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The Father Factor

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The Long View on Reducing Child Abuse and Neglect

I shudder every time I hear the phrase "child abuse and neglect." The notion that some parents abuse and neglect their children pains me. 

unc injury prevention research center One of the best strategies that organizations can use to reduce the risk that children will be abused or neglected is to implement specific efforts to increase the number of children with involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives. The use of this strategy has gained additional support from the results of a 20-year watermark project known as LONGSCAN (Longitudinal Studies of Child Abuse and Neglect), arguably one of the most significant projects ever undertaken in this country on the factors that lead to child abuse and neglect and its consequences. 

Researchers gathered interview data from more than 900 children. They followed these children from early childhood (before age 4) to adulthood, conducted 7 waves of interviews over 14 years with each child and his or her caregiver, and supported those interviews with teacher reports and reviews of records from Child Protective Services. 

With the objective to better inform practice and policy, the researchers summarized their findings within 3 areas common in discussions of child abuse and neglect--safety and health, permanency, and well-being. One of they key findings in ensuring the well-being of children is the role of the father. Specifically,

  • Father presence is associated with a number of improved outcomes, including better cognitive development and children's perceived competence.
  • The presence of a live-in boyfriend increases the risk for maltreatment, relative to the presence of a biological father or no father.
  • Some fathers may feel intimidated or inadequate as providers of child care.
  • Children who report more support from fathers were less depressed, more socially competent, and more socially accepted.

The implications of these findings for practice and policy, the researchers say, are:

  • Remove barriers to fathers’ involvement with their children.
  • Help fathers feel competent in parenting.
  • Convey to fathers and father figures how their children can benefit from their involvement.
  • All systems serving children (i.e. child welfare, health care, and education) should strive to include fathers.

These LONGSCAN findings support the many shorter-term studies on the benefits of father involvement for reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect.  

If you seek to reduce the risk of child abuse and neglect, are you doing enough to increase father involvement?

Find the latest statistics on families and fatherhood by downloading our free sample of Father Facts™ 6.

 

The Dismal Place of the U.S. on Father Absence

How much do you know about the global epidemic of father absence? Do you know it's global? Do you think it's a problem exclusive to the U.S., developed countries, or Western cultures? If you're not sure how to answer these questions, you're not alone.

child trends world family map 2014

It's easy for us at National Fatherhood Initiative to be myopic at times when it comes to addressing the crisis of father absence. It's easy for us to lose sight of this global epidemic because we're focused on addressing it in the U.S. But the fact is our resources are used all over the world. Throughout our 20-year history, we've had people and organizations from across the globe who were considering or already had started a fatherhood initiative or program contact us via phone and e-mail and pick our brains. A few people have even traveled thousand of miles to visit us in person. Others have simply purchased our resources and programs for immediate use. Why? Because they recognized the epidemic of father absence at their own doorsteps and, like us, decided to do something about it.

Understanding our nation's place in addressing this global epidemic is vital because it raises the awareness of anyone interested in this issue about how bad our plight really is. That's why I'm so grateful to Child Trends for its development of The World Family Map, a report that monitors global changes in the areas of family structure, family socioeconomics, family processes, and family culture, focusing on 16 specific indicators selected by an expert group because of their known relationships to child outcomes in the research literature. Each annual report of the project provides the latest data on these indicators. Child Trends released the first edition of the map in 2013 and just released the 2nd edition this month. Most important to those of us in the U.S. is that it provides a snapshot of where our country stands on a range of child well-being issues compared to the rest of the world.

This edition of The World Family Map gathered data on the 16 indicators from 49 countries grouped into 8 regions: Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), North America (Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.), Central and South America, Western Europe, and Eastern Europe. There are several of the 16 indicators that are most relevant to father absence that include the proportion of children (under the age of 18) growing up with a single parent and the proportion of children born outside marriage, the key driver of father absence in the U.S. 

The important data related to father absence are:

  • Although two-parent families are becoming less common in many parts of the world, they still constitute a majority of families around the globe. Children are particularly likely to live in two-parent families in Asia and the Middle East, compared with other regions of the world. Children are more likely to live with one or no parent in the Americas, Europe, Oceania, and sub-Saharan Africa than in other regions.
  • Growing up with a single parent is especially common in sub-Saharan Africa, in Central and South America, and in several English-speaking Western countries; in the U.S., the U.K., New Zealand, and Canada, a fifth or more of children do so. Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe have the world’s lowest rates of single parenthood.
  • Extended families, which can compensate for the absence of one or both parents from the household, are most commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Asia and Central and South America. Extended families (which include parent(s) and kin from outside the nuclear family) also appear to be common in Asia, the Middle East, Central/South America, and sub-Saharan Africa, but not other regions of the world.
  • While fertility rates are also declining worldwide, nonmarital childbearing is increasing in many regions, with the highest rates found in Central and South America and Western Europe. The highest rates of nonmarital childbearing are found in Central and South America and Western Europe, with moderate rates found in North America, Oceania, and Eastern Europe, varied rates found in sub-Saharan Africa, and the lowest rates found in Asia and the Middle East.

Because the report doesn't say anything specifically about the place of the U.S. on indicators related to father absence, I did some quick calculations. The data are not encouraging.

  • Among the 49 countries, the U.S. is tied with Colombia for the second highest rate of children growing up in single parent homes. Only South Africa has a higher rate. To put this in perspective, the U.S. trails not only every developed country (Western and Eastern) but nearly every developing one. 
  • Among the 17 countries in North America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Oceania, the U.S. has the 8th highest rate of children born outside marriage. The U.S. has a higher rate than all but 2 of the 16 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

There are cultural factors related to high rates of father absence an nonmarital childbearing. One of those factors is the cultural norms reflected in the attitudes people have about single parenthood and whether children need both a mother and father to thrive. (For a complete treatment of attitudes about fathers and fathering among fathers and mothers in the U.S., download our free reports Pop's Culture: A National Survey of Dads' Attitudes onFathering and Mama Says: A National Survey of Mothers' Attitudes on Fathering.) On those measures, the data are also not encouraging or surprising.

  • The U.S. has the 5th highest approval rate of voluntary single motherhood (i.e. approve of a woman who wants to have a child as a single parent and without a stable relationship with a man) among the 25 countries for which data are available. The U.S. trails only Spain, Chile, Argentina, France, and the Netherlands on this measure. 
  • The U.S. has the second lowest level of belief that children need both a mother and father "to grow up happily" among the 21 countries for which data are available. The U.S. trails only Sweeden on this measure.

The first characteristic of the 24/7 Dad is self-awareness. We should keep this critical characteristic in mind as we understand the dismal place of our country in ensuring that children grow up with an involved, responsible, committed father. An awareness of these data gives me even more reason to see our country turn the corner on this issue.

What impact has this post had on your view of father absence generally and in the U.S.?

Find fatherhood research detailing the problem of father absence in America on our father absence research page.

NFI Partners with U.S. Army to Place Fatherhood Resources on Installations Worldwide

NFI Fatherhood Skill-building Materials Being Distributed to New Parent Support Programs on 69 Army Installations

Germantown, MD (PRWEB) November 12, 2013

National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has contracted with the U.S. Army to place its fatherhood resources on installations worldwide to support the Army’s New Parent Support Programs.

militarydad and daughter reunitedOver 117,000 fatherhood skill-building resources – including guides, brochures, tip cards, CD-ROMs, and more – are being distributed to 69 installations around the globe. This is the second “refill” of NFI resources that the Army has ordered; the initial set of materials was delivered by NFI in the fall of 2011, and the first refill was completed in the fall of 2012.

Working with the Army’s Installation Management Command (IMCOM), NFI continues to support the Army’s efforts to strengthen fatherhood and increase family resilience among Army families. Specifically, NFI’s programming is supporting the New Parent Support Program in its efforts to “help Soldiers and Family members who are expecting a child, or have a child or children up to 3 years of age, to build strong, healthy military families.” NFI’s programming is integrated into parenting classes and home visiting programs, and NFI fatherhood resource kiosks are displayed around the bases for easy access to the materials.

Examples of NFI materials the Army is making available for fathers and families is general parenting information contained in resources such as Dad’s Pocket Guide™, New Dad’s Pocket Guide™, Pocketbook for Moms™, and Pocketbook for New Moms™.

NFI is also providing the Army with military-specific materials such as the Deployed Fathers and Families Guide™, which helps military dads prepare for, endure, and return successfully from deployment.

nfi logo

At a time when thousands of military fathers are returning from long overseas deployments, it is critical that our nation’s military fathers receive the education and inspiration they need to embrace their roles as fathers and to build their relationship and parenting skills.

Tim Red, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, father, and NFI’s Senior Program Support Consultant for the Military, said, “Building the skills and confidence of our nation’s military dads is a key ingredient in building resilience in military families. NFI is proud to support the Army’s critical efforts to strengthen military families.”

Since launching its Deployed Fathers and Families program in 2001, National Fatherhood Initiative has become the nation’s leading provider of fatherhood-specific resources to the U.S. Military. NFI has delivered over 760,000 resources to all five branches of the military on bases all over the world, and has been listed on Military OneSource, the Department of Defense’s support service for military families.

As the premier fatherhood renewal organization in the country, National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI), founded in 1994, works in every sector and at every level of society to engage fathers in the lives of their children. NFI is the #1 provider of fatherhood resources in the nation. Since 2004, through FatherSOURCE, its national resource center, NFI has distributed over 6.5 million resources, and has trained over 13,300 practitioners from over 6,100 organizations on how to deliver programming to dads. NFI is also the most quoted authority on fatherhood in America. Since 2009, NFI has been mentioned in over 3,400 news stories, and makes regular appearances in national media to discuss the importance of involved, responsible, and committed fatherhood.

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