Fathers who participate actively in their childrens lives confer tremendous advantages for their childrens futures. Conversely, the absence of a father leaves a huge gap in a childs life. Children in father-absent homes are 5 times as likely to live in poverty, at significantly higher risk for substance abuse and teen pregnancy, twice as likely to drop out of school, and more likely to get in trouble with the law.
Unfortunately, those statistics represent a huge number of children: 27 percent of fathers in the U.S. live separately from at least one of their minor children. According to a Pew Research Center report released in time for Fathers Day, thats twice as many as in 1960.
Births to unwed mothers account for 41 percent of the children born in the United States. Those two statistics are not exactly parallel; there are many two-adult households whose parents are not wed. Still, the number suggests less stability for children, because men who are not married to a childs mother are far less likely to live with the child.
Three-fourths of fathers aged 20-24 had children out of wedlock, perhaps not a surprising number, but for fathers aged 35-44, the figure was still 36 percent. Educational level matters: Only 13 percent of men with at least a bachelors degree had children outside of marriage, compared with 65 percent who didnt finish high school and 51 with a high school diploma. Race matters too, but the lowest number, for white men, was still 37 percent. The birth rate to unwed mothers is eight times what it was in 1960.
Fathers who stick around to do the hard work of parenting their children deserve a great deal of credit this Fathers Day. Likewise, fathers who commit to parenting children they didnt help to create should be applauded. Thanks, too, to all the other men who serve as role models: teachers, coaches, pastors, neighbors and even strangers. Children thank you. Mothers thank you. Society should appreciate you as well.