Saturday, April 28, 2012

THE ROLE OF FATHERS IS CHANGING

I have good news, and bad news.  

Here's the bad news, and it is truly troubling:  According  to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), children in the U.S. living apart from their fathers has grown from 11% in 1960 to 27% as of 2010. Among fathers who do not have a high school degree, 40% live apart from their children.  This compares with only 7% of fathers who have a college diploma.


Twenty-two percent of fathers who live apart from their children say they see them more than once a week.  29% say they visit with their children at least once a month; 21% say they visit several times a year; and 27% do not see see their children at all.  For all groups, communicating by phone or email is more prevalent than face-to-face contact. 


The study points out that living with his children makes a huge difference in the amount of time a father spends with them.  More than 90% of fathers who live, at least part of the time, with their children say that they shared a meal with their children, or talked to them about their day, over the past several weeks; 63% say they helped a child with homework or checked homework at least several times a week; and 54% report taking a child to or from activities several times a week or more.  Among fathers who do not live with their children, only 16% say they shared a meal with their child with their child several times a week over the past month; 31% report talking to them about her day several times a week or more; and less than 11% helped out with homework or took a child to or from activities.

The trend toward more fathers living apart from their children is caused not only by divorce,but also by declining marriage rates and an increase in out-of-wedlock births.  According to the NSFG study, 46% of all fathers report that at least one of their children was born out-of-wedlock, and 31% report that all of their children were born outside of marriage. Further, 17% of men with biological children have fathered those children with more than one woman.

But here's the good news:  The evidence shows that the role of fathers is changing, and that many of today's fathers - both married and divorced - are far more involved with their children than fathers of previous generations.  The NSFG study shows that in 1965, married fathers with children living in their household spent an average of 2.6 hours per week caring for them.  By 2000, the time spent caring for children by that same group of fathers more than doubled to 6.5 hours per week. The Pew Research Center analysis of the study concludes that "fathers who live with their children (at least part of the time) have become more intensely involved in their lives, spending more time with them and taking part in a greater variety of activities."

Being a single father may be difficult, but it provides opportunities:  For instance, a father who is willing to "step-up" will have the opportunity to truly care for his children when they are with him, rather than being left on the periphery.  He will have the opportunity to read to the children, help them with their homework, attend school conferences and other functions, watch their little league ballgames, take them on excursions to the park, or to the zoo.  He will have the opportunity to talk to them and really get to know them; and to develop a loving and lifelong bond.  He will be able to give them love, support, and stability, and enrich his own life in the process. 

Being a single father is not a sentence, it is an opportunity.  Even if he is not living in the same household as the children, each and every father has the power to reverse the trend.  He has the power to become the dad that his children need; the dad he always wanted to be.  


Gary Frank has been an Arizona attorney and Mediator for over thirty years.  His practice is limited to Family Law.  If you are in need of a strong advocate and a compassionate counselor to help you with your Family Law problem, please give us a call today at 602-383-3610, or contact us by email at gary.frank@azbar.org.  You can also reach us through our web site at www.garyfranklaw.com.  We look forward to hearing from you.