Raising Boys without Fathers



"The war on boys -
from education, to emotional health, to a media onslaught,
young men face a crisis,"

by Lois M. Collins and Jamshid G. Askar

  • Boys are at a crisis point in education, physical and emotional health.  They lack dads participating in their lives and their employment prospects are bleak. 
  • Too many boys are growing up without male mentors in homes or classrooms.  Girls fare better than boys in suicide rates, high school dropout rates, college graduation rates, and even rates of taking medication for attention deficit.  
  • Sons have less education than their fathers for the first time in U.S. history.  Whenever you have children with less education, then you have children that are dropping out, children that are not getting jobs, children that can't compete in the global economy.   It also leads to national security vulnerability. 
Father involvement reduces the likelihood a child will need treatment for behavioral or emotional problems or depression.  His presence improves school performance; his absence increases the likelihood a child will drop out.  Not having dad around increases the likelihood of criminal activity.  

Dads tend to encourage children to solve problems on their own.  This approach increases children's ability to focus, be attentive and achieve goals.  It also helps with impulse control and memory and enhances a child's ability to respond effectively to new or ambiguous situations, for boys and girls. 

In divorce, a child needs three things to have "almost as good a chance as an intact family."  They need to spend roughly equal time with mom and with dad; their parents should stay geographically close enough that the children needn't give up friends or activities to see the other parent; and their parents must not badmouth each other.  ("Father-Child Reunion," Warren Farrell, author) 
  • Boys start to "disengage" from education in middle school.  By 12 they are twice as apt as girls to have repeated a grade; twice as likely to be suspended; three times as likely to be expelled.  At 16, they start dropping out.  A smaller percentage of them graduate from high school than girls; and from there, they will be outpaced by girls in college attendance and completion.  (compiled from  hundreds of sources like the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Dept. of Education.  The research is aggregated online at  http://whitehouseboysmen.org/)
  • We need to put dads back into families.  Men are essential to the development of healthy boys, and a lack of male role models, mentors and fathers is devastating to child development.  Yet 1 in 3 children live in homes without fathers; and almost 40% of American children are born out of wedlock.  (National Vital Statistics) 
  • Pop culture does not allow boys to not want sex all the time.  There are plenty of boys who don't.  We demand girls be able to say "no."  Boys aren't taught that option.  The images of girls, often photo-shopped, unrealistic and "toxic" can set girls up to be sexualized and victimized.  They encourage boys to have shallow expectations, chase a false ideal and treat females disrespectfully.  (Audry D. Brashich, author of "All Made Up") 
  • Pornography and Violence.  Boys who are unsure or have been rejected may veer to pornography in lieu of dealing with real girls.  Research has found that extremely violent games send messages, including one of violence and aggression.  Desensitization is a real risk of playing very violent video games for long periods of time.  (Sarah M. Coyne, assistant professor of human development, BYU)
When boys become involved with porn and video games, soon they are addicted, then unmotivated to be either sexual or productive in real life.  They are motivated to play football online, but not to play in real life.  ("Father-Child Reunion," Warren Farrell, author)
  • Boys are hard-wired for wrestling.  A moderate amount of rough and tumble play is precisely what nature intended for boys.  It's also clear, though, that excessive violence delivered through an artificial medium like video games or television can cause inordinate and inappropriate aggression.  The more violence they see, the less it impacts them.  It's like they need more of it to get that same sort of visceral rush of adrenaline.  The American Academy of Pediatrics stated that violence in TV, movies, games and music can directly cause real-life aggression.  (Caroline Knorr, parenting editor of Common Sense Media) 
  • Boys need not be aggressive to prove masculinity.  A real man in our society can take care of family, be a good father, be compassionate and kind.  But boys get mixed messages about what is "manly."  (Sarah M. Coyne, assistant professor of human development, BYU)

    Lois M. Collins and Jamshid G. Askar online at
    http://www.deseretnews.com/article/765552031/The-war-on-boys-young-men-are-facing-a-new-crisis.html
    Deseret News
    , February 26, 2012   (read the original article)

  • Boys without Fathers.  Kids from fatherless homes often turn to crime and end up in prison.  Boys without dads are much more likely to be poor and fail at school.  Fathers teach boys how to be men. 

    President Barack Obama met in the White House with some at-risk Chicago teenage boys in his home town, to talk about his own past drug use.  He shared some of his own personal struggles while growing up.  “I can see myself in these young men.  The only difference is that I grew up in an environment that was a little bit more forgiving.  So, when I made a mistake, the consequences were not as severe.  I didn’t have a Dad in the house, and I was angry about it, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.  I made bad choices.  I got “high” without always thinking about the harm that it could do.  I didn’t always take school as seriously as I should have.  I made excuses.  Sometimes I sold self short.” 

    He told them to have “no excuses” and to “tune out the naysayers who say if the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up or settle into the stereotype….Nothing will be given to you.  The world is tough out thee.  There’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions and everybody has to work hard.  But I know you guys can succeed.”  He said his family and teachers never gave up on him. 

    President Obama started a new and very personal initiative called “My Brother’s Keeper,” to start programs to create opportunities for minority boys and young men, to reverse underachievement and keep them on track by helping them mature emotionally and set worthwhile goals.  One such program is called BAM:  Becoming A Man.  The aim is to “start a different cycle,” he said.  “If we help these wonderful young men become better husbands and fathers and well-educated, hard-working, good citizens, then not only will they contribute to the growth and prosperity of this country, but they will pass those lessons on to their children on to they grandchildren.” 

    Under this initiative,
    businesses, foundations and community groups would coordinate investments to come up with or support programs that help keep young people out of the criminal justice system and improve their access to higher education.  Instead of tax dollars, private foundations are investing hundreds of millions of dollars to find out which strategies work.   (“I made bad choices,” CBS This Morning, February 28, 2014)

What You Can Do
  • Teach boys and young men the importance of sexual purity - of chastity before marriage and fidelity within marriage. 

    One mother in a Wall Street Journal editorial  observed:  "With the exception of some Mormons, evangelicals and Orthodox Jews, scads of us don't know how to teach our own sons and daughters not to give away their bodies so readily...Still, in my own circle of girlfriends, the desire to push back is strong.  I don't know one of them who doesn't have feelings of lingering discomfort regarding her own sexual past.  And not one woman I've ever asked about the subject has said that she wishes she'd 'experimented' more."  (Jennifer Moses, "Why Do We Let Them Dress Like that?" Wall Street Journal, Mar. 19, 2011, C3)