Are fathers necessary?
For all of recorded history, the need to explain why fathers are necessary would have been regarded as, well, unnecessary. It would have been like explaining why water, or air, is necessary.
But we live at a time in which the obvious is routinely denied.
There have been articles in the most prestigious journals denying the importance of fathers:
The Atlantic Magazine, for example, published an article titled: “Are Fathers Necessary? A paternal contribution may not be as essential as we think.”
The New York Times published a discussion among five intellectuals titled, “What Are Fathers For?” One of them, Hanna Rosin, an editor at New York Magazine, opened her response by stating: “I’m not sure whether a child needs a father.”
I could give dozens of such examples. I’ll just give one more.
HuffPost published a piece titled: “Fathers Are Not Needed.”
Fortunately, this dismissal of the importance of fathers is not universal.
In a 2008 Father’s Day speech, a few months before his election as president of the United States, Barack Obama said, fathers are “critical” to the foundation of each family, that “they are teachers and coaches; they are mentors and role models; they are examples of success; and they are the men who constantly push us toward it.”
What makes his comments particularly noteworthy is that Barack Obama grew up without a father.
Both boys and girls need fathers.
We’ll begin with boys. A boy has no built-in understanding about how to be a man — meaning a good and responsible man. Male nature is wild — most obviously regarding sex and violence. If a boy does not have a father who models how a man controls himself, he will most likely not know how to control himself — let alone want to. That’s why most males in prison for violent crimes grew up without a father.
After days of riots in the UK in 2011, quite like the 2020 riots in America, Cristina Odone wrote a column for The London Telegraph whose title says it all: “London riots: Absent fathers have a lot to answer for.” In the column, she wrote, “The majority of rioters are gang members… Like the overwhelming majority of youth offenders behind bars, these gang members have one thing in common: no father at home.”
There is no question that many mothers have done an excellent job raising a boy without their son’s father. But common sense alone suggests that a mother simply cannot model what a boy should be any more than a man can model to a girl what a woman should be.
And, then there is the issue of controlling boys and their wild natures. Again, there are mothers who are able to do this. But if a boy is at all difficult — as so many are — as he gets older, most mothers will find it more and more difficult to control their son: because unruly boys listen to their fathers much more than they listen to their mothers. Which is precisely why most violent criminals grew up in fatherless homes. They obviously did not listen to their mothers.
As regards daughters, the father is THE man girls learn to relate to. Without a father to relate to and bond with, there are at least two destructive consequences. First, she will not know how to choose a man wisely. She will not know how a man should treat her, and she may well end up with a man who mistreats her. Second, to fulfill her desire to bond with a man — as primal a yearning in most women as bonding with a woman is in most men — she will go from man to man. Girls without fathers in their lives are far more likely to be sexually promiscuous, and to begin sexual activity at an earlier age, which in turn are reasons many young women are depressed. Few women find sleeping with man after man fulfilling. Most find it ultimately depressing.
Finally, fathers give both sons and daughters the thing children need most: a sense of safety and security. As much as children need love, they need a sense of security even more. And in general, Moms give love and Dads give security.
I learned how necessary fathers are, not only by having one and being one, but by the many people — men and women, of all ages — who have told me that they see me as a “father-figure.” I am honored to fill that role. The good news is that many men can fill it: grandfathers, uncles, teachers, mentors, clergy, and yes – even a man on the radio.
But some man has to be your father.
Dennis Prager is a best-selling author, columnist and nationally syndicated radio talk show host. Published with permission, Prager University.
The Language of Liberty series is a collaborative effort of the Center for Self Governance (CSG) Administrative Team and is an outreach project of Center for Self Governance to educate citizens in principles of liberty. The authors include administrative staff, students, and guest columnists. Views expressed may not reflect the views of CSG.
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