Families, communities, and nations are stronger when children are influenced by both mother and father. Mothers say and do things differently than fathers do, and children need both sides of the equation to mature properly. A recent study showed how boys are particularly affected when they have little or no relationship with their dads.
Dr. Warren Farrell wondered why young men were having so many problems in our society, and he set out to find some answers to what he calls “the boy crisis.” Why are so many young men so angry and what is driving them to despair? Farrell put his findings in a book titled “The Boy Crisis: Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It.” He shared some of his findings with Daniel Davis at The Daily Signal.
As Farrell searched for what was causing the boy crisis, he looked at “all 56 of the largest developed nations” and realized that all of them have a boy crisis. His next step was to discover what was common in the developed nations. He found that all 56 nations had two major things in common. All the nations gave “more permission for divorce” and “more permission for women to have children without being married.”
Farrell saw during his studies that “the boy crisis seemed to be dominant in those two groups” but especially dominant among divorce families, where the children saw very little of their father.” Farrell discovered that both boys and girls suffer from seeing little of their fathers, but “the boys suffered much more than the girls.”
Farrell then studied single mothers’ families and learned that “53% of women who are under 30 who have children have children without being married.” In these cases, the children may not even know who their father is or very little about him. I have a son-in-law who as a teenager sought out his biological father. The father would not acknowledge his son, but his two daughters became good friends with their half-brother.
The study shows that “it was in those two groups, dad-deprived children, where the children did especially badly. But the boys did considerably worse than the girls did.” Farrell “came to understand that the boy crisis resides where dads do not reside.” What makes it a boy crisis?
The boys are suffering in more than 70 different areas. They’re far more likely to commit suicide. They’re far more likely to do badly in school in every single one of their academic subjects, especially reading and writing, which are the biggest predictors of success or failure.
They do very badly in mental health. Not only suicide as an example, but they tend to be much more likely to be depressed, to take drugs, to do things that are symptoms of very bad mental health.
They’re far more likely to be the mass shooters. About 90% of the mass shooters that I studied since Columbine have been boys brought up in homes that have minimal or no father involvement or products of divorce or so on. And so that really shocked me to see that common denominator.
Farrell found the same common denominator -- dad deprivation -- in ISIS recruits (both male and female) and the prison population. “We all know that 93% of the prisoners are male, but what very few people know is that about 90% of those 93% are dad deprived boys.” He wanted to discover, “Why is dad deprivation so powerful, and why even more so to boys than girls?”
Farrell recognized the obvious problem with boys being left without a same-gender role model. Most girls live with their mother and can learn from her, but dad-deprived boys cannot learn from a father that is not there. Farrell wanted to know what it is that dads do that is different from what moms do that is making this huge difference. He discovered that nine different ways that dad-style parenting is different than mom-style parenting. When children have access to both types of parenting, they have what Farrell calls “checks-and-balance parenting. There’s a tension between the mother and father that’s actually a positive tension.”
Mothers and fathers tend to deal with “boundaries” differently. Farrell uses an example of a child who is given some peas to eat at dinner and is told that he cannot have ice cream until he eats the peas. The mother gives in after the child eats a few peas because she does not want to deal with the argument. She lets the child get away with less. However, the father says, “We have a deal here. The deal here is no ice cream until you finish your peas…. There’s no ice cream tomorrow night if you want to keep whining like that.”
I saw this dynamic while visiting my daughter and her family. The children were not doing what they were supposed to be doing. Their father said something like this, “I can either let your work slide, or I can prepare you to live in the real world. I choose to teach you what you will need to know to get good jobs.”
One of the ways that Farrell discovered the importance of having dad around was in roughhousing. My sons by blood and marriage rough house with their children and/or their nieces and nephews. The children love it, and it gives the fathers an opportunity to interact with their children in a masculine way. Farrell says that it teaches children to be more empathetic.
When roughhousing takes place, sooner or later one of the children gets hurt and cries. The father explains what happened – “You stuck your elbow in Jane’s eye.” You can’t do that, or we will stop roughhousing.” The brother agrees to be more careful, and they go back to roughhousing.
But then they experience what the psychologists call emotional intelligence under fire. So the children, when they’re really excited, they forget about their agreement to not hurt the other child or push the other child aside.
But the father then says, “OK, you did that. So there’s no more roughhousing tonight…. We won’t roughhouse until tomorrow night.” …
And so the dad, the following night … Jimmy pushes Jane aside again and dad [says], “OK, no more roughhousing.” Or Jimmy realizes that when dad says there’ll be no more roughhousing if I push my sister aside, I’d rather not push my sister aside and have more roughhousing.
Now Jimmy is learning to think of his sister or be empathetic to his sister’s needs. Not because he’s being really inherently empathetic, because he knows that he gets what he wants when he thinks about somebody other than himself. And that’s the empathy connection.
It is in this interaction between father and child that children develop “empathy assertiveness and not aggressiveness.” The father is also teaching his children boundary enforcement and postponed gratification. Farrell explains that most fathers do not understand what they are doing, but it is the answer to the boy crisis.
And so – and here’s the slippery slope to the boy crisis -- the children with postponed gratification who have social skills and have empathy skills, they’re far more likely to have friends and they’re far more likely to feel less depressed and positive about themselves.
But with the postponed gratification, they’re much more likely to be able to know how to finish their homework, not get sidetracked by an offer to play. And they’re more likely to be able to, you know, rehearse for the basketball team, or whatever.
And so, those children are more successful. So, therefore, they’re more respected by their teachers, their peers, and they get more … positive comments at home.
The influence of both mother and father are important in each child’s life. A father teaches his son how to be a man and how to treat women. He teaches his daughter how men should treat her. He teaches both sons and daughters how to be tough and prepared, but he also teaches them to have empathy for other people. If we want to strengthen our communities and nations, we must find a way to solve the boy crisis and put fathers back in the home.