The Father Center of NJ Blog

A Father’s Presence is Not a Question – But a Necessity, Written by Ryan Fulwood, Data Technology Coordinator

There have been many discussions across this country about whether or not a father is necessary to the wellbeing of a family. Mainstream media and popular belief could even have us start believing that the father is only there to be comic relief and is otherwise incompetent. One study, highlighted in an article published in the Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media has shown that fathers have been taken less and less seriously in sitcoms and have been used more for the punchline, whether making fun of others or making fun of themselves. Even more alarming, Erica Scharrer who co-authored that study stated that “fathers were shown in fewer parenting situations in more recent sitcoms. And when fathers were parenting, it was depicted as humorously foolish in just over 50% of the relevant scenes in the 2000s and 2010s, compared with 18% in the 1980s and 31% in the 1990s sitcoms.”

But does this reflect reality? Is the father’s purpose only to make jokes? While some may argue this, the data says no. The Pew Research Center has done multiple studies on the challenges that fathers face in today’s climate and there were some interesting findings. More dads than ever are staying home to take care of their children. In 2016, dads made up 17% of all stay-at-home parents, up from 10% in 1989. Interestingly, 24% of stay-at-home dads in 2016 stated that caring for their family was the main reason they were at home. The same data shows that in 2016, dads were spending more than triple the amount of time with their children and over double the time on household chores than they were in 1965. Clearly, fathers have been demonstrating by their actions that they are taking their job seriously and making the necessary adjustments as world and economic conditions change.

Even putting the efforts of fathers aside, some may even question if fathers are having a positive effect overall in their children’s lives. With this in mind, the National Fatherhood Initiative has compiled over 200
studies on the topic, and it was decisively concluded that children with involved fathers are at a lower risk for many poor childhood outcomes.

When the father is around, they have less risk of:
• Infant mortality
• Low birth weight
• Emotional and behavioral problems
• Neglect and abuse
• Injury
• Obesity
• Poor school performance
• Teen pregnancy
• Incarceration as juveniles
• Alcohol and substance abuse
• Criminal activity
• Suicide

All of these outcomes are important factors in the quality of life that these same children will go on to experience as adults. There is no doubt that fathers are a necessity to the family unit. Their unique perspectives help shape their children’s minds to reason on their actions and become more responsible and accountable. They provide the safety and security that helps children thrive and develop their own potential. Perhaps it is time to change the narrative that we have been getting spoon-fed for decades. If we agree that raising children is not a joke, then perhaps it is time to take fatherhood involvement seriously.

Photo Credit: Ryan and his father with their family, circa 1999