Absent Dads & Present Hardships
19.7 million children and teens in America—or 27%—are living without a father figure in the home. This includes biological, step, or adoptive fathers.1
Fathers play an important role in their children's lives. Since the 1990s, studies have consistently shown that children from fatherless homes are over-represented among high-school dropouts, pregnant teens, and suicidal teens. The vast majority of adult males who have committed violent crimes come from homes without a father figure. Girls without a father present or whose father is disengaged tend to take more sexual risks and become sexually active earlier.2
The three states with the highest percentage of children living in homes without a father (in 2013):3
Percentage of children living in mother-only households, by race:4
Crime & Incarceration:
• Number of children with a parent in prison: 2.7 million
• Percentage of incarcerated parents who are
• Between 1991 and 2007, the percent by which the number of children with a father in jail increased: 79%
• Percentage of fathers released from prison who are likely to be arrested again within 3 years: 66%
• Home circumstances of youth in juvenile custody prior to arrest:5
— Living with one parent (typically the mother): 45%
— Living with two parents: 30%
— Living with no parent (i.e., with foster parents, in a group home, or other residential arrangement): 25%
Child Poverty Rate:
In mother-only homes: 41%
In father-only homes: 25%
In two-parent homes: 9%
Comparison of fathers who live with at least one of their children vs. fathers who live apart from their children6
• Children under 5 years old:
— Eat meals daily with their children: 72% vs. 8%
— Bathe, dress, or diaper their children on a daily basis: 58% vs. 8%
— Play with their children every day: 81% vs. 10%
— Read to their children every day: 29% vs. 5%
• Children between 5 and 18 years old:
— Eat meals with their children daily: 66% vs. 3%
— Take their children to or from activities every day: 21% vs. 4%
— Talk to their children about their day: 65% vs. 16%
— Help with or check their children's homework every day: 30% vs. 6%
• Fathers' Self-Perception:
— Said they were doing "a very good job" as a father: 44% vs. 21%
— Said they were doing "a not very good or bad job" as a father: 0.6% vs. 24%
What About Mothers?
Data on the adverse effects of fatherless homes also demonstrate the strain placed on mothers. Most single moms with two or more children at home have to work more than one job or put in extra hours to provide for basic needs and pay the bills. When dad is out of the picture, mom must pick up the slack.
Even before children are born, father uninvolvement takes a toll. The National Fatherhood Initiative (fatherhood.org/fatherhood-data-statistics) reports that among teenage mothers, pregnancy loss due to abortion, miscarriage, or stillbirth occurs at more than twice the rate for girls who do not have the support of the baby's father as for girls who do—48.1% versus 22.2%. Girls without support are also more likely to have a baby with a low birth weight.
1. National Fatherhood Initiative: fatherhood.org/fatherhood-data-statistics.
2. Danielle J. DelPriore and Sarah E. Hill, "The effects of parental disengagement on women's sexual decision making: an experimental approach" Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2013): http://personal.tcu.edu/sehill/DelPrioreHill_JPSP2013.pdf.
3. National Fatherhood Initiative, note 1.
4. National Center for Education Statistics: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cce.asp.
5. A. J. Sedlak and C. Bruce, C., "Youth's Characteristics and Backgrounds: Findings from the Survey of Youth in Residential Placement" (2010): https://rhyclearinghouse.acf.hhs.gov/library/2010/youths-characteristics-and-backgrounds-findings-survey-youth-residential-placement.
6. Jo Jones and William D. Mosher, "Fathers' Involvement with Their Children: United States, 2006–2010," National Health Statistics Reports (Dec. 20, 2013): cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr071.pdf.
has an M.S. in chemistry from the University of Texas at Dallas, and an M.A. in bioethics from Trinity International University. She resides in Dallas and currently works as a freelance science writer and educator.This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #47, Winter 2018 Copyright © 2019 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo47/fatherlessness