We must recognize married fatherhood as its rightful status critical to a healthy society

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As we head into Father’s Day weekend, strengthening the family in Maryland must become a top priority.  Social science research continues to confirm that children are more likely to thrive when they are raised in a home with a married mother and father, and every citizen in the state needs to know this basic truth.

In June 2008, then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama, who eventually carried Maryland by a 25-point margin, addressed the crisis of fatherlessness by lamenting that “[w]e know the statistics – that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison … And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.” A decade and a half later, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis echoed these same sad truths by observing, “If every kid in America had a loving father in the home, we would have far, far fewer problems that we would have to deal with as a society …”  Yet, despite the seriousness of the problem and the apparent agreement from across the political spectrum, fatherlessness is not an issue we see our elected leaders or media figures doing much to address.

In fact, our culture downplays the value of men in general and fathers in particular. Fathers are frequently portrayed by Hollywood as either comical buffoons or bitter tyrants.  Birth certificates in Maryland now use the term “parent” rather than “father” (or “mother” for that matter).  Our society’s current dismissal of the value of fathers comes despite the facts that consistently show, year after year, that children are put at a substantial disadvantage when they don’t have a father in the home.

The data consistently reflect this.  Whether it is poverty, educational decline, witnessing violence, single parenthood or relying on social welfare services, children who come from fatherless families are more likely to experience negative outcomes.

Although many of us have benefitted from the Free State’s best-in-class educational and medical institutions, none of these institutions and the services they offer can compete with the benefits of a mommy and daddy raising their children together in the home.

Father’s Day 2023 will likely pass like any other, with cookouts, home projects, silly Father’s Day cards, and perhaps a new golf shirt. The important message, however, isn’t so much what we say to our dads, but what our society portrays to our sons and daughters.  Are young men nobly inspired to become married fathers?  When young women look for a mate, are they willing to settle for a “baby daddy,” or do they want a committed man who will make continual sacrifices for the benefit of his family?

Governor Moore understands the importance of fathers given his own experience losing his father when he was a child.  Ten years ago, he offered compassionate advice about how to interact with a fatherless boy like himself.  In a social media post from a few years ago, the future Governor reflected on the idea of his father’s passing, “The promise of him, his love for me, has influenced every part of how I see myself as a citizen, a man, a son, a husband, a father.”  At a recent fathers rally in Prince George’s County, the Governor challenged communities and families to step up, in order to “…build stronger boys that turn into strong men.”

Based on current trends in family formation, and the personal experience of too many children growing up without fathers, we must recognize married fatherhood as its rightful status critical to a healthy society.  To do that, we must help young men and women recognize the risks and burdens to their future children if they don’t take marriage and fatherhood seriously.  They need to know that they can make decisions today – to finish high school, find jobs, and get married before they start families – that will dramatically lower the odds that their children will grow up in poverty or experience any of the other maladies associated with fatherlessness.  Every family, every church, and every school in Maryland needs to make this case to the next generation.

One thought on “We must recognize married fatherhood as its rightful status critical to a healthy society

  • June 17, 2023 at 2:52 PM

    Mr. Trimbath:

    I find this article to be problematic and feel the need to point it out as a social worker. The research you quote is only from one source. We have to take your word for it. What is more important is that it from 1997. You do know that it’s 2023? We did not have the internet in 1997. We did not have cell phones. I can’t help but feel that your argument is misleading because you clearly leave out or gloss over some concerning issues. Good research means looking at all sources and current sources, especially in the social sciences. I teach this in my freshman composition courses.

    I have little doubt that if a child is raised in a household with a “loving” mother and father that have a good relationship toward one another that this is the best case scenario, the idealistic one for a child. But this is where your argument falls short. You are speaking of an ideal. Life happens. More than have of all marriages end in divorce for a reason, many reasons.

    What if it’s an unhappy marriage, the mother is being hurt by the husband? Maybe he is abusive to the kids? The concept that “married fatherhood” is the answer to fatherless children being more stable glosses over this. It also fails to take into account that many fathers, even though divorced, are present in their children’s lives. I see this every day as a school bus driver. In fact, I see more dads picking up their kids than moms. Not all of them are married. So, we have to be careful with the term “fatherless.” What you seem to be referring to is really about kids being abandoned by their fathers. Divorced or separated fathers can still be positive and in their children’s lives. You should consider how divorced and separated fathers feel on Father’s Day when you write something like this.

    One of the major reasons couples break up is due to finances and the pressures of child raising. Often, such affects couples on the lower socioeconomic scale. This idea that if one stays married that all is great, that the kids will not see how miserable their parents are together is a myth. I worked with plenty of men with child sex offenses in prison that were married and grew up with a father and mother in the household. Often, to others, they were the happy family. One cannot have a happy life if we push a singular idea that “married fatherhood” is the save all. No singular solution fixes the complexity of human relationships. At best “married fatherhood” is one factor of many. You are hyping it up.

    One thing is clear about the human condition. The only way we survive as a species is to adapt to change, to be flexible. What I see in your argument is that we should go back to the old days when everything was great. But it was not great. It was awful. My parents stayed together “or the sake of the kids.” 23 years of hell. Such was a total disaster. I see this all the time with past clients. In fact, one of the main reasons, and I wrote about this, that marriages fail is that men choose the women that would be a “good mom” over who they really loved. What happens? They divorce because relationship falters. They came in with good intentions, married fatherhood focused, but it ended bad. These are my clinical experiences along with what other social workers have experienced.

    Instead of focusing on married fatherhood, why don’t you focus on fatherhood. Accept that some people will divorce and never marry. Accept that some people have two dads or two moms. At least they have two parents that love them. You cannot change this unless you want to force people against their wills. Today, we seem to want to force our wills on others. If you want to stay married and your spouse does, I fully support you. I ask that you support “others.” Focus instead on helping dads that are struggling to reconnect with their kids, become part of their lives.

    Divorce can and does hurt kids. But two people staying together for the sake of the kids also does serious harm. It creates a fake reality: the happy little family … that is not. This is more about keeping up with appearances.

    One of the reasons why teen girls’ pregnancy rates are dropping now is that they are educated about safe sex practices. If you don’t believe me, just look at the South, where few discuss sex with kids. They have the worst possible statistics of teen pregnancy and STDs. Because we give them a knowledge base, they are choosing not to have intercourse or sex. They are choosing because contrary to popular “panic” belief, teens that know about sex can and do make sensible decisions. Teenagers are not little kids, and we have to stop treating them as such. This study is much newer than what you quote. It’s entitled “Teen Sex” from CQ Researcher; CQ Researcher is a major academic database that is vetted. There are also many newer studies that show this.

    Sure, a stable home, a loving dad and mom, can help a girl navigate the sexual world responsibly, but that is not a given. So, again, we want to help kids, right? So, then let’s focus on dads, divorced, separated, or married, gay or straight, regardless of color or religion because your goal should be raising well-educated, loved, and resilient kids.

    In closing, I agree with you that men are bashed a lot in our society. In fact, my own son, when he was six, said, “I don’t like boys because all boys are bad.” We found out that he got this idea because cartoons focus on “girl power” and that girls can be anything, but men are only seen as criminals and abusers, active shooters, and total dummies, or simply mean idiots. I agree with that, but you are doing a similar thing, by leaving out millions of dads that may be separated or divorced or even single that now are seen as abandoning their children. That is not true.

    Let’s try to help all dads that need and ask for help, not make them marry or stay in a marriage that is trouble.

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