More than 20 million children in the U.S. — 1 in 4 under the age of 18 — live in father-absent homes.1 The upward trend in fatherless homes has continued steadily as the percentage of children living with a single mother has jumped from 8 percent in 1960 to 23 percent in 2016.2 During that same period the percentage of children living in families with two parents fell from 88 to 69.2
In 2015, 43 percent of single-mother homes were at or below the poverty level.3 Children who live in poverty are more likely to remain poor as adults,4 putting them at risk for having children while unmarried, a significant cause of poverty and father absence.
Fatherlessness also leads to higher rates of juvenile delinquency, including behaviors such as violent crime and drug trafficking. According to a 2011 research paper by Deborah A. Cobb-Clark Erdal Tekin, “Understanding the link between fathers’ involvement with their children… and delinquent behavior is critical… the decision to engage in risky or criminal behavior often has substantial social, economic, and health costs for adolescents… their families and society more generally.”5
The first step to mitigate the effects of fatherlessness is to maintain and strengthen the parenting skills of men currently present in their children’s lives. The positive influence of involved fathers on their children can be leveraged to reduce the risk that their children will become part of the fatherlessness cycle.6
The second step to address the consequences of fatherlessness is to increase the number of fathers who will mentor a fatherless child. Highly-involved fathers can mitigate the effects of fatherlessness in their community by taking this step.
The third step to mitigate the effects of fatherless is to increase the number of men who will foster or adopt a fatherless child.
A father shapes his children emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Simply having a father in the home benefits children well into their adult life.
Before a child is even consciously aware of his father’s presence, that child is being shaped by the presence of his father. A group of British researchers studied the interaction between fathers and their 3-month old babies. They found that babies whose fathers were very active and engaged when playing with them had higher cognitive scores at age two.
Children also fare better health-wise when they live with their fathers. Children who do not live with their fathers have an increased risk of hospitalization and are less likely to receive a full cycle of vaccinations.9
A present-father’s impact on his children extends well beyond early childhood years. Studies of children who live with their fathers found evidence of the following:
Fewer behavioral problems in boys
Increased verbal skills in boys and girls
Better problem-solving competencies
Twice as likely to attend college
Higher IQ scores
Household financial stability
Unlikely to become homeless
Less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior
Earn more as adults
Higher levels of cognitive and social ability
Increased capacities to display empathy and self-control
A more positive self-esteem
Less conflict with parents during teenage years
Better mental health as adults
Stronger academic performance, and greater career success10
When a child is born to a woman under the age of 25 in the U.S., it is highly likely that child will grow up in a home without a father. The reason is that 71 percent of mothers under age 25 are unmarried when they give birth.11
Divorce also impacts the number of children not living with their biological father. More than 20 percent of children under the age of 18 live in stepfamily configurations, and the majority of those children live in stepfamilies with their biological mother.12
The U.S. Census reports that in 2009, nearly 8 million children lived with their grandparents, most of them absent their biological fathers.13
Children raised in fatherless homes face significant life obstacles through no fault of their own. While researchers are aware that not all children in fatherless homes will follow a predictable statistical trajectory, the impact of fatherlessness on children does have measurable outcomes.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, children from fatherless homes account for:
63 percent of youth suicides
90 percent of youth runaways
71 percent of all high school dropouts
70 percent of youth in juvenile detentions14
Researchers Deborah A. Cobb-Clark and Erdal Tekin concluded that “adolescent boys engage in more delinquent behavior if there is no father figure in their lives.” Living with their biological father reduces the risk that boys will grow into adults who participate in violent crime, selling drugs, or gang activity.15
Children who grow up without a father present face greater disadvantages in emotional, academic, and behavioral areas.16
Step 1. Engage. Keeping present-fathers present, engaged with their children, and strengthening that engagement, can mitigate the effects of fatherlessness. Engaged fathers who reside with their biological children have the best opportunity to role model appropriate male behavior.
The “way that fathers treat other people, spend their time and money, and handle the joys and stresses of life… provide a template of living for their children. A father’s treatment of the opposite sex, his ability to control his own emotions, and his approach to work all play a formative role in shaping his sons’ and daughters’ approach to romantic relationships and marriage, interpersonal relationships, and school and work.”17
This role modeling increases the odds that sons of engaged fathers will be engaged fathers themselves.
Present-fathers can benefit from further developing their parenting skills through parenting programs.18 The All Pro Dad Play of the Day provides men resource-rich emails with guidance on how to parent, how to have a strong marriage, and how to be an effective single father.
Step 2. Mentor. Action steps to mitigate the effects of fatherlessness and break the fatherless cycle must include a component to address the unmet needs of fatherless children. Therefore, the second step in mitigating the consequences of fatherlessness is increasing the number of men involved in the life of a fatherless child.
One option to increase the number of male mentors is to recruit men via a low-threshold entry mentoring program. All Pro Dad’s Day is a parenting program with low time demands and no financial demands, that also contains a mentoring element. This monthly school-based breakfast program requires just one hour of commitment each month. These breakfasts feature a pre-set curriculum that allows children who have present-fathers, and fatherless children, to experience the positive influence of a father or a father figure.
Step 3. Foster or Adopt. Once a father has developed strong parenting skills, is an engaged and present-father to his own children, and is receiving ongoing support in those efforts via parenting programs like All Pro Dad, he is a good candidate to foster or adopt a child.
Adoption is the ultimate step in mitigating the effects of fatherlessness in a child’s life, and fostering can be an avenue for fathers who are considering adoption.19
Fathers can visit All Pro Dad to learn more about fostering or adopting.
Fathers play a vital role in the overall well-being of their children. Most men want to be good fathers and, when asked, will state that their hope is for their children to thrive and succeed in life.
But with the increase in father-absent homes, many men are physically distant from their children. Children who grow up fatherless are more likely to struggle into adulthood in the areas of academic, emotional, social, and career performance.20
1. Engagement of present-fathers
2. Mentors for fatherless children
3. Adoption of fatherless children
All Pro Dad is a fatherhood empowerment organization with 20 years of experience in helping fathers connect with their children in a positive and meaningful way. It has reached millions of men with fatherhood guidance through its online outreach, school programs, and special events!
All Pro Dad provides resources for all fathers, no matter their place on the child-involvement spectrum. Committed fathers, and those wanting to strengthen their parenting skills can receive the All Pro Dad Play of the Day email. These emails offer parenting guidance, encouragement, and a fatherhood community. They are relevant for fathers who live with their children and for fathers who are not present in their children’s home.
All Pro Dad also helps fathers stay engaged with, connected to, and present in their children’s lives through the All Pro Dad’s Day monthly breakfast. There are more than 1,200 All Pro Dad’s Day chapters in 44 U.S. states. The All Pro Dad’s Day gatherings are also an ideal way for present-fathers to mentor a fatherless child.
All Pro Dad has launched the Join the Team fostering and adoption awareness effort that has already garnered thousands of inquiries into how to become a foster or adoptive parent.
More than ten years before Tony Dungy fulfilled his dream of winning a Super Bowl as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, he had another dream; to help men become better fathers.
He has fulfilled that dream as well.
In 1998 he and Mark Merrill, the President of Family First, a non-profit based in Tampa, Florida, launched All Pro Dad. “We wanted to create a way for dads to spend time with their kids in a fun environment,” said Dungy. “Our first event (in 1998) was a Father and Kids Experience in Tampa where 4,000 fathers and kids showed up.”
Since then, All Pro Dad has expanded its outreach and its offerings.
The Play of the Day Email and AllProDad.com reaches 4 million men a month.
The Father and Kids Experience has hosted thousands of men and their children at more than 100 sports-themed events, the majority of those in conjunction with the NFL.
All Pro Dad’s Day School Breakfast Chapters are held on school campuses, including Title 1 schools, and bring together thousands of fathers and their children every month. School administrators involved in All Pro Dad’s Days cite increased father involvement and tangible benefits to their students and campus environment.
Men who want to improve their relationship with their own children and explore the possibilities of mentoring, fostering, or adopting a child can join the All Pro Dad team.
For more information or for media inquiries, contact Dayne Young, 478-278-7267, or [email protected].
1Child population by household type. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/tables/ 105-child-population-by-household-type?loc=1&loct=1&loc=1&loct=1#detailed/1/any/ false/870,573,869,36,868/4290,4291,4292/427,428
2The majority of children live with two parents. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/cb16-192.html
3Children In Poverty. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/children- in-poverty/
4Child Poverty and Intergenerational Mobility. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.nccp.org/ publications/pub_911.html
5The relationship between parenting and delinquency. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2708328/
6PagadianDiocese.org. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pagadiandiocese.org/2016/12/01/fatherhood-the-antidote-to-the-poverty-problem/
7The Importance of Fathers in the Development of Healthy Children. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatherhood.pdf
8Dad’s involvement with baby early on associated with boost in mental development. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170509083936.htm
9 Paternal Age, Paternal Presence and Children’s Health: An Observational Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4387328/
10The Hidden Benefits of Being an Involved Father. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.c- fuf.org/Filestream.aspx?FileID=14
10The importance of Fathers [Blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-long-reach-childhood/201106/the-importance-fathers
11Freakonomics Radio. (n.d.). Podcast retrieved from http://freakonomics.com/podcast/fracking-baby-boom-retreat-marriage/
12Stepfamilies in the United States: a fact sheet. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthymarriageinfo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Stepfamilies-in-the-United.pdf
13Census Bureau Reports 64 Percent Increase in Number of Children Living with a Grandparent Over Last Two Decades. (n.d.). Retrieved from www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/children/cb11-117.html
14U.S. Department of Justice, H.R. Doc. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles/172210.pdf
15How an Absent Father Affects Boys and Girls Differently [Blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://freakonomics.com/2011/10/19/fathers-and-delinquency-in-the-american-family/
16Statistics on Fatherless Children in America [Blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.liveabout.com/fatherless-children-in-america-statistics-1270392
17The Importance of Fathers in the Development of Healthy Children. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatherhood.pdf
18Engaging Fathers in Parenting Intervention Improves Outcomes for Both Kids and Fathers [Blog post]. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://steinhardt.nyu.edu/site/ataglance/2017/01/engaging-fathers.html
19Adopted Children and Stepchildren: 2010. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-572.pdf
20The causal effects of father absence. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3904543/
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