One attribute of our modern society is a “me first” attitude, meaning we see things only through the eyes of how various situations affect “me.” We have lost, to a certain degree, the idea that the betterment of society takes priority over my individual immediate wants. This has led us to a time when relationships are more about convenience or personal pleasure rather than a place where one can find lasting stability, love and nurturing. While these living arrangements may provide a sense of liberation to some adults, children all too often pay a heavy price. One pattern of living growing in recent years has been the decision of many to abandon marriage, and for men to abandon their responsibilities to be fathers to the children they bring into the world.
Families are the basic foundation of our society, and fathers play a key role in the creation and sustaining of our homes. Ephesians 6:4 counsels us: “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” Indeed fathers have a sacred responsibility with regard to their children and families. Besides the mere financial support many fathers help provide to their families, the impact of fathers is critical on the development of children. A 2006 study produced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services titled, “Fathers and Their Impact on Children's Well-Being” said, “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections.” Simply put, fathers help their children learn to deal with others and succeed in the outside world.
Currently, one in four children in the United States lives in homes without fathers, including homes without an adoptive or a step-father in the home. Data that has been collected over the years tells a sad tale of the struggle fatherless children face. Children without dads in their homes have a four times greater chance of living in poverty, are more likely to suffer from abuse and neglect, have behavioral problems, are twice as likely to drop out of high school, are more likely to commit a crime, and more likely to use alcohol and drugs. Additionally, girls who grow up without a father at home are seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen.
When fathers are present in the home of their children, the chances of kids succeeding increases. Research has shown that boys perform better in school if there is a father living with them. Also, girls with a strong relationship with their fathers tend to perform better in mathematics. Research has also shown that preschoolers with actively involved fathers have stronger verbal skills. Children who have fathers who are highly engaged in their lives have greater levels of mental dexterity and increased empathy for others.
While a father living in the home is the ideal, sometimes this is not always possible. Divorce is a reality. The good news is that fathers who do not live at home but stay involved in their children’s lives can still benefit their offspring. Fathers who live outside the child’s home, but still are actively involved in their children’s life aid in their self-confidence, security and school performance.
My experience also has taught me how valuable the family is to me as a father. No immediate pleasure can match the satisfaction and fulfillment I feel as my relationship with my wife has grown over the years and my children have begun their own families and renewed the process. I feel that I have a place and am needed. I know that I am loved and have made, in some small way, a positive contribution to our society.
This Father’s Day provides all dads an opportunity to receive more than a gift, or a card from their children. Father’s Day is a chance for us all to reflect on the positive impact men have on the lives of their children. Good fathers influence and impact society in an important and lasting way.
Chris Cannon is the president of the Blackfoot South Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.