Sunday is Father’s Day. Although not a religious holiday, like Mother’s Day it has roots in the Methodist Church. Both holidays were celebrated in the early 1900s in local Methodist churches and then began to move to a larger audience.
According to most researchers, the image most children have of God comes from their relationship with their parents.
“The image of God that children have tends to be a reflection of the image of their parents, for better or worse,” one study says. “To the degree that parents are loving and strong, God will be, too. And even if parents never worship or say the word ‘God’ in the household, children are still forming their own ideas.” (Kristin Holmes, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1997)
This can be pretty disturbing these days. If we get our image of God from our relationship with our father, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children live in a home without the presence of a father. Currently more than 19 million children in America live in homes without a father. Several years ago the Aiken Standard reported that 50 percent of all children in South Carolina live in fatherless homes. In a study from the USC Institute for Families in Society, 52 percent of the mothers of children where fathers were absent or uninvolved said that the father of the father was that way, too. It seems that the sins of the parents are often passed down to the children.
Here are some disturbing statistics concerning this:
>> 63 percent of youth suicides are from fatherless homes.
>> 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
>> 85 percent of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes.
>> 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger come from fatherless homes.
>> 71 percent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
>> 75 percent of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes.
>> 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes.
>> 85 percent of all youths sitting in prisons grew up in a fatherless home.
On the other hand, when fathers are present in their children’s lives in positive and uplifting ways:
>> Fathers and infants can be equally as attached as mothers and infants. When both parents are involved with the child, infants are attached to both parents from the beginning of life.
>> Father involvement is related to positive child health outcomes in infants, such as improved weight gain in preterm infants.
>> Father involvement using authoritative parenting (loving and with clear boundaries and expectations) leads to better emotional, academic, social and behavioral outcomes for children.
>> Children who feel a closeness to their father are twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75 percent less likely to have a teen birth, 80 percent less likely to spend time in jail and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms.
>> Children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescence.
>> Children with actively involved fathers are 43 percent more likely to earn A’s in school and 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads.
>> Father engagement reduces the frequency of behavioral problems in boys while also decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.
>> Father engagement reduces psychological problems and rates of depression in young women.
Sunday is not only a day for honoring fathers. It is a day to take seriously the essential role of fathers and father figures in our community and world.
Sources include The Aiken Standard and The Fatherhood Project.
Michael B. Henderson is the minister at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Florence and a member of the Morning News’ Faith & Values Advisory Board. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.