Children are born with an innate need for fathering. The early needs of an infant and toddler are more specifically met by it's mother. But from early childhood onward such needs as emotional and psychological development, encouragement, gender identity formation, physical affection and verbal affirmation, when addressed by a devoted father.
Wade Horn of the National Fatherhood Initiative (an organization which tracks the interaction and involvement of a father in a child's life) remarked, "the greatest social tragedy of the last 30 years has been the collapse of fatherhood. According to long-time fathering researcher Henry Biller, the average daily amount of one-to-one father/child contact in the United States is "less than thirty minutes". Biller also found that fewer than 25 percent of young boys and girls in two-parent households experience an average of at least an hour a day of individualized contact with their fathers ( Biller, "The Father Factor"...) In one major national study of students in grades six through twelve, conducted by the Search Institute of Minneapolis, almost 20 percent of the children reported not having had a good conversation (lasting at least ten minutes) with their mom or dad within the last month.( Benson, The Troubled Journey Minneapolis: Search Institute, 1993, 84 )
Indeed, not only has the importance of a father's role been challenged, but also the very idea that fathers are even necessary at all. Out of this debate there has emerged a negative portrayal of the male gender and traits that seem to be innate in the masculine psyche, leaving a virtual vacuum in terms of any standard by which young boys and youth can attempt to aspire. Henri Nouwen, a parish priest and author, accurately predicted in 1972 that the coming generation would be known by its sense of "inwardness, convolusiveness, and fatherlessness". (Nouwen, "Generation Without Fathers") Consider the legacy of the disappearing father. Fatherlessness, either through physical or emotional absence, has had the following effects:
· Fatherless children are more likely to commit crimes and engage in substance abuse. A 1994 report from the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services found just 12 percent of the delinquents in state custody were from a two-parent family. A 1980 study of female delinquents in the California Youth Authority found just 7 percent came from intact families. ( Fagan, "The Real Root .)
· On average, fatherless children score lower on tests and have lower grade point averages. Family scholar Barbara Dafoe Whitehead says, "Even after making considerations for race, income and religion, scholars find significant differences in educational attainment between children who grow up in intact families and children who do not." (Whitehead, "Dan Quayle...")
· Children in father-absent families are five times more likely to be poor and ten times more likely to be extremely poor.( Nelson, "Kids Count")