For 18 months, my wife and I lived in a transitional housing facility for families transitioning out of homelessness. During our time there, dozens of families cycled through the program. But we saw only three or four dads the whole time we lived there. The residents were almost always exclusively moms and their kids. The absentee dad crisis is real.
Where were the dads?
It’s a haunting question. Like the tides pulling away from the shore, many dads seem to be fading away from their children, fleeing the responsibilities fatherhood has placed upon them. The fatherless epidemic wreaks havoc on our country:
- People who grow up fatherless are 20X more likely to be incarcerated and 9X more likely to drop out of school.
- 90% of all homeless and runaway children and 80% of all adolescents in psychiatric facilities are fatherless.
- Girls with detached or absentee dads are far more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.
“Millions of poor children and teenagers grow up without their biological father, and often when you ask them about it, you hear a litany of male barbarism,” writes David Brooks, columnist at the New York Times. “Yet when you ask absent fathers themselves, you get a different picture. You meet guys who desperately did not want to leave their children, who swear they have tried to be with them, who may feel unworthy of fatherhood but who don’t want to be the missing dad their own father was.”
The cataclysmic effects of disengaged and absentee fathers cannot be overstated, but is change afoot?
Robert Francis, a doctoral student at Johns Hopkins studying these issues, offers a ray of hope amid the gloom. “Men want to be good dads. In fact, I think there is a rehabilitation of fatherhood underway in sociology, and hopefully in society,” Francis writes.
Brooks and Francis do not minimize the problem of fatherlessness, but they examine reasons for hope.
At dadcraft, we believe dads need to lead the way in curbing this crisis. To do so, we need to get serious about challenging our compatriots to three things:
- Seek sacrifice, not indulgence.
- Lean into a community of other committed dads.
- Take this important craft seriously by upping your fathering game.
P.S. Check out Daddy Don’t Go as a helpful perspective on the issues surrounding absentee fatherhood.