Commentary: The Importance of Fathers on Father’s Day

A simple reminder of why it’s hugely important for dads to be present and engaged in their children’s homes.

Posted: 06/15/2012 05:17 PM EDT
absentee Black dads on Father's Day

With Father’s Day coming up this weekend, it’s time once again to reflect on the importance of fatherhood. The fact is that everyone needs a father figure, but the African-American community has had a particularly difficult time keeping Black fathers in the home.

In the United States, nearly 20 million children — that’s almost 25 percent — were living in homes with no father in them, according to a 2005 Census Bureau report. Of those children, the burden of absentee fathers falls most heavily on Black kids. Fifty-six percent of Black children have no father around, compared to just 22 percent of white children and 31 percent of Latino kids.

At this point, talking about it being important to have fathers in the home starts to sound like a broken record — people know it’s important. Still, it bears repeating for as long as it takes to get those fathers to stick around. Here, a brief but shocking list of statistics about what happens in fatherless homes:

—63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. of Health/Census), five times the average.

—90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes, 32 times the average.

—85 percent of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes, 20 times the average. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)    

—80 percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes, 14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)    

—71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes, nine times the average. (National Principals Association Report)    

—75 percent of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes, 10 times the average. (Rainbows for All God’s Children)


—70 percent of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes, nine times the average. (U.S. Dept. of Justice, Sept. 1988)

—85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes — 20 times the average. (Fulton Co. Georgia, Texas Dept. of Correction)

Correlation does not equal causation of course, and there are indeed people who succeed despite not being raised with a dad. (Millionaire stockbroker Chris Gardener often talks about not having a father around.) But it’s clear that a dad not being there doesn’t help anything.

People often talk about how to stop crime and violence in the Black community, with some assuming that poor education and drugs the root of the problem. While lack of educational opportunities and substance abuse are indeed part of problem, I’d estimate that a bigger part is the emotional trauma that causes so many African-Americans to be angry and depressed in the first place. Abandonment issues are real things with real symptoms.

When you leave a child behind, you don’t just leave him or her; you also leave an entire community that’s going to be forced to deal with the anger, frustration and depression you instilled in that kid. It takes a village to raise a child, but it takes only one absent father to devastate one.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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