Parents, Politics And The Breakdown Of The Family

By Timothy N. Stelly, Sr.
July 29, 2005

Children can bring so much joy. From that moment they enter the world wet and full of wonder to adulthood, is an emotional rollercoaster ride. It is also an expensive undertaking. And while it has been written that it takes a village to raise a child, the village itself needs help. It is filled with working mothers, absent fathers, disinterested teachers and a generalized apathy.

To borrow a line from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, "It takes two." That is, a family’s chance of attaining its maximum potential requires a mother and father in the home. However, politicians and social service programs have created conditions making it difficult for fathers to do so. And when the home is broken, even to where the children are in unsafe situations, fathers must struggle to gain custody of them. Author Lee Hubbard, Jr. writes, "Fathers, and especially single fathers, face outward hostility from family courts, pandering politicians and women's advocacy groups that treat men with disdain...Our culture has internalized the idea that children belong with their mother. A father's presence may be considered desirable, but it's also considered expendable."

Two parents serve to complement one another and reinforce the methods of teaching responsibility, and encouraging acceptable behavior. These behaviors and responsibilities include life outside the home: School, church and in other public venues. Responsibility should be more than a task, but an attitude. This is best accomplished by getting the child to understand that there are rewards and repercussions for certain behavior. The mother with an unruly child screaming and kicking in the grocery store doesn’t deserve our pity; she needs help.

Children also need discipline, which was once left to parents. Now courts have limited the sphere of corporal punishment. Psychologists and other professionals are encouraging families to rely more on "timeouts" and the issuing of restriction. Many of these professionals are desirous of creating no-spanking zones, as was tried in Sweden some 16 years ago. The findings of that failed experiment indicated that the ban led to an increase in child abuse, but was inconclusive as to whether it caused the rise in juvenile delinquency. Nonetheless, the anti-spanking lobby cites flawed studies indicating spanking leads to defiant and deviant behavior.

Robert Lazelere, Ph.D countered that school of thought, stating "Child outcomes associated with ordinary physical punishment are also associated with alternative disciplinary tactics when similar research methods are used. Detrimental child outcomes are associated with the frequency of any disciplinary tactic, not just physical punishment. Therefore, it is the excessive misbehavior that is the actual cause of detrimental outcomes in children." (Child Outcomes of Non-abusive and Customary Physical Punishment by Parents: An Updated Literature Review, Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Pp. 199-221, December 2000).

In single-parent households, one finds an increase in poverty rates and aberrant behavior by children. Children from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to have behavioral issues. 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless home. (Source: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Special Report). 85% of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home (Source: Fulton Co. Georgia jail populations, Texas Dept. of Corrections 1992).

But there is a more important reason why a father’s presence is essential: That is, the cost of rearing children from birth to age eighteen. Including housing, food, transportation, clothing, health care, child care, education and other factors, the price tag runs up to $165,000. (These figures were gleaned from 2003 reports by The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Marsha K. Weaver).

Politicians and women’s groups have sought to alleviate these problems by advocating strict child enforcement laws. They garnish the wages of working fathers and drag them into superior court without an inkling of how this financial ambushing impacts upon the father. This is especially hurtful when the father is already paying support to the mother that she has never reported.

At the same time the issue of visitation is passed off to family courts where a father’s right to see his children and offer emotional support is often overlooked. This despite the fact 79% of fathers with visitation rights pay the amount of support due. (Census Bureau report. Series P-23, No. 173, 1994).

The breakdown of the American family has been attributed to many factors, including poverty, drug addiction, crime and school drop-out rates. These problems are further exacerbated in the absence of a father. In summation, the maintenance of two-parent families is essential. This unit is but a microcosm of how our nation functions as a whole, which is to say, dysfunctional families breed similar communities and a eventually leads to a changing in our nation’s mores and values.


About the author: Timothy Stelly is the 46-year old author of "Tempest In The Stone" and the soon to be released, "The Malice of Cain". His third novel, "Darker Than Blue" is under consideration for publication. Mr. Stelly currently resides in Pittsburg, California with his three youngest children Dante, Kimberly and Lawrence. Excerpts from The first two books and the first two chapters of his anthology, "Frankenigga--And Other Urban Tales" can be viewed at:


Email: stellbread@sbcglobal.com

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