Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Ad Council and Fatherhood.gov don't seem to get it?

I recently posted a couple of the public service announcements (PSA) from the ad council touting father involvement. While I find the ads very endearing and a couple of them especially hit home and bring up fond memories of my own personal experiences with my children. The overall campaign leaves me wondering what exactly is the point and the end goal of the parties responsible for creating the ads.
Presuming that many fathers just need to throw pizza in a blender or get their finger nails painted addresses the obstacles to father involvement in their children's lives is both naive and dangerous. I say dangerous for if this is the line of thinking that fathers simply just need to show up more is feeding into this culture that fathers are solely the problem. Fathers are solely at fault. While I will agree that their are fathers who do need to simply relax and enjoy each moment with their children a bit more. I do not agree that any of the PSA's from the Ad Council address the key issues affecting father involvement or lack there of in their children's lives.
The arguments and position of father versus mother is a very slippery slope and the PSA's seem to me to take up one side of this argument. I'll restate my position on this aging argument; Fathers are great parents and Mothers are great parents. Bad parenting has yet to become the exclusive realm of either Fathers or Mothers. Frankly it ticks me off when I hear parents of either gender make statements condemning all the other parents of the opposite gender. Parenting is not about picking teams and if you should feel so compelled as to pick a team then I urge you to pick the only team that matters. Your children's team. Oh but it's so much fun to sit around and complain that all fathers or mothers are bad. Really? I think it's more fun to put mentos in a diet coke bottle to get it to explode with my kids in the back yard.
On the Fatherhood.gov site you will see a link to father statics and the statistics are alarming. At least alarming that the statistics are posted incomplete. On the surface I can understand why the Ad Council and Fatherhood.gov would create the PSA's that are currently circulating when using the statistics I mentioned and on the fatherhood.gov website. Let's look at them.

*****Ten Key Findings from Responsible Fatherhood Initiatives : Urban Institute

Recent policies encourage the development of programs designed to improve the economic status of low-income nonresident fathers and the financial and emotional support provided to their children. This brief provides ten key lessons from several important early responsible fatherhood initiatives that were developed and implemented during the 1990s and early 2000s. Formal evaluations of these earlier fatherhood efforts have been completed making this an opportune time to step back and assess what has been learned and how to build on the early programs' successes and challenges.

While the following statistics are formidable, the Responsible Fatherhood research literature generally supports the claim that a loving and nurturing father improves outcomes for children, families and communities. The following are findings from the National Fatherhood Initiative's (NFI) Father Facts:

  • Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy and pro-social behavior, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy, and criminal activity compared to children who have uninvolved fathers.
  • Studies on parent-child relationships and child wellbeing show that father love is an important factor in predicting the social, emotional, and cognitive development and functioning of children and young adults.
  • 24 million children (34 percent) live absent their biological father.
  • Nearly 20 million children (27 percent) live in single-parent homes.
  • 43 percent of first marriages dissolve within fifteen years; about 60 percent of divorcing couples have children; and approximately one million children each year experience the divorce of their parents.
  • Fathers who live with their children are more likely to have a close, enduring relationship with their children than those who do not.
  • Compared to children born within marriage, children born to cohabiting parents are three times as likely to experience father absence, and children born to unmarried, non-cohabiting parents are four times as likely to live in a father-absent home.
  • About 40 percent of children in father-absent homes have not seen their father at all during the past year; 26 percent of absent fathers live in a different state than their children; and 50 percent of children living absent their father have never set foot in their father's home.
  • Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than their peers who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.
  • From 1995 to 2000, the proportion of children living in single-parent homes slightly declined, while the proportion of children living with two married parents remained stable.
When I compare the above statistics to the statistics to those from the Census Bureau, link also on fatherhood.gov, I am utterly confused. I'll save the reason for my confusion for another blog post. One of the reasons for my confusion and alarm at skimming through the statistics is that they don't seem to answer any basic questions and I'll pick one of the bullet points from above to illustrate the questions I have upon reading this.

****** About 40 percent of children in father-absent homes have not seen their father at all during the past year; 26 percent of absent fathers live in a different state than their children; and 50 percent of children living absent their father have never set foot in their father's home.

Why have 40 percent of children in father-absent homes not seen their father at all for the past year?
Have you asked the fathers what the reason or reasons are?
If it's a father-absent home then shouldn't the number be 100% and not 40% of children have not seen their father?
What is the definition of a father-absent home?
26 percent of absent fathers live in a different state than their children.
Did the father move to a different state or did the mom?
What are the percentages of fathers or mothers moving to another state?
50 percent of children living absent their father have never set foot in their father's home.
Again, have you asked the mother and fathers why?

The statistics coming from fatherhood.gov and the Census Bureau seem to be a good start in asking questions, but I don't believe you can reach a conclusion as to what the issues are affecting parental involvement from them. Much less create public service announcements that have any value to children or parents alike. Many more questions need and must be asked before any serious efforts can be made to positively affect children and their relationships with both fathers and mothers alike.


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