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Fatherlessness: A Silent Epidemic

Historically the emphasis on parenting has been directed towards mothers, and fathers were relegated to the sidelines. They were considered providers, and mothers were considered nurturers. Although mothers have become providers as well as fathers, parenting duties remained primarily her responsibility until recently.

There seems to be an epidemic of fatherless homes in America. There are several reasons for fatherlessness, including incarceration, marriage rates have fallen, and divorce rates have increased.

Research is just now catching up with the effects of fatherless homes on the community and on teens.

They are many:

1. 23.6 percent of United States children (17.4 million) live in fatherless homes in 2014.

2. In 2011, children living in poverty were 4x higher in fatherless homes.

3. Mortality rates of infants are 4x higher.

4. Teen pregnancy is 3.5 times higher in homes without fathers.

5. Fatherlessness is a predictor of suicide and suicidal behavior.

6. Teens are %279 more likely to carry guns and deal drugs.

These statistics are alarming. The increase in father absenteeism in the family is the root of the increase of many social problems. Fatherlessness definitely affects communities, families, and teens: the negative effects increase the likelihood that the next generation of children will suffer the same social problems as the preceding generation.

While these statistics are daunting, they are not hopeless. Not every child born in families with absent fathers is going to suffer these problems. Statistics only make us aware that teens in fatherless homes are at an increased risk to experience some serious problems. There are some things that can be done to avoid some of the problems.

1. Encourage your teens to have a relationship with their father. Sometimes as a result of anger hurt mothers may attempt to keep the father from his teens. This is a mistake. Allow the father to have lots of visits. Encourage teens to talk to their father.

2. Invite their fathers to school events. Give fathers permission to attend their activities. This can be very helpful.

3. Encourage a one-on-one relationship between your teens and their fathers. When your teens were small children it was necessary to be the go-between, but now that they are teens encourage them to talk to their father.

4. Have some ground rules that govern your co-parenting relationship. Ground rules can help each parent feel as if they are being treated fairly. Do all you can not to break the ground rules, remember it's the teen that will suffer if communication and the relationship between the parents falters.

5. Avoid vying to be the most important parent to your teen. Instead esteem the other parent higher than yourself. Jealousy is very destructive in these relationships, it can derail the fragile, tenuous relationship and again the child will suffer. Vying for the teen's affections increases the opportunity and the likelihood that they will manipulate the two parents.

It can be difficult to encourage a relationship between your teens and their father, but a father who is absent from a teen's life increases the risk of them suffering emotionally, financially, and socially currently and too often for a lifetime. So if at all possible, fathers, remain a constant fixture in your teen's life. Mothers if you are estranged from the father of the children, if at all possible, attempt to get him involved with his children.

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