New York City — On Friday afternoon, as the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) began the final negotiating sessions for the Agreed Conclusions for the two thematic tracks, Concerned Women for America sponsored a panel discussion for nongovernment organizations (NGOs) hosted by Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute.
Titled, “The Daddy Difference: What a Father Means in a Child’s Life,” the program attracted a standing-room only audience of predominantly liberal NGO representatives to hear Dr. Ken Canfield, president of the National Center for Fathers (NCF), an author of 11 books on fathering and an international authority. He established the NCF 15 years ago. It is headquartered in Kansas City with 20 full-time staff. Dr. Canfield spoke about fathering and Dr. Crouse added comments, data and statistics about marriage, illegitimacy, cohabitation, promiscuity and poverty as they relate to parenting and the well-being of children.
Some Important InformationJanice Shaw Crouse Marriage is the best path to good fatherhood: Fathers who do NOT live with their children over time tend to become disconnected both financially and psychologically. Only 27% of children over 4 years of age saw their nonresident father at least once a week over a year’s period. More than 31% saw their nonresident father not at all in that year.In a study of 13,000 youth, 57% of unwed fathers with children under 2 years of age visited their children more than once a week. Only 23% kept up contact beyond 7.5 years of age. Cohabitation is not the same as marriage: Three-fourths of children in cohabiting households will see parents split up before they are 16 years of age. [compared to one-third of married households] Children of mothers who live with boyfriends have more emotional and behavioral problems and poorer educational outcomes compared to children in married households.”Illegitimacy is the single most important social problem of our time more important than crime, drugs, poverty, illiteracy, welfare or homelessness because it drives everything else.”Charles MurrayThe Wall Street Journal, “The Coming White Underclass,” 1993. Note: In the ’60s, when Sen. Patrick Moynihan wrote his famous piece expressing concern about the future of the black family in America, he worried about the “critical mass” — 25% of males growing up without fathers. Today (figures from 2002), among white women 28.5% of births are illegitimate and among some Black populations the percentage exceeds 70%. We ought to be very concerned about this “critical mass” of children who are growing up unfathered. Good policy equals positive change – The experience of the United States in the past 40 years demonstrates that when you subsidize behavior you get more of it, but if you withdraw the subsidy you begin to get positive results. After Welfare Reform in 1996, illegitimacy in the Black community stabilized at 68% (after peaking at 70% in 1994). Illegitimacy in the White community continues to trend upward. The percentage of children in single-parent families since welfare reform has dropped 5% in Black families and 4% in Hispanic families, with no improvement in White families. The unwed teen birth rate since 1994 has declined from 31.7% to 20.8% among 15- to 17-year-olds. Among 18- to 19-year-olds the RATE of illegitimacy has changed per 1000-declined from 69.1% to 58.6%.
Dr. Canfield began with the fact that the “best and worst” fathering is going on today — right now. There is record abuse, abandonment and father-absence at the same time that some fathers are more hands-on and more aware of their role in the well-being of their children than ever before.
As evidence of a father’s importance, Dr. Canfield cited statistics indicating that a child’s gender identity comes from the father, who is also the primary instrumentality in the child’s drive as well. He also noted that while Americans recognize the negative impact of father absence, we are slower to recognize the impact of “unfathered” children– that is, those children whose fathers are absent because they are workaholics or because of social commitments. That, said Dr. Canfield, “is the dark side of our over-materialistic culture.”
Dr. Canfield stressed the impact of marriage on fathering and talked about the unique functions of the father/daughter bond. He used video clips to illustrate the role of good fathering and ended with a moving segment from Mel Gibson’s The Patriot, where 9-year-old Susan is deeply wounded when her father leaves her to go off to war. Dr. Canfield explained the emotions so vividly expressed in those movie scenes, which illustrated the wounds that father absence will cause — even when legitimate and unavoidable — and how good fathering can bring healing and wholeness to the daughter and the relationship.
The panel discussion was full of objective information, carefully researched data, usable statistics and relevant, solid reasoning. It was a pleasure for CWA to present such a high-quality seminar under the leadership of a professional, Ken Canfield, on such an important topic. The audience responded so positively. Audience members remained through the question and answer period to talk about his remarks even after the speaker had to fly on to his evening engagement in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse and Wendy Wright are non-government organization (NGO) representatives to the United Nations from Concerned Women for America. Dr. Crouse is Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute. Miss Wright is Senior Policy Director responsible for international and life issues. They are in New York attending the 2004 sessions of the Commission on the Status of Women.