By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader
What is the common denominator of the greatest sibling tennis players of all-time, the legendary six-time champion Chicago Bulls superstar, the most sensational African-American golfer in history, and the man internationally known as the King of Pop?
What does the most electrifying female recording artist of the past decade have in common with the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, the billionaire Black TV megastar who transitioned from her own show to her own channel and the man simply referred to as The Greatest?
What is the tie that binds these incredible success stories? What is the one element of their lives that was similar? What circumstance did all these icons share – even though some never met one another?
What is the single shared life experience among such different individuals whose childhood experiences were in sharp contrast? The answer: They all had the involvement of a father during their formative years.
What difference does that make? With all due respect to the queens of our heart – mothers — there are some significant and sustained influences of a father’s presence that society too often ignores; and it’s much deeper than putting a roof over your head, shoes on your feet, clothes on your back, heat in winter and food to eat.
To weigh the impact of a father, consider the assessment of David Blankenhorn, author of “Fatherless America,” chair of the National Fatherhood Initiative and founder/president of the Institute for American Values, organization, and research conducted by Popenoe and scores of other researchers. According to those findings:
- Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center for Health Statistics.
- 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.
- Child abuse is significantly more likely to occur in single parent homes than in intact families.
- 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes according to the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
- 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way according to a study by D. Cornell (et al.), in “Behavioral Sciences and the Law.”
- 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes according to the National Principals Association Report on the State of High Schools.
- 80% of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes according to a report in “Criminal Justice & Behavior.”
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
- Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes according to a study by the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.
- 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes according to a study by the Center for Disease Control.
- Of all violent crimes against women committed by intimates, about 65% were committed by either boy friends or ex-husbands, compared with 9% by husbands.
- Daughters of single mothers are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 111% more likely to have children in adolescence, 164% more likely to have a premarital birth and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages.
- In a longitudinal study of 1,197 fourth-grade students, researchers observed “greater levels of aggression in boys from mother-only households than from boys in mother-father households,” according to a study published in the “Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.”
- The Scholastic Aptitude Test scores have declined more than 70 points in the past two decades; children in single-parent families tend to score lower on standardized tests and to receive lower grades in school according to a Congressional Research Service Report.
Clearly, my role in raising my daughter, Bridget, is the best experience of my life. It’s not just me. I have fraternity brothers, colleagues, casual acquaintances and fellow worshippers – as well as friends and strangers in Gary, Chicago, and Indianapolis and beyond who echo the same sentiment of joyful reflections on parenting – an assignment that comes with no expiration date.
Sunday and all week long, step up to your father, son, husband, cousin, brother, significant other, neighbor, co-worker or strangers, and say HAPPY FATHER’S DAY! Then, watch men with the weight of the world on their shoulders suddenly illuminate from the inside out.
CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].