The Unspoken Epidemic Called Fatherlessness

Three years ago, when Jeff and I started writing Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son, we knew that we had an important story to tell because of our own life experience. What we didn’t realize were the reams of supporting research that we would discover. Over and over again we read and heard information that supported our premise that boys that don’t have a healthy relationship with their fathers run into all kinds of risk factors.

What follows are just some of the risk factors that plague boys without a solid connection to their dad. It’s our premise that almost every significant societal issue is in some way connected to dads not playing the role they were intended. Please take a few minutes to digest the seriousness of this issue:

  • Decrease in…empathy and assertiveness, grades in school. Confidence, ability to build trust and maintain healthy relationships. Decrease in physical and mental health.
  • Increase in…violent behavior, depression, homicides, teen pregnancy, involvement in gangs, drugs, alcohol, incarceration, pornography, suicide attempts and successful suicides.
  • Prison Population – Between 1972 – 2013 there has been a 700% increase in the U.S. prison population. 93% of our population are males (> 2.5 million men). The prison system is basically housing for men who didn’t have good father relationships. Over 4,500,000 men are on parole. The cost to U.S. taxpayers is over $81 billion annually. But wait, there’s more. The ancillary costs (courts, parole, police related, etc.) is > $100 billion annually. (> 4.5 million men in parole system)
  • Shootings – Since the December 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting that left 28 people dead, we’ve been averaging one school shooting per week. Almost 100% of the shootings are committed by young white males with poor dad relationships who are acting out their hopelessness, and often their own planned suicide.
  • Boys without fathers are four times as likely to live in poverty.
  • The suicide rate for boys in single parent families is more than twice of that or two parent families. Let’s be clear, this is not the fault of dedicated and hard-working single moms. This is a dad issue.
  • Crime – Neighborhoods where a high percentage of dads are present have significantly less crime, drugs, gangs, violence and theft.
  • Abuse – Two parent families have significantly less experience of sexual assault, abuse, and are less likely to witness violence.

While today’s blog doesn’t offer any solutions, the purpose is to highlight the immense seriousness and impact of the father-son relationship on boys and society at-large. Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son offers many practical examples of how my son, Jeff, and I rebuilt our relationship fifteen years ago. We strongly encourage you to become an advocate in your community, church, workplace…wherever you are…for men to play the role they were intended for their sons.

* Stats mentioned above are from U.S. Census Bureau, Journal of Marriage & Family, Journal of Family Issues, Department of Health and Human Services and others sourced in Tender Lions: Building the Vital Relationship Between Father and Son

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