitely not what it used to be. More than one third of our nation's children now live in a home without their biological male parent present.

Artificial insemination and adoption have actually become trends in Hollywood for many female celebrities. Unfortunately, father figures for their prospective infants have not.

We learn through the tabloids that many celebrities need to have a baby in their lives to satisfy a sort of primal craving. In a world where "having it all" has become a rite of passage, how could we expect that the best interests of children would be given the highest priority?

Powerful suggestions, both overt and subtle, permeate our culture and lead many potential mothers to accept the notion that a male father figure is neither necessary nor ideal. In fact, the character of father is becoming disposable. This falsehood has been applauded by elite peddlers of information and, consequently, has ended up impacting the whole of society. The tragic result has been the grinding down of a truly meaningful and essential component of the family - Dad.

In the early stages of family formation, the father's position in a sense is more fragile than the mother's because of nature's initial roles for each of them. Fathers must actively establish their identity with their children. The fragility of the man's position, though, must not become an excuse to disregard the father's significance. On the contrary, the delicate connection of father and child is reason to bolster the role of the male parent.

As the family develops, fathers need to be encouraged to provide for their families. But what do young husbands and fathers think, when after a few years of marriage they witness their peers forfeit parental and property rights as a consequence of divorce? A young father's incentive is damaged by the realization that over half of all marriages end up in a family law courtroom where inequity within the system is on full display.

The script then seems to be transferred from one generation to another. A son is forced to wave goodbye to his father and then gaze into a future where there is a greater than 50% chance that he himself will take on the same fateful persona. Is it any wonder that the desire on the part of our young men to marry appears to be on the decline?

Much of the blame for the current plight of fathers has got to be placed squarely upon a politically and socially manipulated legal system that has lost its impartiality and balance. The institution of marriage has taken hits from all sides over the past several years, but the blows received in the legal arena have been some of the most devastating. Legal principles have all too often concentrated blindly on financial support for single mothers. This has had the unintended effect of encouraging what is least desirable for society. Fathers fleeing the scene altogether.

The law should not discriminate against those who, for unforeseen circumstances, find themselves in non-traditional family settings, but the law must not discourage family formation either. The government has been operating a type of coercive transfer of property from the productive in society to the non-productive for a while now. With the creation of the category of single mothers as heads of households, the government accelerated the process to an extraordinary extent. The generally anti-male family court system exacerbated the situation by compelling discarded fathers to subsidize ex-wives without equitable and reciprocal parental rights and privileges being granted.

The US has the distinction of being the leader in families without dads. Data demonstrate a strong connection between the absence of fathers and drug abuse, depression, dropout rates, crime and other forms of societal ills. We all know the axiom. Nature abhors a vacuum. Young boys who are deprived of male role models will seek father figures elsewhere, and society may not like their selection or the subsequent results.

At a time when young people desperately need the guidance, stability and moral strength that springs from family cohesion, our legal and government systems are methodically destroying the ties that bind. It is a mockery to remember the reason for the folly.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

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James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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