Thursday, January 26, 2012

Absentee fathers a growing epidemic in America

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Absentee fathers a growing epidemic in America
By Jeffery M. Leving

One in three children in America, according to the U.S. Census, live in homes where their biological father is absent.

I recognize that this trend is worsening not becoming better, reaching epidemic proportions that must be addressed.

Oftentimes we turn to the statistics, which show that this problem is acute. But sometimes we have to assess our changing cultural norms that are sometimes best portrayed in the mainstream entertainment media.

When I was young, television had a dramatic power over manipulating our perceptions and in turn our attitudes.

The TV was filled with programs that reinforced the image of a family as being one with not only strong mothers, but strong fathers working in partnership.

Today, for a lot of reasons, that has changed. Instead of programs like Father Knows Best, the Brady Bunch or even Andy of Mayberry which reinforced the notion that single-parent fathers can raise their child with success in our changing world, we now have violence defining manhood to young boys and porno to watch.

We also have programs that minimize or deprecate the role of fathers.

Today’s popular TV genres about families often subjugate the role of the father to a status considered insignificant.

A good example of this is in the reality show TV genre. And one program in particular that I believe reflects this minimization of the importance of a father figure in today’s society is “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

Forget about the sex and the scandals. That’s the distraction from the real challenge we face. What I see when I watch the Kardashians is a family out of control driven by the absence of a father figure. The biological father is gone and replaced by a substitute father, Bruce Jenner, who is marginalized and often belittled in the television reality show. In fact, it seems as if his role is intentionally defined as the punching bag for all that goes wrong.

Reality shows like this are often brushed aside by some as “trash TV,” but the reality is that these types of programs can have dramatic consequences for our young people and how they engage parental responsibility and fathers rights when they come of age.

I am concerned about our society. And while I don’t want to blame the Kardashians as the only source for this trend, they are symptomatic of a wider problem.

The notion that romanticizing families with absent fathers or even weak father figures is a dangerous one, especially if it has no counter balance in our society.

And our society needs to fight to restore the parental balance in the environment in which children are raised.

We know from the data, that children raised in father-absent environments can be prone to problems and challenges that include poverty, crime and jail time, teen pregnancy, abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and even obesity.

It can be particularly acute on girls who learn to live without a caring or loving male figure in their lives, creating challenges for them in terms of how to deal with men when they become older. That could explain the excessive drama of the Kardashian girls.

The role of a father must be protected. Our judicial system needs to overcome gender bias that places all blame for divorce on the father or male partner.

This is one reason why I have been so pro-active in reaching out to help men in divorce. I recognize that defending fathers rights in divorce is not just about their share of assets and their immediate family, but also because insuring that fathers rights are protected has a direct impact on improving the world in which our children are raised. Any man’s loss of a child diminishes mankind.

The consequences of father absence is directly addressed in many of my books and publications. It’s important.

Our society has an important stake in insuring that fathers rights are protected. And one way to do that is to protect how we view fathers.

(Named one of “America’s Best Lawyers” by Forbes Radio, Jeffery Leving is the author of two ground-breaking books, Fathers’ Rights and Divorce Wars. He can be reached at


  1. Ray, thank you for this. I did not even know about the TV problem that seems to be promoting this horrible behavior. Please keep helping fathers and the children that need their biological fathers for their health. My child has been abducted for 8 months, she does not know what happened to her safe, caring, and loving, father and has not been able to even see me once in months and months even with the court system, LAPD, and other agencies trying to help.

  2. Currently divorced fathers have a lot of resentment in how custodial parents manipulate the system often using malicious tactics to gain total control and domination over the non custodial father and children. Men have lost any faith and totally mistrust the family courts and the social systems they see as unfair and bias to fathers and men. Many times in the past courts have issue orders in favor of the father only to see the mother’s break them at will with no consequences. Also they see over and over again these hateful women groups pushing a bias political agenda in destroying fatherhood and making fathers out to be nothing but monsters when it comes to children and ex-wives, I hope the public will one day see how hateful these women’s groups themes are. Also many normal every day men find it very hard to repeatedly try and get access to their child having to approach a woman who treats him with utter hatred every time he tries to communicate or see his child and when she does allow it, it’s all about drilling the child into obtaining cash, spying on him to obtain ever higher child support payments for the mother or in assisting her in obtaining a court order to keep him away. Also I would like to add that in today’s hard economic world, economic pressures pull at all family ties. Underemployment, unemployment and low pay increases hostility between ex husbands and ex wives over supporting their children many are having a harder time of it, but impoverishing one parent it not going to help. I choose not to have any contact with my daughter simple because she as a malicious self serving mother and of my fear of the current legal and social systems that carries’ such a huge bias towards fathers and men in general. I lost a child and no one tried to help, assist or comfort my child or me in anyway, that’s say’s a lot about the current system and the wreckage it has done with its focus on child support payments and women’s issues. Economically most fathers are forced out of their children’s lives right from the beginning and they see no reason to try and stay, they simple can’t afford to and with so many bias towards them why would they. It’s that simple!

  3. I really like the information you provided. Most similar to my situation also.
    Absentee Father's-Does anyone stop to think that some of these Father's just don't have the means to fight for the right's they are suppose to have. Some don't even know what their rights are. Then there is the costs of finding out. There are Father's out there that try to do what is within their means just to have a relationship with their children after the other parent and or the court take them away. No reasons, just "your out of the picture now because we say so" and they have no say in what happens. The old saying "you get what you pay for" is true in all aspects of life. I only had the means to start with a ProBono attorney, "you pay nothing and you get nothing"! Where does "the best interest of the children" fit in?
    When you finally do have some money to start the fight for your rights to be a part of your children's lives that is shot down because it costs so much more then you could imagine to get the right lawyer to do the job for you.
    When any and all attempts of the Fathers fail for them, they have no other choice but to give up-and they wonder why there are so many absentee Fathers, really, what are they suppose to do.
    Our economy has pushed many Fathers away, our justice system is a complete joke, it's all about who you know and or how much money you have. We hear everyday about corruption coming out everywhere, does this not give us warning of not being able to trust anyone in our society. Unwed mothers always get custody of the children, the Father's are left out completely of their children's lives unless they have the means to fight for them. They all hide behind this "the best interest of the children" but yet still make it difficult for the Father's to be in their lives. A Father puts his complete trust in a Lawyer, his complete life with his children on the line and this is what happens.
    I read an article (The Role of Fathers in Socializing Children)it said, Father's seem more likely than mothers to challenge and stretch children to achieve more. Many Fathers urge children to take initiative, to tolerate risks, and to experiment with unfamiliar activities and situations.Fathers also tend to focus on playing with their children, and Fathers' play generally is physically stimulating. Roughhousing with Fathers seems to develop children's courage and willingness to take risks.
    Researchers who have studied parents' interactions with children, conclude that Fathers and mothers typically contribute in unique and valuable ways to their children's development and self-esteem(Galvin,2006; Popenoe,1996; Stacey,1996). Fathers especially seem prepared to help their sons and daughters develop confidence, autonomy, and high expectations of themselves. Researchers conclude that both mothers and Fathers make substantial and unique contributions to the full development of children.
    What is a Father to do????
    There are two websites you might want to visit for more information,
    American Coalition for Fathers and Children at and The National Fatherhood Project at if these are still available to you-if you would like to check on them.