Sept. 29th, 2014 by Wendy Gosselin
Visitation. It’s just a terrible word,” says Gabriel Balanovsky, the producer of the documentary film ‘Borrando a Papá’ [Erasing Dad]. “There are only three moments in life for visitation – when someone is in jail, when someone is in the hospital, or when you’re a divorced father going to see your kid. How can a father’s relationship with a son or daughter suddenly be limited to visitation?”
Although it hasn’t yet premiered, Borrando a Papá has already caused quite a stir. The trailer has been viewed 76,000 times on YouTube and the film’s Facebook page has over 19,000 followers – an auspicious start for an Argentine documentary before even reaching the screen. The film’s directors, US ex-pat Ginger Gentile and Argentine Sandra Fernández Ferreira, have appeared on radio and television and in print media discussing the film.
However, not everyone is looking forward to its release: the NGO Salud Activa started a petition on Change.org requesting that Argentina’s film institute INCAA cancel the documentary’s release. According to the petition, the film promotes violence and sexual abuse against minors. After its original release date was pushed back and a pre-screening set for 2nd September at the Colegio de Abogados was cancelled due to pressure from the film’s censors, Borrando a Papá is finally set to premier this Thursday (2nd October).
“When we released our last documentary, ‘Mujeres con Pelotas‘ [Goals for Girls], everybody loved us!” explains Balanovsky. Mujeres con Pelotas follows a group of young women, many from the shantytowns, who play football, a man’s sport par excellence in Argentina. “We were applauded for talking about women’s equality. But men’s equality? They don’t want to hear about men’s equality.”
Borrando a Papá offers a close-up of contested divorce and family violence from a unique perspective: that of the father. According to the film, these fathers are victims of a system that has been so tweaked to protect mothers that it leaves men at the mercy of their ex-wives, who then exploit the family court to keep their ex from seeing his children, often, it would seem, out of spite or vengeance.
Gentile and Fernández interviewed over one hundred men for the documentary, finally settling on six main “characters” for the film. Each of these men has a devastating story of being excluded from his child or children’s lives. Sergio, for example, is isolated from his four kids because of accusations made by their mother. When one of his sons ended up in the hospital with a fractured skull and told the doctors that his mother had hit him, Sergio filed an injunction to take his son into temporary custody. The court refused the injunction, and his son was returned to the care of his abusive mother. Another father, Diego, knows where his daughters live but can’t see them; he drives by their house once a day and whistles up to them from the open sunroof before driving off. Guillermo, a father who suffered physical abuse at the hands of his ex, receives a piece of advice from a social worker: don’t report the violence or you will automatically be suspected of having initiated it.
“It was a very difficult documentary project emotionally,” explains Gentile. “A lot of the men were ashamed to talk about what had happened to them.” It was especially hard for men who had suffered physical abuse by their spouses. “They would use the third-person plural in Spanish – me pegaron – to avoid coming out and saying that their wife had struck them.”
The film moves back and forth between the six men, weaving a story of impotence before a system that appears rigged against any attempt by a father to see his children. Yura is a Russian father who doesn’t even know where his Argentine ex has taken his son; before disappearing with him, she had filed a long list of police reports accusing him of alcoholism, violence, and acts as abominable as “only speaking [to his son] in Russian.” In a meeting with an employee at the Domestic Violence Office where Yura goes to file his own report, he is advised not to bother waiting several hours to be seen by a case worker. “Whatever you tell them, the final report is going to say that your report isn‘t credible and that she is the one at risk,” explains the female worker in a shushed voice. “They’re going to believe her, because she’s the woman.” “Is that legal?” asks Yura. “It’s not legal – it’s the way things are done. We have a team of gender violence specialists and they know when a man’s lying. And he’s always lying.”
The men’s stories are sensitive and thought-provoking, and giving fathers a voice is unquestionably the force of this documentary. Their stories alone would have been more than enough for a feature-length film, yet the filmmakers wanted to show the discrimination against fathers in Argentine family courts from myriad perspectives. The life stories are thus interspersed with statements by a range of people from inside the system, including lawyers, public officials, psychologists, and NGO workers, many of whom appear uncannily comfortable with thismachista notion that men are naturally prone to violence and abuse while women are naturally inclined to caregiving and childrearing.
Some of these people are the ones who are now speaking out against the film. “We didn’t think there would be such an adverse reaction, with people demanding censorship,” explained Gentile. “We were very careful not to attack individuals or organisations. We thought, we’re making a small documentary here so let’s give everyone an elegant exit.”
On the other hand, people who have heard about the movie are also reaching out to them. “We receive about 50 emails every day from people who have seen the trailer and visited our website – people asking us for help because they can’t see their child,” says Gentile. Men aren’t the only ones drawn to the film. “Half of our Facebook followers are women.”
In spite of the film’s fortes, however, there are two sections that throw it slightly off course. The first presents Jorge Corsi, a psychologist who designed the academic specialisation of “family violence” in 1989; its curriculum is still in use at Universidad de Buenos Aires’ school of psychology. Although the programme curriculum is related to the film’s topic (the study programme contemplates exclusively male perpetrators of violence against female victims), the fact that Jorge Corsi was subsequently accused and convicted of sexual abusing a minor seems to stray from the core issue of the film, which is a father’s right to be with his children.
The second segment from the film that could have perhaps been saved for a follow-up documentary on the subject is an interview from British television with Erin Pizzey, a family care activist. Pizzey talks about how the court system in the UK is designed to perpetuate divorce and child custody because of all the money there is to be made in these cases by lawyers, court-appointed psychologists, visitation companions, etc. The film then suggests that the system could also be profit-driven in Argentina. But given the fact that the entire Argentine court system is notorious for its drawn-out blundering, it seems like a stretch to posit that there is a moneymaking scheme behind all the ineptitude; and if this were the case, it would seem logical to assume that there is as much money to be made from mothers as there is from fathers. In any case, the segment again distracts us from the highly compelling life stories of the film.
On Balanovsky and Gentile’s behalf, it is fair to say that they are both so passionate about this topic that it was probably difficult to decide what to leave out. These are stories close to both of their hearts: after fighting to have his visitation rights enforced, Balanovsky was accused of kidnapping his daughter by a criminal court judge even though a family court judge had given him provisional custody. He was later apprehended and spent a year in jail before being released (a judge ultimately ruled that since his parenting rights were still in force, he could not be accused of “kidnapping”). Despite being given visitation rights, he has not seen his daughter in the ensuing 12 years. The incident is frequently brought up by the people who want the film to be censored. As for Gentile, she was moved by Balanovsky’s struggle, as she herself had been isolated from her father as a teenager after her parents’ divorce.
“We are planning to turn this into a trilogy,” explains Gentile, “With a second film focused on the business side of divorce, and a third film that ends on a more positive note, examining possible solutions to this problem – going to places like Belgium, where shared custody is the norm.”
If all goes as planned, the film should be in cinemas starting this Thursday. As with most Argentine documentaries, it is not likely to last long in theatres, and it is well worth seeing. Luckily, after its release on 2nd October, Balanovsky and Gentile are planning on uploading it onto their YouTube page with English subtitles. Their ultimate goal is to spread the word on the plight of these fathers in an effort to finally balance the scales between mothers’ and fathers’ rights.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
August 15th, 2014 Andrew Ozaki
His service to his country took away his leg, and now former Army Sgt. Ben Marksmeier said the state’s child custody and support laws are taking away his son.
“The only thing I was thinking about was my son, my unborn child, and then I come back only to have him ripped out of my life,” said Marksmeier.
Marksmeier and other noncustodial fathers told their emotional stories to a special commission looking into revising the state’s child support guidelines.
“I currently only see my child for four hours a month. Four hours,” said Marksmeier.
Legal Aid, an Omaha nonprofit organization, said payments for some parents are unrealistically high and don’t change or are slow to change if the person loses their job or their financial status changes. It places them in a rut they can’t climb out of.
“They are incredibly broken and ashamed. And when they are broken and ashamed, it interferes with their relationships with their children,” said Muirne Heaney, an attorney for Legal Aid.
Noncustodial parents in Nebraska rank in the top 10 in paying child support but still owe $70 million in back payments. Child welfare advocates say their only concern is to make sure the basic needs of every child is met. Even those who can afford the payments said it’s about equal parenting time, though.
“If there were a way to trade money for time, believe me, I would be the first in that line,” said Eddy Santamaria, a noncustodial father.
The chair of the commission, Brad Ashford, agrees changes need to be made to allow more equal time for both parents.
“Let’s make sure the child support piece is right as well, so that when we think about equal parenting — the child support guidelines reflect the reality of daily life,” said Ashford.
That’s what Marksmeier and others are asking for.
“Fix this, so dads can be dads,” said Santamaria.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Yes, dads are more involved in their childrens’ lives than ever. But that doesn’t mean they’re not still the butt of almost every parenting joke.
Just think about the 2012 Huggies ad claiming that the brand’s diapers were the ultimate “Dad Test” — a joke that landed flat, as a backlash prompted the diaper company to pull the campaign from Facebook. Then, of course, there was that 2007 Verizon ad, which was banned for depicting another hapless “Everybody Loves Raymond”-type of father. Shows like Lifetime’s “Deadbeat Dads” and Fox’s “Bad Dads” have also raised more than a few eyebrows. Sensing a theme here?
With an ever-increasing number of dual-earner families and households in which the woman is the main breadwinner, the roles of fathers are shifting, even if public perception hasn’t yet, Matthew Weinshenker, assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, told The Huffington Post. (That’s to say nothing of how growing numbers of same-sex couples are redefining what it means to be a “mother” or a “father.” Such couples are pushing past traditional gender roles and broadening the range of relationships that children can have with their parents — and their kids are turning out just fine, research shows.)
Fortunately, a growing body of scientific research is there to back up these poor, patronized dads. Here are eight things science has taught us about the father-child relationship that might convince you to move beyond the “bumbling dad” stereotype.
Playtime is important, and dads have it covered.
Studies have consistently found that the most common way for fathers to interact with their children is in the context of play. Mothers, on the other hand, tend to take on more of the planning and organization that go into caregiving.
The way dads interact with children encourages them to take risks.
Play has been shown to help teach children how to control their bodies as well as their emotions, encouraging them to take risks and be more ambitious in the long term. Even the way fathers hold their children makes a difference. Melanie Horn Mallers, an associate professor at California State University, Fullerton, told The Huffington Post that dads tend to hold their kids out to the world, while mothers tend to hold their children in, facing them. This subtle difference is actually a way in which fathers encourage their kids to take risks, Mallers said, which can benefit them later on in life in terms of their ability to engage with their environment, feel confident, solve problems and cope with stress.
According to Mallers, mothers are more likely to give their children a sense that they are safe and protected from the world. While dads may also convey this sense, they are far more likely to communicate that, as Mallers puts it, “Yes, the world is safe, so now go and explore it.”
Playtime with dads can actually help kids form strong relationships later in life.
The bond between father and child can influence the child’s ability to form close relationships with other people later in life. A study published in 2002 found that “adolescents’ attachment representations were predicted by fathers’ play sensitivity,” meaning a father’s ability to know when to challenge a child and when to back off during playtime. Essentially, this rough-and-tumble play is quality time between a father and child, and it shouldn’t be undervalued.
A father’s rejection could hurt a child even more than a mother’s rejection.
Ronald Rohner has been studying father-child relationships since the 1960s. “Like most Americans, I started out 50 years ago thinking, ‘OK, sure, fathers are there and they’re important in some ways, but the really important one is Mom,'” Rohner, executive director of the Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection, told The Huffington Post.
In the course of his research, Rohner made the startling discovery that a father’s love often contributes to a child’s personality development more than that of a mother. Specifically, a father’s rejection can cause a child to develop behavioral problems, and the resulting feelings of insecurity, anxiety and hostility can lead, eventually, to drug or alcohol abuse or addiction. Rejection by a father can also hinder a child’s long-term ability to form trusting relationships.
Rohner notes that there are always exceptions, and that in some of the cases he looked at, the influence of both parents was about equal, or a mother’s love was the factor more indicative of a child’s development. But the overwhelming trend he found was that dads tend to wield the most influence when it comes to rejection.
Bad father-child relationships can make children more stressed in the long run.
Rohner isn’t the only one who’s found that a father’s perceived love (or lack thereof) packs a developmental punch. In a 2012 study of 912 men and women, Mallers found that sons who reported good relationships with their fathers were better at handling stress than sons who didn’t perceive their childhood relationship with their father to be strong. Mallers says this also ties back to playtime with fathers, which helps children develop problem-solving skills and keep calm when difficulties arise.
Basically, time spent with fathers matters.
Though different studies have reached different conclusions, the results all point to a key takeaway: Spending time with Dad can improve a child’s ability to connect with others in a positive way. Richard Koestner, a psychologist at McGill University, studied the results of longitudinal research conducted at Yale University in the 1950s and concluded that the less time a father spent with a child, the less the child was able to feel empathy.
“We were amazed to find that how affectionate parents were with their children made no difference in empathy,” Koestner told The New York Times in 1990. “And we were astounded at how strong the father’s influence was after 25 years.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Rohner didn’t find that to be true in his research. He says it’s quality of time, not simply quantity, that counts when it comes to kids perceiving their fathers as loving or not. But however you slice it, children benefit from face-to-face time with dads.
Dads bond with their children thanks to the “love hormone.”
A mother’s hormone surge and subsequent attachment bonding at the birth of a new baby is a well-known concept. But dads release plenty of hormones, too.
Studies have suggested that new fathers have increased levels of oxytocin, aka the “love hormone,” during a newborn’s first weeks. Oxytocin allows new dads to bond with their babies, making it more likely that they’ll engage in that all-important playtime. In fact, the surge of lovey-dovey hormones in fathers is thought to be sparked by parenting itself — “tossing the baby in the air, pulling the little one up to sit, or encouraging exploration and laughter,” according to a Live Science report of a 2010 study conducted by psychologist Ruth Feldman at Bar-Ilan University.
In fact, new dads experience all sorts of important hormonal fluctuations.
Fathers exhibit about a 30 percent dip in testosterone during their infant’s first three weeks, allowing the dads to unleash their inner nurturer and squash any aggressive behavior. Additionally, while waiting for their babies to be born, fathers experience a spike in cortisol, the “stress hormone” that also prompts attachment, and prolactin, the same hormone that causes mothers to produce milk.
Since men aren’t producing hormones to help create a baby, Mallers hypothesizes that the stress of a new child causes many new dads to experience these fluctuations.
In short, don’t underestimate the importance of fathers.
Amid the social and cultural shifts of the past few decades, many dads have altered the ways in which they relate to their children. As Weinshenker put it: “I don’t think we’re going back to the 1950s, where a man came home after a long day at work and smoked his pipe and maybe kicked the ball around with his children.”
And as women continue to thrive in the workforce, dads will be more and more encouraged to step up to the parenting plate and form strong, nurturing bonds with their kids. They’re just waiting for advertisers and reality TV producers to catch up with what researchers have already found.
by Dr. Richard Warshak
Fifty-one years ago, The Feminine Mystiqueushered in the movement that promised to liberate parents from the cultural straitjacket of rigid gender roles. We asked fathers to be more than material providers to their children. Stop pacing the maternity ward waiting room and join your wife in the delivery room. Help pay for diapers, formula, and children’s books, yes. But don’t expect Mom to change all the diapers, do all the feeding, and read all the bedtime stories.
Dads got the message. The most recent study of dual-earner families reported that on a typical workday, fathers spent a little more than 1.5 hours directly engaged with their three-month-old infants. This may not sound like a lot, but it amounts to 41 percent of the total time that the two parents interacted with their infants. Not quite half. But getting there. And babies are benefitting from all this time with dads.
Whether observed in the laboratory or in natural settings, dads demonstrate over and over that their presence matters a great deal to their children from the baby’s birth onward. The more time parents spend with their infants and toddlers, the better able they are to read their baby’s signals and respond sensitively to their children’s needs. It takes nothing away from mother-child relationships when dads change diapers and bathe babies. For some important areas of development, such as vocabulary and children’s persistence in the face of obstacles and frustration—the “can-do” attitudes that are essential to success in life—fathers may have a greater impact than do mothers.
When it comes to encouraging hands-on shared parenting, society imposes a curious double standard.
All this is good news for children in two-parent homes. But not such good news for children whose parents separate. When it comes to encouraging hands-on shared parenting, society imposes a curious double standard. When they live with their children’s mother, we expect dads to assume their fair share of parenting responsibility. When parents separate, though, some people think that young children need to spend every night in one home, usually with mom, even when this means losing the care their father has been giving them.
In her recent Family Studies blog post, Professor Linda Nielsen showed how this idea arose from seriously flawed interpretations of data that were repeated often enough to acquire the aura of truth. Just last month a popular United Kingdom authority on parenting relied on such interpretations to conclude: “Findings strongly suggest that shared care that includes spending nights, or even a single night at a time, away from ‘home’ and mother is seldom in the best interests of children under around four years of age irrespective of the families’ socio-economic background, their parenting or the co-operation between the parents.” Many of us still think that it is Mom’s exclusive role to care for infants and toddlers, and that we jeopardize young children’s well-being if we trust fathers to do the job.
Where does science stand on these issues? To find out, I spent two years reviewing the relevant scientific literature and vetting my analyses with an international group of experts in the fields of early child development and divorce. The American Psychological Association published the resulting consensus report with the endorsement of 110 of the world’s leading researchers and practitioners. One of the signatories was UVA’s Emerita Professor of Psychology E. Mavis Hetherington.
Shared parenting should be the norm for children of all ages whose parents live apart from each other.
We reached two main conclusions. First, the social science evidence on how healthy parent-child relationships normally develop, and the long-term benefits of those relationships, supports the view that shared parenting should be the norm for children of all ages, including very young children, whose parents live apart from each other. Second, restricting fathering time to daytime hours until children enter kindergarten is not the best arrangement for most children if we want to give them the best chance for normal relationships with their fathers. Naturally, shared parenting is not for all families. In general, though, we favor having young children spending some nights at their fathers’ homes, and find no reason to postpone overnights until children turn four.
It is time to resolve our ambivalence and contradictory ideas about fathers’ and mothers’ roles in their children’s lives. If we value Dad reading Goodnight Moon to his toddler and soothing his fretful baby at 3 a.m. while the parents are living together, why withdraw our support and deprive the child of these expressions of fatherly love just because the parents no longer live together, or just because the sun has gone down?
Richard A. Warshak is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is the author of “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report,” published in Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, Divorce Poison: How To Protect Your Family From Bad-mouthing and Brainwashing, and Welcome Back, Pluto: Understanding, Preventing, and Overcoming Parental Alienation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Why fathers matter now more than ever before. A charge.
Byon June 13, 2014 Esquire Magazine
1. THE CRISIS OF FATHERHOOD IS REAL
The brute facts: The number of American families without fathers has grown from 10.3 percent in 1970 to 24.6 percent in 2013;* that percentage has more or less been stable over the past few years, at about a quarter of all families, with 17.5 million children currently fatherless in the United States. At the same time, those who are fathers, those who stay with their children, have taken on the role with an unprecedented intensity. American fatherlessness is a national disaster and, according to the latest research into its effects, more of a disaster than anybody could have imagined.
2. FATHERHOOD MEANS MORE THAN ANYBODY THINKS
The new fatherhood, and the new fatherlessness, are reshaping contemporary life, from its most intimate aspects to its most public, a mostly hidden force as powerful as it is unacknowledged. In a 2014 study of more than forty million children and their parents, researchers at Harvard and UC Berkeley examined the relationship between economic mobility and racial segregation, income inequality, school quality, social capital, and family structure. Family structure showed the strongest connection. The crisis of income inequality and the decline of social capital are the subjects of wide-ranging, furious debates. The quality of schools is the main subject of almost all local politics. Family structure matters more. From the report: “Family structure correlates with upward mobility not just at the individual level but also at the community level, perhaps because the stability of the social environment affects children’s outcomes more broadly.”
Fatherlessness significantly affects suicide, incarceration risk, and mental health. The new fatherhood is not merely a lifestyle question. Fathers spending time with their children results in a better, healthier, more educated, more stable, less criminal world. Exposure to fathers is a public good.
3. THE ATTENTION OF FATHERS IS IRREPLACEABLE
A single small but vital fact distinguishes men of the past fifty years from all other men in history: Most of us see our children being born. It’s one of those changes to everyday life that we take for granted but that have the most radical consequences. Up until the mid-1960s, the mysteries of birth were mainly the preserve of women. Then, suddenly, they weren’t. Men insisted on being with their wives as they gave birth, and with their children as they came into the world. Of all the grand upheavals between men and women over the past two generations—the sexual revolution, the rise of women in the workplace, and the rest—the new fatherhood has been, in a way, the easiest. Despite no historical examples of male nurturers, no literature of the macho caretaker, men have taken to the new fatherhood in all its fleshiness and complication without much struggle, indeed with relish. Today the overcaring father has morphed into a mockable cliché—you’ve seen them comparing stroller models at the playgrounds, or giving baby a bottle in a bar during the Final Four, or discussing the latest studies on the merits of early music education for “executive function.” The new father is an engaged father by instinct. Witnessing birth was the beginning of a widening intimacy. The new father holds his babies. He bathes them. He reads to them. The new father knows that the role of the father is not merely to provide food and shelter. The role of the father is to be there, physically and mentally.
This intimacy is instinctive, and research into the development of children has shown how powerful a force it is. The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child puts the strength of early impressions on a biological level: “We have long known that interactions with parents, caregivers, and other adults are important in a child’s life, but new evidence shows that these relationships actually shape brain circuits and lay the foundation for later developmental outcomes, from academic performance to mental health and interpersonal skills.” The presence of a father affects a kid on the level of brain chemistry.
Working fathers are reckoning with the consequences of these new insights. A 2013 study from Pew Research found that men and women found nearly identical levels of meaning in childcare. The problem of work-life balance isn’t just for women anymore, and the father who works eighty-hour weeks because his job is so important is no longer seen as something to aspire to. He’s pitiable. The fact that women are increasingly breadwinners has opened up new options for some—the stay-at-home dad has changed from sitcom-worthy freak into the subject of endless lazy trend pieces—but even men who have power are finding new strategies. Sigmar Gabriel, the vice-chancellor largely responsible for dismantling the nuclear-power industry of Germany—a big job—has decided to take Wednesday afternoons off to spend with his young daughter. “The only luxury is time, the time you spend with your family.” This is not the quote of a family-values Republican senator. That’s Kanye West talking.
4. FAMILY POLICY MUST BECOME ACTUAL FAMILY POLICY
The majority of two-parent American families have men and women who work, and men and women are increasingly sharing the childcare load.13 That reality—basic domestic egalitarianism—is for the most part treated as a surprising novelty, as news. And not just by op-ed writers. By tax law. By the courts. (Men pay 97 percent of alimony3 although women earn the majority of the income in 40 percent of families.12) The major institutions in American life are playing catch-up with a fifty-year-old development in home life—women are earning more money in more families all the time, and fathers are vital to the well-being of the children involved.
Fatherhood is taking on a political imperative: Every American man deserves a chance to spend time with his children without being fired. Every American child deserves a chance to spend time with his or her father without being impoverished.
5. THE NEW FATHERHOOD BELONGS TO NEITHER PARTY
The Republicans smell an opportunity in the new research on the family but don’t quite know what to do with it. This January, in a marquee speech on poverty, Florida senator Marco Rubio put the family at the center of his economic policy: “The truth is the greatest tool to lift children and families from poverty is one that decreases the probability of child poverty by 82 percent. But it isn’t a government spending program. It’s called marriage.” The Republicans are right this time. But they have so far used their new appreciation of fatherlessness to do little more than launch broadsides against various something-nothings of culture and to reject the idea that public policy can have any effect on the family whatsoever. For them, the new fatherhood is mostly an excuse for inaction.
If Republicans looked more closely at the consequences of fatherlessness, it might offer them new insight into a host of policies: Immigration reform is vital because the current policies destroy families. At the current rate of deportation, about a thousand undocumented immigrants are deported on average each day.5 By one estimate, the current U. S. immigration policy will separate more than 150,000 children from one of their parents.9 Now that we know how deeply family structure matters, that number can only be regarded as a social and economic catastrophe. The drug war, by punishing African-Americans at nearly four times the rate of whites for marijuana-possession offenses,1amounts to cultural genocide. A few Republicans who actually deal with the fallout of government policies on families’ lives, like governors Rick Perry and Chris Christie, have recognized the cost of these disastrous policies. Both have spoken about ending the drug war. It’s a start.
Democrats, too, are making a tentative start. In February, the president announced a private-public partnership, the My Brother’s Keeper initiative, a first step toward addressing the problem of minority boys through mentoring programs. At the announcement, President Obama said: “Nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life.” It’s typical “American families” boilerplate, of course. But the data show that it’s actually true as a matter of policy, and not just for minority boys but for all boys. The Brother’s Keeper initiative is a gesture, an important one—possibly a trial balloon?—but a small one.
For the president, a family-based approach to inequality clearly smells rotten. It has the aura of a host of outmoded prejudices many on the Left have spent their entire careers fighting against. Democrats prefer to focus on the traditional approaches of grievance politics, with the emphasis on class structures and race. But the most powerful way to alter those inequities is through family structure.
6. FATHERS ARE PARTICULARLY IMPORTANT FOR BOYS
It has now been more than a decade since Christina Hoff Sommers wrote her landmark book, The War Against Boys. Boys have not lacked for articulate defenders since—dozens of titles have followed—but the fate of boys has not improved. Every stage of their lives is fraught. The diagnosis rate for ADHD is as high as 15.1 percent for American boys, a percentage more than two times the rate for girls.10 Boys are expelled from preschool nearly five times as often as girls.15 In elementary and secondary school, boys get D’s and F’s at more than three times the rate of girls. On twelfth-grade standardized tests, 28 percent of boys score below basic levels in writing (it’s 14 percent for girls), and 31 percent of boys are below basic levels in reading (it’s 20 percent for girls).11 The gap in the high-school-dropout rate persists even as the general rate of dropouts declines.3Across grades four, eight, and twelve, boys write at lower levels than girls.11 Boys’ juvenile-arrest rate is more than two times what it is for girls. Boys are 71 percent of juvenile offenders.6 Boys are twice as likely to be threatened with a weapon in high school.2
Maturity and despair go together for boys. Between ages ten and fourteen, boys are about twice as likely to kill themselves. Between fifteen and nineteen, they are almost four times as likely. From twenty to twenty-four, almost five times.2 Women account for 56.5 percent of all undergrad enrollments. And women account for nearly 60 percent of bachelor’s and master’s degrees.11 So what happens in the future? What happens when the category of “man” is synonymous with the category of “uneducated,” which is synonymous with the category of “failure”?
Fear is the first response to the crisis, rife even among boys’ defenders, and after the fear comes the blame, two brands of it, right wing and left wing. The War Against Boys was explicitly a critique of feminism. “Boys” were the new “girls,” limited and despised by a generalized misandry, a politically correct fury that in its zeal to tear down the patriarchy simply forgot that men are people. On the other side, Michael Kimmel, in books like 2008’s Guyland and last year’s Angry White Men, has argued that the residue of patriarchy drives young men to despair and self-destruction. The old codes, the macho, the defensive response to a changing world, “the ideology of traditional masculinity that keeps boys from wanting to succeed,” in his phrase, are the primary culprits.
The boy is now an alien among us, brittle but also violent. But you don’t have to look far back to find other responses. Not so long ago, boys and boyishness were the ideals of society. On the walls of the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan are written the hopes Teddy Roosevelt had for the boys of his era: “I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender.” Boys were strong but also sentimental—the way the war office convinced them to go to war in the early twentieth century was through their attachment to their sisters and mothers. The boy, for most of the history of the twentieth century, represented the best of humanity.
Sommers and Kimmel are both right: The men lost without a patriarchy and the men lost in guyland are the same men. The bridge to manhood has two spans: Give boys and men a way to be proud to be boys and men, in order that they can then understand that being a man is an ongoing, difficult, complicated undertaking. It’s not just that the boys’ crisis requires a complex response. Complexity is the response. And the best way to give that complexity, to demonstrate that masculinity requires strength and vulnerability, is by the presence of a father or a father figure. Children raised by single parents are at a greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse.4 Boys are more than twice as likely to be arrested,6 more likely to drop out of high school,3 at least twice as likely to commit suicide.2
7. THE CRUCIAL INSTITUTIONS ARE IN RUINS
The father figures have, one by one, been torn down. They have torn themselves down. Male authority figures, for generations, were given a free pass, an unexamined prerogative. They abused it. Some of them still abuse it. The past fifty years have been consumed with the destruction of various patriarchies. But the crisis of today is not the handful of monsters who infect the institutions. The crisis is the 17.5 million fatherless children3 with an absence in their souls. There is no cure for fatherlessness. There are only salves. The fatherless world needs substitute fathers, men who are willing to care about the lives of children who aren’t their own. The problem isn’t bullying coaches. The problem is all the men who aren’t coaching. The problem isn’t the various inevitable failures of the men who show up. The problem is the men who don’t show up.
The evils of a few have overshadowed the good of many. The coaches and priests and teachers are not the enemies of civil society but its creators.
8. THE NEW FATHERHOOD ISN’T THE OLD PATRIARCHY
The old fatherhood was a series of unexpressed assumptions. The new fatherhood requires intelligence. It requires judgment. The new fatherhood is messy. It will have to be. In the face of this messiness, there are men, and not just a few, either, who retreat into fantasies of lost idylls, worlds where men were men, whatever that might have meant. Kimmel’s work is full of them, guys who wallow in an “aggrieved entitlement.” The new father is not so shallow nor so old-fashioned. Only the truly lost man would want to return to his grandfather’s way of life. Who would want to go back to the bad food, the boring sex, the isolation? Who would want to be financially responsible for a family and then never see them? The new fatherhood is a huge gain for men, the chance for a deeper intimacy, a whole new range of pleasures and agonies, a fuller version of our humanity.
9. THE AMERICAN FATHER IS A PRECIOUS RESOURCE
At the heart of the new fatherhood is a somewhat surprising insight: Men, as fathers, are more crucial than anybody realized. The changing American father is transforming the country at all levels, from the most fundamental to the most ethereal, economically, socially, politically. The epidemic of fatherlessness and the new significance men place on fatherhood point to the same clandestine truth: The world, it turns out, does need fathers.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
by Georgialee Lang
Pre-Father’s Day Virtual Media Conference on June 4, 2014 from 1 pm to 2 pm Pacific time, onlinehttp://www.newswise.com
Jason Patric, the actor and activist, who is fighting to be an equal parent, will join three nationally known parenting experts in a virtual media conference Wednesday, June 4, the week leading up to Father’s Day.
This online event comes at a time when 53% of women under 30 who have children are not married*. That statistic predicts a generation of children with little or no father involvement – a potential threat to society and a troubling development for America’s children.
MEDIA EVENT WILL FEATURE:
* Jason Patric – actor, activist, and founder of Stand Up for Gus
* Dr. Warren Farrell — author of Father and Child Reunion
* Georgialee Lang — Leading Women for Shared Parenting
* Dr. Ned Holstein – founder and chair of the National Parents Organization
Among issues the four speakers will explore:
* Why aren’t more fathers more involved with raising young children – and where have all the fathers gone?
* What are the implications for America’s future?
* Are there larger issues involved in Stand Up for Gus and Jason Patric’s battle for co-custody of his son? Or is this just about cases of in vitro fertilization?
* How are women becoming a political force for the equal involvement of both parents?
*What role do family courts play in keeping fathers apart from their children
Issues and story angles the presenters will discuss during the online media conference:
–Jason Patric, actor, activist and founder of Stand Up For Gus; http://www.standupforgus.com
— Why he’s fighting for Gus and all the kids who are being deprived of their dad;
— What he’s learned about how the system treats dads.
–Warren Farrell, PhD, author Father and Child Reunion; http://www.warrenfarrell.biz
— What the research shows about why children do better when fathers are equally involved;
–Georgialee Lang, J.D., of Leading Women for Shared Parenting; http://www.lw4sp.org
— How women and mothers are becoming a political force toward this end;
— Why Leading Women for Shared Parenting is redefining the “maternal instinct” as providing a child with both parents.
–Ned Holstein, M.D., Founder and Chair of the National Parents’ Organization;https://nationalparentsorganization.org
— What’s happening in the U.S. and Canada about the challenges fathers face on a legal level;
–Which states and provinces have implemented the most progressive legislation?
New York Post – May, 31st 2014
When Jay Sullivan was 5 years old, his father had a “bipolar breakdown” and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. What Sullivan remembers from the days and years that followed are violent outbursts, putting his father to bed drunk, late-night calls when his father had no where to stay and bailing him out of jail.
“When he died in 1992, I put his ashes in my closet and put him behind me,” Sullivan wrote on his website.
But it wasn’t that simple. Three years ago, Sullivan, a professional photographer in Red Bank, NJ, began producing a series of images he calls “Glove” to try to reconnect with his father.
Sullivan photographed articles that had linked or divided the two of them — a baseball glove, his father’s shaver and black wingtip shoes and a prescription bottle containing lithium.
As Sullivan continued the project, the dark images of his father’s illness were gradually replaced by more positive ones — of his father’s successful business career, of the two of them going fishing together, and of trips to Yankee Stadium.
“Three years into this process and 20 years after his death, I have found the father I always wanted and in many ways always had,” Sullivan wrote.
Those contributions begin during pregnancy, before fathers and their children have even met. Studies show that the death rate of infants whose fathers were not around during pregnancy is nearly four times that of those with engaged dads. And depression in fathers during their partners’ pregnancies — which is more common than most people realize — can increase the child’s lifelong risk of depression.Many of us understand the deep emotional connection Sullivan has with his father, even decades after his father’s death. But now a new body of research is explaining why we have that connection. Fathers, it turns out, contribute far more to their children than many of us realize.
After birth, children whose fathers play with them, read to them, take them on outings, and care for them have fewer behavioral problems during their early school years. And they have a lower risk of delinquency or criminal behavior as adolescents.
Some of fathers’ contributions are surprising. One might guess, for example, that mothers have more influence than fathers on their children’s language development. Despite the growing number of women in the workforce, mothers still spend more time with children in many families than fathers do.
But that turns out not to be the case. Lynne Vernon-Feagans of the University of North Carolina, who studies language development, has found that when it comes to vocabulary, fathers matter more than mothers.
In middle-class families, she found that parents’ overall level of education — and the quality of child care — were both related to children’s language development. But fathers made unique contributions to children’s language development that went beyond the contributions of education and child care.
When fathers used more words with their children during play, children had more advanced language skills a year later. And that is likely also linked with later success in school.
And when Vernon-Feagans looked at poor families, she found much the same thing. She visited families when a child was 6 months old, 15 months old and 3 years old. She found that fathers’ education and their use of vocabulary when reading picture books to their children at 6 months of age were significantly related to the children’s expressiveness at 15 months and use of advanced language at age 3.
This held true no matter what the mother’s educational level was or how she spoke to the children.
“I do think our children see it as very special when they do book reading with their fathers,” Vernon-Feagans says. “They may listen more and acquire language in a special way.”
Several studies suggest that fathers also have a powerful influence on their daughters’ sexual behavior during adolescence.
This became clear in 2011 when Frayser High School in Memphis, Tenn., attracted national attention for its high pregnancy rate — about one in five of its female students was either pregnant or had recently given birth.
One local official blamed the high pregnancy rate on television shows such as MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” The official worried that these shows were encouraging Frayser’s female students to have unprotected sex earlier and more often.
That explanation seemed to make sense. But when the psychologist Sarah E. Hill of Texas Christian University examined the situation, she noticed another striking fact: One in four households was headed by a single mother. Studies have revealed “a robust association between father absence — both physical and psychological — and accelerated reproductive development and sexual risk-taking in daughters,” she wrote.
The fathers’ absence in so many families was likely more important than what their daughters watched on television.
These are just a few of the many, many studies in recent years that have demonstrated a powerful link between fathers and their children.
They underscore what many of us experience — that our fathers are important in our lives, as the photographer Jay Sullivan discovered after his father’s death. And it underscores the hope that many fathers have — that they, in turn, will be important in their children’s lives.
Paul Raeburn is the author of “Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked” (Scientific American), out this week.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )