Expendable You

Are kids better off without their fathers? Of course, we've all heard tragic stories about fathers who abuse their children. But that's not what I'm talking about. The American Psychological Association, or APA, recently published a study that suggests that fathers and even marriage are unnecessary for healthy child development. The study removes any lingering doubts that the APA is about legitimate science and scholarship. In an article called "Deconstructing the Essential Father," Louise Silverstein and Carl Auerbach set out to rebut what they call the "neoconservative defense of fatherhood." They claim that fathers do not make a "unique and essential contribution to child development." Unbelievably, they claim there's not a shred of evidence for the belief that "marriage enhances fathering or that marriage civilizes men and protects children." After all, the authors say, in-home dads might strain the family budget by spending money on themselves once in a while. All kids really need, they say, is some "responsible, caretaking" adult. The authors candidly acknowledge that they hope to influence public policy "that supports the legitimacy of diverse family structures"—such as gay parents, unmarried parents, and single moms. Well, if nothing else, at least they're honest about their intentions, because the evidence pointing to the importance of fathers is overwhelming. For example, sociologist David Popenoe says that after 30 years of research, he knows of few issues in which the weight of evidence is so decisively on one side. "On the whole," he says, "for children, two-parent families are preferable to single-parent and stepfamilies." Wade Horn, President of the National Fatherhood Initiative, agrees. If the authors can't find any "empirical support" for the value of fathers, he concludes, "it's because they aren't looking." That body of evidence indicates that children raised in homes without fathers are more likely to commit crimes, abuse drugs, have children out of wedlock, live in poverty, drop out of school, and commit suicide. Through my prison ministry, I see firsthand the terrible price we pay for America's fatherless homes. Boys who grow up without their fathers are at least twice as likely as other boys to end up in prison. Sixty percent of rapists and 72% of adolescent murderers never knew or lived with their fathers. And the issue is not one of class, race, or sex. For instance, affluent white girls raised without a father in the home are five times more likely to become mothers while still adolescents. Scripture, history, and tradition support the overwhelming scientific evidence. We know the family—led by a mother and a father—is the God-given structure for child rearing. Substitute anything else, and we run the risk of serious problems. Of course, intact traditional families have problems, too. But only someone blinded by a political agenda would not see that they're the best environment for children. By God's grace, many godly single parents manage to overcome the challenges of solitary child rearing, and Christians must be ready to assist these families when they need help. And when we see so-called "family experts" making phony claims about expendable fathers, you and I must make sure our policy makers hear the truth: That human fathers, like our heavenly One, are irreplaceable.


Chuck Colson


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