Arvat Vladimir
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Why Absent Fathers Harm Children and Ruin Society

Father absence is a major cause of declining child well-being in our society. It is also the driver of our most pressing social problems. And yet, despite its scale and social consequences, the problem of fatherlessness is often ignored or denied.

The family is a society in miniature. Strong and stable families contribute to the prosperity of society as a whole, while dysfunctional families push society towards decay and decay. Now, more than ever before in history, the family unit is weakened, significantly destroyed, as a huge number of children grow up without a father.

In this article, based on research by American sociologist David Papineau, we will discuss how the absence of fathers harms children and destroys society, and how this problem can be addressed. Based on available data, it is safe to say that the deprivation of paternal nurturing and influence through the physical, economic, and emotional inaccessibility of fathers to their children has become the most common form of child abuse today. Fathers are disappearing from family life and only mothers are left to take care of children, and mothers are not enough.

Approximately 40% of children are born to unmarried mothers. More than 50% of marriages end in divorce, with the mother most often gaining custody of the children. And even in families where the father is physically present, some of these fathers are not emotionally involved in the children's lives.

Some are addicted to alcohol or drugs, or even their smartphone. Others are forced to work long hours or multiple jobs to provide for the family in the face of inflation and the ever-decreasing purchasing power of money. But whether emotionally or physically absent, the problem of father absence has reached catastrophic proportions, and a mother alone cannot fill the void of his absence.

After all, men and women have innate biological differences that manifest themselves in different but complementary parenting styles and methods. Women are more compassionate and relationship-oriented, while men are more competitive, aggressive, risk-taking and autonomy-oriented. Mothers provide children with nurturing, safety, and emotional security, while fathers challenge children, push their boundaries, and help them gain autonomy.

Because psychological health depends on adequate satisfaction of both sides of both needs for independence and needs for relatedness and relatedness to others, needs for challenge and needs for emotional safety, for risk and for security, the developing child must be exposed to both paternal and maternal worlds, or as Papineau explains, the significance of sex differences in parenting is surely related to something fundamental in human nature. Parental androgyny, sexlessness, is not what children need. Men and women bring different qualities to children.

A trove of social science evidence supports the idea that parenting of both sexes is essential to human development and that fathers' contributions to child rearing are unique and irreplaceable. Unfortunately, having a stepfather is not an unequivocal and guaranteed solution to fatherlessness, as stepchildren may be worse off than children of single mothers. The lack of genetic ties to the child can lead to a stepfather's reluctance to invest time, energy, and resources in the child's development, and some stepfathers tend to perceive their stepchildren as competitors for the mother's attention.

One of the surprising findings of family research in recent years is that the presence of stepfathers may even exacerbate parenting problems and thereby increase the level of negative outcomes for the child. In his two books, Fatherless Families and The War on the Family, David Papineau summarizes the results of numerous studies showing that children who grow up without the physical presence and emotional attachment of a biological father are at greater risk for emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems. They are less successful academically, more likely to disrupt social order, and are prone to dysfunctional, unhealthy relationships in adulthood.

Girls who have absent fathers are more likely to become single mothers in the future. Boys are more likely to become delinquent and psychologically unhealthy. And these are just a small fraction of the known negative effects of father absence.

Indeed, virtually everything bad that can happen to a child is much more likely to happen to children of divorced parents living in single-parent families. After divorce, the quality and quantity of time children spend with their fathers declines dramatically. In Split Families, Frank Furstenberg and Andrew Sherlin explain that a few years after divorce, only one in ten children have at least weekly contact with their father, and two-thirds have no contact at all.

Even for those divorced fathers who do maintain contact with their children, however, such contact is often casual or superficial and of little or no benefit to the child. In other words, while the mother-child bond is a primal bond that is rarely or never broken, a man's bond with his children depends largely on whether he maintains a relationship with his mother. As Papanou writes, men tend to see marriage and child-rearing as a whole, an interconnected phenomenon.

If their marriage deteriorates, their fathering deteriorates as well. If they are unmarried or divorced, their interest in children and their sense of responsibility toward them is greatly diminished. It is precisely because men tend to view marriage and fatherhood as an integrated whole that virtually all societies in history have placed great emphasis on the institution of marriage, the primary function of which is to create a socially binding union that keeps man and wife together for the benefit of children.

Or, as Papanou writes about it, men have the capacity for fatherhood, but they also have the capacity to wander alone, to wander. Therefore, all successful societies have imposed social obligations and sanctions on men to encourage paternal behavior. The most important of these obligations is the institution of marriage, the most universal social institution in existence.

Until the mid-twentieth century, marriage was considered a sacred contract between a man and a woman, to be broken only in the most extreme situations. But since then, the institution of marriage has rapidly deteriorated. Today, many people avoid marital unions, and among those who do marry, divorce is the statistical norm.

If someone were to deliberately create a culture and social system with only one explicit purpose - to destroy marriage, fatherhood, and men's contribution to family life - our current society would be close to what the result would be. The sexual revolution that began in the 1960s was a major factor in the decline of the institution of marriage. Under the guise of sexual liberation, promiscuity was normalized.

And as more women were willing to engage in sexual relationships with little commitment, more men abandoned the monogamy of marriage in favor of shorter liaisons. The damage that the sexual revolution did to marriage, fatherhood, and the family was one of its intended results. Summarizing the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse, two intellectuals whose thoughts were behind the sexual revolution movement, Carl Truman expressed the following.

Sex, centered on procreation of the family, is the repressive weapon of bourgeois-capitalist society. And free love and unhindered sexual experimentation is a central part of the revolutionary liberation of society. To transform society politically, it is necessary to transform society sexually.

The sexual mores of late capitalism, oriented towards maintaining monogamy and the patriarchal family, are in fact no longer as necessary as they once were. The degradation of values in society has also led to a weakening of the institution of marriage. Responsibility and fulfillment of obligations to others have been overshadowed and replaced by a narcissistic obsession solely with one's own satisfaction.

While in the past the main function of marriage was to create an economic and reproductive cross-sex partnership to raise healthy children, today marriage is often seen as a means of satisfying one's own needs and desires. And the myth that romantic love can solve all problems is still widespread. Therefore, when the feeling of infatuation or falling in love wanes, when the partner feels incomplete or not whole, divorce, even if there are children, becomes a socially approved solution.

As Papineau writes, "Not so long ago, the prevalence of divorce was given a strangely positive connotation in popular culture. If separation was better for the parents, it was thought, it couldn't be so bad for the children. What makes the parents happy must make the children happy, too."

How could such a flawed idea become so widespread? In part, of course, it was a convenient, guilt-relieving rationalization for parents who were separating. Obviously, a union in which there is violence or abuse, a dysfunctional marriage, should be ended for the good of all involved. However, to address the problem of the absent father, we need to revitalize and perhaps revise a bit the institution of marriage, to revisit the fact that the primary reason for the union was the desire for children, not satisfaction or wholeness for two adults.

Society in its wisdom recognized that in order to keep the father close to the mother and child, it was necessary to create a cultural bond where the biological bond was weak. Marriage is society's way of signaling to future parents of children that their long-term relationship together is socially meaningful. While a strong parental union benefits children, committed fatherhood contributes to a man's well-being and fulfillment.

Family life encourages a man to channel his aggressive energy in a positive way, to become useful to society as a whole, to become productive, and to cultivate the virtues of honesty, trust, self-sacrifice, and discipline necessary to support and be a role model for his children. Psychologist Angus Campbell, in his book A Sense of Well-Being, notes that in terms of overall life satisfaction, the most well-off men are fathers of adult children who are still married to their wives. In contrast, the unhappiest men are divorced men and men with no wife or children.

Because men have a harder time than women building social relationships, a man without a wife and children often has no close relationships at all. As Papineau writes, it's not just that healthy, competent, and morally upright people are the ones more likely to marry, but that marriage actually promotes health, competence, virtue, and personal well-being. Men are civilizingly influenced by simply being in the company of women and children, an environment that tends to foster life-enhancing values.

If fatherlessness continues to grow, we can expect to see a nation of men at worst unencumbered by any morality at all, and at best unhappy, unhealthy and unfulfilled. But it is the children who suffer most from the absence of a father, and since children are the future of society, society suffers accordingly. Father absence causes children to become inferior, and inferior children run the risk of growing up to be inferior men and women who perpetuate social dysfunction.

As society does to its children, so children will do to society. And so, as Papineau concludes, strong families with active, involved fathers in lifelong marriages are indispensable to a strong and stable moral order, to the well-being of adults, and ultimately to the well-being and success in their children's lives. If we continue down the path of fatherlessness, social catastrophe awaits us.

Ultimately, every father matters.