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  • Writer's pictureChris Madden

Perspective: America Needs Dads

"From the first time I held you, so perfect and new,

I promised to do everything that I could do

to help you become your most wonderful YOU,

my darling, my daughter, my girl."

I read Why a Daughter Needs a Dad to my daughter about once a week. It’s a great book full of the ways dads profoundly impact their daughters, and I know these quiet moments are among the most precious we will ever share together. The aforementioned line rings true in my own journey to fatherhood, and as I think back on the first time I held our daughter, and felt her fingers wrap around mine, all the priorities of my previous life fell away. I was reborn myself, and my purpose was greater now than ever before.

Being a father has always been my life’s greatest ambition, and the fulfillment I felt when I held my daughter for the first time is unexplainable. I understand everyone might not share the same aspirations in their own life, but I think it’s important not to overlook and discuss one of the greatest issues facing America today. The fatherless crisis.

This systemic issue has plagued our country for decades, and fatherlessness is reaching a dangerous level that could very well be the undoing of America as we know it. A seismic shift is taking place among Gen-Y or millennials; a generation of children who have either experienced divorce in their homes or were raised by a single mother, now find themselves on track to carry on the fatherlessness epidemic.

I am ashamed to say that my generation has relatively little to no interest in committing to a spouse, having a child, a long term mortgage, or even a career on a sizable level. We are a generation that fears commitment on virtually every level. We lease cars instead of purchasing them, live with parents far longer than necessary, rent apartments that cost more than the average mortgage payment, and engage in open relationships or casual partnerships rather than finding someone to marry and commit the rest of our lives to all in the name of flexibility and the ability to pick up and move on in the drop of a hat.

What’s truly frightening, is that this fear of commitment is leading to a shortage of families, children—and something our country desperately needs—some potentially great parents for the next generation.

While it hasn’t always been this way; it’s been a progressive decline over the last 70 years. The post-World War II baby boom was dominated by families, but every decade that trend continues to drop at an alarming rate. Post-WWII, 73% of all children were living in a family with two married parents in their first marriage. By 1980, 61% of children were living in this type of family, now that number is below 40%.

However, these aren’t the statistics that should concern us the most. According to David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America, chair of the National Fatherhood initiative and founder/president of the Institute of American Values, provides more insight with some startling statistics:

  • Approximately 30% of all American children are born into single-parent homes, and for the black community that figure is 68%;

  • Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty, a rate 5 to 6 times that of kids living with both parents;

  • 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way;

  • 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes;

  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes;

  • 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes;

Statistically I should fall into one or more of these categories. Had it not been for my superhero of a mother, and countless father-figures who came alongside and poured into my life, there’s no doubt I wouldn't be half the man I am today. But that’s what truly makes America special. Although we don’t all start with the same circumstances, we have the ability to defy statistics and live the American dream.

As I said, my dream was to be a dad, and it’s really the best job in the world. But I get a unique privilege, I’m a girl dad.

The “Girl Dad” movement gained significant traction when Kobe Bryant passed away in February of 2020. He was an icon on and off the court, and his death sparked a conversation on fatherhood which took the world by storm. This bond is more significant than just a hashtag or a catchy phrase, but this movement has highlighted the significantly understated roles men play in their children's lives, especially those who have daughters.

Blankenhorn’s research found that the effect of fatherless homes impacts daughters at a jaw-dropping rate:

  • Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers;

  • Daughters of single mothers are 111% more likely to have children as teenagers;

  • Daughters of single mothers are 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriage

  • It’s evident that without a present father, children are at a significantly higher risk for engaging in destructive behaviors or embracing potentially negative and life-altering decisions. This is why I’m stunned by these statistics—just by growing up in a home with an absent father, the odds are already stacked against that little girl.

I could continue to quote statistics and studies that demonstrate the direct correlation between fatherlessness and a range of social ills afflicting our children—but the message would be the same—too many young people are growing up today deprived of a fatherly presence in their lives. And should millennials continue down the path laid by many of their own absent fathers, the consequences will be crippling. The numbers don’t lie; we need committed families but our country desperately needs engaged dads.

On Father’s Day, we must honor all men who answer the call to be a father as well as those who step-up when those shoes need filling. These are the men who go to work every day to support their families; who come home at night and engage with their children, help them with schoolwork, attend their activities, play with them, teach and encourage them, and above all make sure they are loved and protected. These are the men who sacrifice their own leisure time to do things with their children—or do so because it is not a sacrifice, but a joy to spend time with their children.

My daughter will grow up with a mom and a dad who are providing a home full of love and nurturing. I know the statistics say that she is one of the lucky ones, but in truth, I am. I get to be a dad—her dad—and making her life special, and the world a better place is the best job I could have ever asked for.

Girl Dad, Chris Madden, and his daughter.

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Jun 20, 2021

Great article. Thanks.

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