And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
How important are fathers to their children? First of all, the role of father was given to us by God. But over the last several decades, some have tried to redefine or redesign the family in a way that makes fathers unimportant or unnecessary. Numerous studies have shown what happens when we do this.
Between 1960 and 1990 the percentage of children living apart from their fathers doubled to 36 percent. Studies show that it is much worse for a child to lose their father through divorce than through death. Fatherlessness has been shown to be a contributing factor to early sexual activity. Teen suicides, shown to increase in fatherless families, have tripled since 1960.
Scholastic Assessment test scores have dropped 75 points since 1960; the drop is linked to the lack of fathers at home. Teenage boys raised without a father are more likely to get in trouble with the law. Children without their fathers are much more likely to suffer child abuse, according to several studies. One 26 year-long study found that the most important childhood factor in developing empathy is a father’s involvement in the family.
Yet another study has found that 90 percent of the children who go to church with mom and dad will remain active in church through their teens. If neither parent comes with them, only 40 percent remain faithful. If only dad comes with them, 80 percent remain faithful. We must admit that we cannot improve on God’s design for the family.
Father, thank You for fathers, and give us more faithful fathers. Amen.
David Popenoe, “Life Without Father,” Reader’s Digest, February 1997, p. 65; Lutheran Witness, June 1995, v. 147, p. 7. Photo: Father cuddling his newborn daughter. Courtesy of Kiefer Wolfowitz. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.