More than 30 million children in the world today are growing up without fathers. Kids are literally being abandoned by the men who should be their protectors, allies, mentors and role models. Instead, boys and girls are being brought up by single mothers. The cost to society? A huge spike in societal problems and a slide into poverty for more and more single parent homes. A fatherless family is pretty much like a casino without casino bonuses – there’s simply no incentive to become anything else than the misfits in society.
What’s Driving the Fatherless Phenomenon?
What’s driving this sustained global trend? According to the psychologists and social workers who are grappling with the issue, it’s a combination of factors. One of the key reasons behind fathers abrogating their responsibility to their children is the fact that modern men want more freedom and autonomy.
Men’s Quest for Freedom and Individualism
Marriage, accountability and the so-called white picket fence lifestyle is no longer appealing. Men want to be able to pursue their individualism without a wife or family acting as the proverbial millstone around the neck. The offshoot of this individualism is that fatherless families have become more widespread. Today it’s almost accepted practice for dads to pack up and flee the shackles of familial obligation rather than stick around and contribute meaningfully to their children’s well-being.
Are Father’s Feeling Redundant in the Family?
Modern men are also struggling to define their role in the family. In the past they were more bread winners than care givers. They understood their obligation to provide materially for their wife and children. They were also the disciplinarians who would mete out ‘punishment’ for any wrong doings.
Today many women around the world are bread winners and care givers. Men have lost their sense of purpose. They don’t quite know how they fit into the scheme of things. Their role as head of the family has been systematically eroded, leaving many of them feeling conflicted and superfluous within the family unit.
Migrant Labour System Fuelling Single-Parent Homes
Another factor that has contributed to the fatherless phenomenon in countries like South Africa is the migrant labour system. Under the apartheid government, black people were denied freedom of movement. An exception was made for mine and agricultural workers who were forced to leave their wives and children in the rural areas and migrate to other provinces to work.They would return home periodically… usually leaving their wives pregnant with another child.
60% of South Africa’s Children Fatherless
Although the apartheid system was dismantled decades ago the hangover of the migrant worker system persists to this day. Thousands of households are affected by absentee dads. In fact, 60 percent of South Africa’s children grow up without a father and 40 percent of the country’s mothers are single parents.
Compare that to the world average of 15 percent and it’s no wonder South Africa is facing mounting socials ills. Today the country is plagued by problems that vary from rape, teenage pregnancy and the highest HIV infection rate in the world to crime, delinquency and poor academic performance.
The Impact of Absentee Dads on Boys
There’s no denying the fact that the trend towards fatherless families is driving social crises. Research has revealed that boys who grow up without their dads are more inclined to be aggressive, angry and depressed. They have problems having normal, loving relationships with women later on in life, largely because they have no male figures to confide in or to guide them.
These boys usually learn about sex and relationships from their peers, social media platforms and pornographic content, none of which is a reliable or safe source for something as important as sexual relationships. Concepts like consent and respect are simply not part of the lexicon.
Why Social Crises are on the Rise
As most single parent homes are usually poor, boys often drop out of school to help their mothers’ put bread on the table. Many of them join gangs or fall into a life of crime. The end result is a growing number of male children who are uneducated, delinquent, antisocial and violent. They are also unlikely to make any sort of valuable contribution as a father one day in the future… a situation that leads to a never-ending spiral of dysfunction in the family unit.
Girl Children Suffer Too
In normal families, girl children have very close relationships with their fathers. They are usually the apple of daddy’s eye. In families where dad is an absent or partially absent parent, girls usually have low self-esteem. They are also more inclined to indulge in risky sexual behaviour, behaviour that results in teenage pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions. On top of that many young girls engage in sex with older men in exchange for money so that they too can contribute towards the family’s needs.
How Can You Help?
Although fathers are vitally important in maintaining a happy healthy family, strong male role models are equally effective in bringing stability to the home. Mentorship programmes which focus on kids from fatherless homes have generated overwhelmingly positive results. If you’re a father, teacher, coach or just an ordinary guy who has time on your hands why not sign up for a new role as a stand-in dad for some fatherless kid in your community!