Who Needs Fathers?

With many children being raised by single mothers today, are fathers becoming dispensable or non-essential? Is child rearing more about the quality of parenting than who provides it?

Not necessarily. In a systematic review of published research on the effects of fathers’ absence on children, Future of Children Editor-in-Chief Sara McLanahan and colleagues found that the most rigorously designed studies find negative effects on child wellbeing. The strongest evidence relates to outcomes such as high school graduation, children’s social-emotional adjustment, and mental health in adulthood.

But an important consideration is the nature of the parents’ relationship. In the Fragile Families issue of Future of Children, Robert I. Lerman describes how the capacities and contributions of unwed fathers fall short of those of married fathers, but this varies by the kind of relationship the father has with the child’s mother. Clearly, father-child relationships are crucial, but the quality and stability of these relationships are at risk in fragile families.

Phillip A. Cowan, Carolyn Pape Cowan, and Virginia Knox consider how to tailor existing couple-relationship and father-involvement interventions, which are traditionally intended for married couples, to the needs of unwed parents in fragile families. The authors emphasize that improving the parental relationship, regardless of whether the parents live together, will in turn have a positive effect on fathers’ involvement. Ultimately, improving the parental relationship might also be among the most promising mechanisms of promoting marriage, which in turn could be an important component of reducing family poverty and improving child wellbeing in fragile families. Fathers are needed, and some fathers could use a little help.

Future of Children will return to the topic of parental relationships and the science of marriage with a full issue dedicated to the subject in Fall 2015.

3 thoughts on “Who Needs Fathers?

  1. michael

    Children in my view need both parents, but they need both parents to be aware of all of their needs.Both parents need to have the capacity to be empathic.
    I am not going to get into what women do and what men do or do not do, but you cannot be a good parent either as a dad or a mum if you don’t know how to respect and treat the other parent and this is true whether you are in a romantic relationship or not.
    Too many parents get easily into the blame game. This is not helpful but it prevents parents from addressing what they should or should not be doing, because what you then focus on is the other parent’s behaviour, not yours.

  2. Nick

    Who needs mothers. the articles are biased. a true report would show that children are exploited by women and lawyers for financial gain. Study the law and then identify that due process for men in family court is non-existent while women are protected in one form or another. My ex-wife was pimped out to a pedophile step-dad even though her biological dad complained to the court. Had it been the mother complaining that the biological dad was molesting her daughter, obviously the court would react different as it always does. There is a bias because women are considered weak. I believe you share this belief as i don’t see where you identify any reason mothers suffer other than the father’s alleged failure.

  3. John

    Generally father is controlling in nature and mother is loving nature. The children won’t feel that easy with father as with mother. In my sense both are required. It is due to the father, we will be put into disciplined life. Generally children will less care about mother, this will grow recklessness in their behavior.

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