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 www.DadsRights.com.)