To All Those Without Fathers —
A little note to let you know that you are not alone.
Today, when it seems like everyone has a wonderful father, when it seems like everyone is extolling the virtues of fatherhood, proclaiming that fathers everywhere should be loved and appreciated, posting photos of their beloved fathers who love them right back — remember that all those who are silent may have their own stories to share.
Or, much like they may not have a father, they may not have a story to share.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), more than one-in-four fathers with children 18 or younger now live apart from their children—with 11% living apart from some of their children and 16% living apart from all of their children. In 1960, only 11% of children in the U.S. lived apart from their fathers. By 2010, that share had risen to 27%. The share of minor children living apart from their mothers increased only modestly, from 4% in 1960 to 8% in 2010.
The National Fatherhood Initiative also published results that, in every American state, the portion of families where children have two parents, rather than one, has dropped significantly over the past decade. Even as the country added 160,000 families with children, the number of two-parent households decreased by 1.2 million. Fifteen million U.S. children, or 1 in 3, live without a father, and nearly 5 million live without a mother. In 1960, just 11 percent of American children lived in homes without fathers.
This same initiative published results detailing some of the impacts of growing up fatherless:
- Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor.
- Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers.
- Infant mortality rates are 1.8 times higher for infants of unmarried mothers than for married mothers.
- Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families.
- Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.
- Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree.
- Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.
- The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.
- Father involvement in schools is associated with the higher likelihood of a student getting mostly A’s. This was true for fathers in biological parent families, for stepfathers, and for fathers heading single-parent families.
The Pew study also found that black fathers are more than twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from their children (44% vs. 21%), while Hispanic fathers fall in the middle (35%). Among fathers who never completed high school, 40% live apart from their children. This compares with only 7% of fathers who graduated from college.
But these facts and statistics may mean nothing when you have a hole in your heart that only a father could fill. When your father is white and well-educated and still opted to live apart from his (original, biological) children. Maybe your father died young. Maybe your father remarried and chose a new family, regardless of class or race or education level. Statistics may soothe, but statistics may feel irrelevant when you feel alone with your pain.
What does matter, on a day like Father’s Day, is to remember that you’re not alone. There are a lot of us out there. We just don’t have much to say on a day like today.
And if you’re lucky enough to have a father to hold and to turn to, try to have a little sensitivity for those of us who are not so lucky.