Fatherhood and a child's education: Exploring the effects of a father's absence on the social, moral, and religious lives of children
TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION 1 CHAPTER 1: THESIS STATEMENT & SIGNIFICANCE 12 1.01 Children's Need for Father 12 1.02 Background 14 1.03 Thesis Statement 14 1.04 Purpose and Significance 15 1.05 Uniqueness and Limitations 29 1.06 Methodology 20 1.07 Review of Literature 24 1.08 Organization of Work 36 CHAPTER 2: FATHER ABSENCE: A SOCIAL PROBLEM 38 2.01 Father Absence 40 2.02 The Rate of Father Absence 42 2.03 Father Absence: A Psycho-Social Problem 44 2.04 Causes of Father Absence 47 2.04.1 Divorce, Annulment, and Separation 47 2.04.2 Incarceration 52 2.04.3 Death 56 2.04.4 Violence and Abuses 60 2.04.5 Work-related Father Absence 63 2.04.6 Knowledge Boom in the Computer Age 65 2.04.7 Lack of Proper Education about Fatherhood 67
2.04.8 Unemployment and Poverty 68 2.04.9 Media and Publication 69 2.4.10 Culture and Environment 71 2.04.11 Father's Readiness 71 2.05 Effects of Father Absence 73 2.05.1 The Disruption of Father-Child Relationship 74 2.05.2 Economic Difficulties 77 2.05.3 Poor Education 80 2.05.4 Psychological Effects 82 2.05.5 Psycho-Sexuality 84 2.06 Conclusion 88 CHAPTER 3: FATHERHOOD AND FATHER ABSENCE 90 3.01 Concepts of Fatherhood 91 3.02 Cross-Cultural Expressions of Fatherhood 98 3.02.1 African American Fathers 99 3.02.2 Caucasian U.S. Fathers 101 3.02.3 Fatherhood in Some Cultures of Africa 105 3.02.4 Hispanic American Fathers..., 110 3.02.5 Fatherhood in Jamaica, West Indies 112 3.03 Main Areas of Father Absence that Affect Fatherhood 119 3.03.1 Father's Availability 120 3.03.2 Father's Engagement 122 3.03.3 Father as a Family Provider 123
vi 3.03.4 Father as a Nurturer 126 3.03.5 Father, the Guardian, Protector, and Teacher 177 3.04 Implications of Father Absence to the Understanding of Fatherhood 129 3.04.1 A Vague Idea of Fatherhood 129 3.04.2 A Negative Image of Masculinity 130 3.04.3 A Confused Sense of Self-Identity 131 3.04.4 A Poor Paternal Foundation 132 3.04.5 A Crisis of Responsibility and Dependability 133 3.05 Effects of Father Absence on Family 135 3.06 Proactive Concepts of Fatherhood 141 3.07 Conclusion 149 CHAPTER 4: FATHER ABSENCE, FATHER AS A RELIGIOUS EDUCATOR AND THE FATHER IMAGE OF GOD 151 4.01 Children's Faith Formation and Father Absence 153 4.01.1 Obedience and Responsibility 154 4.01.2 God's Love.... 155 4.01.3 Knowledge of the Scripture 156 4.01.4 Prayer 157 4.02 The Father Image of God 162 4.03 Human Fatherhood and the Father Image of God 185 4.04 Father Absence and the Father Image of God 179 4.05 Fatherhood and fee Nurturing of Masculinity 181 4.06 Nurturing Femininity from a Father's Perspective 189 4.07 Conclusion 197
Vll CHAPTER 5: EDUCATIONA AND RELIGIOUS EDUCATIONAL RESPONSE TO FATHER ABSENCE 198 5.01 Fatherhood and Religious Education 199 5.02 Early Fatherhood Education and Sexuality, and Gender Education 205 5.03 Prenuptial Preparation for Potential Fathers 209 5.03.1 Compatibility 213 5.03.2 Character Traits and Habits 214 5.03.3 Discussion of Unmet Expectations 214 5.03.4 Mutuality 215 5.03.5 Knowledge of Family Background 216 5.03.6 Awareness of Disruptive Factors 216 5.04 Ongoing Education for Married Couples and Fathers 218 5.04.1 Marriage Encounter 218 5.04.2 Men's Prayer Groups 223 5.05 Homilies on Fatherhood and Family Life 225 5.06 Media Images of Fatherhood: Some Strengths, Many Limitations 229 5.07 Social Institutions and Supports for Fatherhood and Family 232 5.07.1 Promote Fatherhood in the Context of Intact Family Systems.. ..235 5.07.2 Review Working Conditions for Fathers 237 5.07.3 A Campaign on the Importance of Fathers 239 5.08 Conclusion 241
viii BIBLIOGRAPHY 248 APPENDICES 271 ABSTRACT VITA
Introduction Religious educators are entrusted with the responsibility of helping children develop their relationship with God. Guiding these children to maturity and fruition requires life-giving and life-sustaining religious education. Parents are the primary religious educators of their children, and children require parental love, care, and support in order to accept the knowledge of God and thrive in life.1 The formal processes of religious education in faith communities and schools build on, support, and complement the teaching efforts of parents. Viewed from the perspective of responsibility, though raising children is a complicated and tiring task, it is also a very rewarding commission. There is a paradoxical genuineness in the life of children. Every child is lovable, but often children can be disagreeable. Children are true sources of both joy and frustration. They are also agents of hope, motives for living, and assurances of continuity. Children's unconditional love and their affirmation of the value and importance of life for their parents, family, and the entire society out-weigh the challenges of raising them. In all of these, good families stand by their children offering them the much needed initiation to facts of life. Parenting and family life have not always been regarded as the primary means for educating children. For instance, in The Republic the ancient Greek philosopher Plato presents a model of collective upbringing of children in accordance with age and status. According to Plato, the child should be taken from the nurse at birth to the community of 1 Michael Lamb, "Introduction: The Emergent American Father," in The Father's Role: Cross-cultural Perspectives, ed. Michael E. Lamb (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1987), 3-26. 2 James W. Miller, Calling God "Father" Essays on the Bible, Fatherhood, and Culture, 2d ed. (New York: Paulist Press, 1999), 101-115. 1
children where all children are nurtured in a manner whereby the republic can be solely responsible for the rearing of children. No parent would be able to identify his or her child and no child should know his or her parents. This system was to ensure the destruction of kinship, and the liberation, empowerment, and employment of women. It was also meant to guarantee the protection of the aristocrats and "the survival of the republic under noble leadership."3 Plato's concern was not the well-being of the child but that of the State. Plato's ideas about the rearing of children have continued to exert some commanding influence on child-rearing methods to the present day.4 For instance, in many countries, including the United States, the government is the grantor of children's well-being. Parents are mainly entrusted with the care of these children. The civil authority does not hesitate to take over the raising of children whose parents fail in their parental duties. Hence, parents at times are regarded as being trustees of their children.5 Concerning the education of children within families, educators and researchers should consider questions about the roles of the father and mother, how the word "family" is to be understood, and how families can and should interact with the broader community and social institutions such as schools and Churches in fortifying family and parenthood because education as a process of knowing starts from the family. In addition, the meaning of "family" both as a word and as an institution is evolving into multiple meanings and dimensions throughout the world especially in the United States. In addition, scholars and experts often hold differing opinions on how the concept of family should be understood. For instance, a school of thought led by Coontz holds that the 3 Plato, The Republic, trans. Allen Blood (New York: Basic Books Inc., 1968) no. 139. 4 Elizabeth M. Craik, Owls to Athens: Essays on Classic Subjects Presented to Sir Kenneth Dover (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 223-4. 5 Miller, Calling God "Father, "115.
single parent family is a contemporary datum which society should learn to accept. Other scholars, including Gottfrieds, argue that the traditional family system with a father and mother offers an optimum, and progressive environment for the nurturing and education of children.7 Moreover, postmodern society is witnessing the introduction of new family systems that deemphasize kinship, gender, creed, and race. Durka explained this conception of a family system as a group of people who consider themselves bound to each other by enduring ties and are responsible for each other's well-being. The family could be rather directly described then as a system of interdependent relationships, engaged in change and adaptation, and geared to the growth and support of each member. This is the family's primary function, its main psychosocial task - the support and growth of each member.8 However "family" is defined, it is important to recognize that family life is an important organ of human society, because it plays a primary and important role in the raising of children, the continuance and survival of the human society.9 Generally, it can be acknowledged that from the Platonic era to the present there have been many proposals for the raising and education of children. Focusing on nurturing children within families leads to the recognition that "family" can be defined in many differing ways, which means that there are also many ways of envisioning the raising of children in respective families. However, the researcher is not claiming that the two-parent family is the only viable social structure for the nurturing of children, nor does he claim that the only viable form of family life is the two-parent, intact family. Rather, the analysis in this dissertation will be based on the more modest claim that the 6 Stephanie Coontz, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap (New York: Basic Books, 1992), 8-22. 7 Adele Eskeles Gottfried and Allen W. Gottfried, eds. Redefining Families: Implications for Children's Development (New York: Plenum, 1994), 37. 8 Gloria Durka, "The Changing Family: Perspectives for Family Ministry," Journal of Religious Education 83, no. 4 (1988): 501. 9 Ibid., 498.
two-parent family is a viable social structure for raising children. This claim is supported by the Church and other social institutions. Substantial research supports the claim that children are likely to receive the support, love, and care they need to grow into personally and socially well-adjusted and productive adults when they are raised within a healthy two-parent family by a mother and a father.10 According to Miller and Parish,11 an intact nuclear family can offer children solid self-esteem, which often seems to be low in children from single-parent families. Other researchers argue that there are some basic reasons why an intact family consisting of two parents and a child or children, is a suitable environment for the proper nurturing of a child. First, growing up in a healthy two-parent family can teach children to rely on the guiding wisdom of parents, thus shielding them from the influence of social toxins in the larger social environment. And sometimes, children more readily accept correction from their parents than from any other persons. Second, intact families are likely to have a father and a mother with strong attachment to their children, which in turn creates a congruent interactive environment. Such a situation may reduce the possibility of delinquency and enable children to cope effectively with the stresses of growth. Also, mothers and fathers have a wealth of wisdom and experience from which they can draw as it pertains to their respective genders and worldviews. It is good for every child to receive proper gender education, and children's own parents often are the appropriate people to initiate and provide such gender education. Thirdly, parents in a functional family arrangement often share stable value commitments and can nurture a 10 Michael Gotrfredson and Hirschi Travis, "A General Theory of Crime," in Robert Lerner, Family Structure, Father Closeness, and Delinquency: A Report from National Fatherhood Initiative (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1991), 3. 11 Thomas S. Parish, "Rating of Self and Parents by Youths: Are They Affected by Family Status, Gender and Birth Order?" Adolescence 24, no. 101 (1991): 109.
sense of cultural and religious virtues within their children. Parents often know their children from conception and can understand their needs even by mere gestures. Similarly, a significant number of studies, including those of the U.S. Census Bureau of March, 2002, support the claim that there are some advantages to two-parent families and a greater percentage of children from two-parent families than from single-parent families grow up to be well-adjusted and productive adults.13 While they can be healthy and nurturing environments, evidently, some intact families are noticeably far from being a "perfect" setting for the raising and education of children. In fact, contemporary two-parent families at times face a number of significant challenges. Included in some of the struggles of two-parent families are abuses, authoritarianism, neglect, manipulations, and self-centeredness. This situation is more rampant in a parent-parent relationship. Issues about fatherhood are listed among the challenges of intact families. More fully, the mothers' role in child rearing is well-define and often guaranteed in many cultures; while, within contemporary societies, many questions are being raised about fatherhood and the role of a father in a family. For a long time in the United States much attention has been focused on motherhood.14 For instance, feminist theorists have explored the role of mothering and the nature of motherhood. According to Gilligan, mothers often take the lead in families by fostering caring relationships.15 She points out that in many families motherhood goes beyond childbearing to include the responsibility for child caring. Similarly, Chodorow 12 Ibid. 13 Sondra G. Beverly, "Marital Hardship in the United States: Evidence from the Survey of Income and Program Participation," Social Work Research 25, no. 3 (2001): 143. 14 A. Rosenfield, L. Freedman, and D. Maine, "Meeting MDG-5 an Impossible Dream?" Lancet 368, no. 9543 (2006): 1133. 15 Carol Gilligan, "In a Different Voice: Women's Concept of Self and of Morality," Harvard Educational Review 47, no. 4 (1977): 487.
writes that "being a mother, then, is not only bearing a child, it is being a person who socializes and nurtures. It is being a primary parent or a caretaker."16 This social role of a mother as a nurturer often leads to the development of strong bonds between mothers and their children, and such a connection can, in many instances, guarantee a lasting, healthy relationship.17 Similarly, good and involved fathers play an important role in the education and socialization of their children. Evidently, many fathers have become more directly involved in child rearing. Even when they spend a significant amount of time working outside the home, many fathers today have come to play an important role in developing and maintaining a psychologically healthy family environment. Across cultures, however, paternal involvement in the life and education of children is either not well defined or is habitually problematic.18 Canfield observed that a majority of Americans19 "agreed that most people have unresolved problems with their fathers; some people carry these unresolved problems into their own parenthood, the consequence of which may result in further father absence."20 Some mothers are equally guilty of parental absenteeism, but fathers are numerically the larger offenders. Generally, when fathers are absent, there is an empty space within a family that can impoverish family life. Fathers' influence on the social, developmental, psychological, 16 Nancy J. Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Sociology of Gender (California: University of California Press, 1999), 11. 17 Ibid., 9. 18 Richard S. Lafans, Patricia McCarthy, and Bonnie S. LeRoy, "Genetic Counselors' Experiences with Paternal Involvement in Prenatal Genetic Counseling Sessions: An Exploratory Investigation," Journal of Genetic Counseling 12, no. 3 (2003): 219. 19 By "Americans," Canfield is referring to citizens of United States of America. 20 Ken R, Canfield, The Heart of the Father: How can Dads Shape the Destiny of America (Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1996), 46. 21 Louise Bordeaux Silverstein and Carl F. Auerback, "Demonstrating the Essential Father," American Psychology 54, no. 4 (1999): 397.
religious, economical, and educational well-being of their children is a well discussed topic in academic circles today. Within the academia and in the broader cultural spectrum, it is sometimes difficult to establish a very positive outlook on fatherhood and masculinity. This may have been caused by negative conceptions of masculinity which often lead to the deterioration of fatherhood and can also precondition some men to become unenthusiastic about becoming a father or their role as fathers.22 Recently, there has been a greater emphasis on the study of fatherhood and the roles of fathers in the lives of their children and family.23 Much more research is required in order to develop a better understanding of fatherhood and the role of fathers in the lives of their children, because of social-anthropologic and psychology in fathers' roles and fathers' importance. Imbedded in the fatherhood controversy is the continued reality of father absence from many families. Usually, in cases of father absence due to parent- parent misunderstanding, it is the children who suffer the consequences. Popenoe maintained that the dwindling of fatherhood is one of the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary social trends of the present time. He notes that within United States and "in three decades, from 1960 to 1990, the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers more than doubled, from 17 percent to 36 percent."24 Moreover, a number of researchers, including Popenoe and Blankenhorn, maintain that the problems of human society are fueled to a great extent by parental neglect, particularly the absence of many fathers in the lives, education, and development of their Frank Ancona, Crisis in America: Father Absence (Commack, N.Y.: Nova Science Publishers Inc., 1999), 9-13. 23 David Popenoe, Life Without Father (New York: Free Press, 1996). 24 Ibid., 3.
children. While all cultures and races experience father absence, not all social groups are statistically equal in terms of father absence and two-parent family diminution. A population survey of U.S. families in 1999 shows that of children aged 0-17 living in households with their fathers present, 73% were of White, non Hispanic origin, compared to 13% of Hispanic origin and 8% of Black non-Hispanic origin.26 Overall, the research of Popenoe and Blankenhorn reveals that in the United States, Black fathers, Hispanic fathers, and low income men are more likely to leave or even desert their families and children.27 This shows that some races and cultures are more susceptible to father absence than others. A combination of studies shows that factors which contribute to father absence include divorce, an unplanned baby, workaholism, incarceration, paternal neglect and penury, lack of father involvement, lawlessness, deregulation, and unplanned cohabitation. The absence of many fathers from families can no longer be denied because it is visible and self-intelligible. Poverty, crime and incarceration, teen pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, illiteracy, poor health and childhood obesity, child abuse, and religious immaturity can be linked to father absence.29 Generally, father absence has some negative consequences on families and on society as a whole. 25 David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 201. 26 Norman A. Peart et aL, "Faces of Fathers: African-American Young Adults View the Paternal Roles," Journal of Family in Society 87, no. 1 (2006): 78. 27 Thomas W. Miller, "Parental Absence and Its Effect on Adolescent Self-esteem," International Journal of Social Psychiatry London 30, no. 4 (1984): 293-6. 2* USDE and USDHHS, U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. A Call to Commitment: Fathers' Involvement in Children's Learning (Washington, D. C: 20202-8173, June, 2000), 9-11. 29 Sara McLanahan, The Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study: Baseline National .Report (Princeton, N. J.: Center for Research on Child Well-Being, 2003), 13.
This dissertation focuses on father absence. The scope of inquiry is limited to father absence in family life, with a specific focus on two-parent, mother and father, families in the United States. The discussion of family challenges focuses primarily on the effects of father absence on children of two-parent families who live in the United States. The aim of this dissertation is to expose the vicious causes and effects of father absence and to offer pedagogical approaches to reduce father absence from two-parent families. As a Nigerian Catholic priest who worked in Nigeria, the West Indies and now the United States of America, this researcher has encountered the problem of father absence in these countries, especially in his country Nigeria. This researcher plans someday to go back to Nigeria and conduct research on father absence. In this dissertation, however, he focuses on father absence in the United States. What he can learn from the literature in the United States will equip him for future scholarly research on father absence in Nigeria. The United States is primarily an industrialized nation, and Nigeria is becoming increasingly industrialized. This dissertation on father absence in the United States will prepare him for future and further research on this topic in his developing country, Nigeria. A substantial number of studies have been conducted on father absence and the family's socio economical and psychological issues. These studies concentrated on the economical, social, and psychological issues of father absence. They claim that father absence has a noxious effect on children, family, and the society at large. Other scholars, including Coontz accept the verity of father absence but conclude that father absence is of less consequence and should be ignored. They point out that there has always been father
absence in different forms throughout history. While acknowledging that father absence disrupts traditional family structure, they suggest that those who are worried about father absence have fallen into a "nostalgia trap." They contend that "family life should be allowed room to evolve."30 These conflicting views on family and fatherhood need to be synthesized. As a religious educational study, this research draws from contemporary work on family education. For example, Durka explores how child development, concepts of parenthood, and patterns of family life provide a starting point for a child's education and interaction with the wider social world. She acknowledges that parents can have a lasting influence on their children, and she discusses how parents can utilize the exceptional opportunity of parenthood to promote a sense of responsibility and encourage the development of social and emotional competencies in their children's lives. According to Durka, parents can also provide a supportive environment from which children can learn and become socially responsible adults.31 Building upon the works of Durka, other educators, and religious educators, forms the foundational in the discussion of how the Church and other social institutions can enable fathers to understand that their presence importantly contributes to the education and religious development of their children. The phenomenon of father absence dates back to the earliest history of marriage, family, and fatherhood,32 and has affected and continues to affect all societies. Hence, though most of the research and literature of this dissertation is concentrated on fatherhood in the United States, the research findings will be applicable to other societies as well, especially Nigeria and Jamaica, West Indies, because father absence is an 30 Coontz, The Way We Never Were, 184. 31 Durka, "The Changing Family," 498, 507-9. 32 Willystine Goodsell, A History of Marriage and Family (New York: Macmillan, 1935).
11 interdisciplinary and intercultural issue. However, sources for this dissertation are chiefly drawn from literature on father absence in United States of America in order to acquire a foundational understanding of father absence in an industrialized society. The problem of father absence is addressed in many spheres of human life, including faith communities, educational institutions, the media, and other social institutions. Hence, this dissertation discusses how religious leaders, educators, members of the media, and other people of good will can help in conscientizing their community about the importance of fatherhood and what can be done to address the problem of father absence. This work recognizes that many fathers, past and present, have been and are sincerely involved in the education and development of their children's lives. It also recognizes single mothers, past and present, and the heroic tasks they have undertaken to keep their families together and safe. The important role which single mothers play in the society cannot be ignored; however, the absence of fathers from families is a significant pastoral and educational problem with grave consequences for human societies and needs to be addressed.
Chapter One Thesis Statement and Significance Children's Need for a Father Do children really need fathers just as they need mothers? From a religious educational viewpoint, children need a father just as they need a mother. Bunge draws insight from the Bible in discussing why children need both of their parents and a wider community of adults in order to develop in a healthy manner.1 First, children are vulnerable to risk, injury, and exploitation because of their limited outlooks on life; therefore, they need the compassionate presence of adults to represent their interest, and advocate for their protection, education, and guidance. Scripture and contemporary social laws equally recognize parents as the ideal people to raise children in this sense; substitutes can be found for parents but they cannot be replaced. Second, children are images of God created in God's likeness, therefore, they possess human dignity and are worthy of respect from conception onward. As expressed in Gen. 1:27, they, like adults, possess the fullness of humanity regardless of age, race, gender, or class. Parents are the first people to welcome them into the world and help them to realize that they are gifts of God and signs of God's blessing. Third, children are not just vulnerable persons; they are also developing and fragile persons. Bunge calls them "moral agents in need of instruction and guidance." According to her, as children grow, "they gain speech and reasoning abilities, and gradually move from a state of non-innocence to a state of 1 Marcia J. Bunge, "Beyond Children as Agents or Victims: Reexamining Children's Paradoxical Strengths and Vulnerabilities with Resources from Christian Theologies of Childhood and Child Theologies," in The Given Child: The Religions' Contribution to Children's Citizenship, ed. Trygve Wyller and Usha S. Nayar (GOttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2007), 27. 12
growing accountability for their actions." Therefore, parents are to nurture the faith, skills, and cultural values of children and help them use their gifts and talents to love and serve others and contribute to the common good. They are to guide their children, helping them to develop intellectually, morally, emotionally, and spiritually. Lastly, one of the benefits of having children is that there is a complementarity of knowledge between parents and children. Children can be models of faith for adults, sources of revelation, and representatives of Jesus. Parents, especially fathers, should listen to children and be willing to learn from their piety, sincerity, humility, trust, and gentleness.3 To this Luther added, .. .most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the gospel. In short, there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal.4 Many theologians teach that parenthood is a divine vocation that focuses mainly on the well-being of children. Children need both their father and mother to help them in their journey to adulthood. Moreover, children need their fathers in order to know that they are loved and know themselves through the love of their fathers. Fathers can also introduce their children to their extended family members and widen their social network. A good father can brighten his family, help to keep his children in school and sometimes out of jail, and can teach them to be good parents. 2 Marcia J. Bunge, ed. The Child in Christian Thought (Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publication Company, 2001), 14. 3 Matt. 18:2-5; 19:14. 4 Martin Luther, Litfher's Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut Lehmann (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 19$6), 45-46.