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Families Need Fathers

 So far, government solutions have proven ineffective when it comes to changing deeply ingrained social problems like father absence during their childhood.

A book published in 1974 by University of California Professor David B. Lynn, observed that the welfare system in the U.S. at the time was set up to reward irresponsibility and that for black Americans in particular, the absence of a male parent in the home often has a huge price. Even thirty-five years ago, sociologists recognized the importance of what Lynn was communicating when he said in his book that "Father absence in black families has been associated with psychological problems in the child and with a reduction of goal orientation in the mother. For black boys it has been found to be related to juvenile delinquency and a tendency toward either poor masculine identification or compensatory masculinity in adolescence. Among black women, father absence during their childhood may increase the likelihood that they will raise children without a husband too."

Although Lynn's insights are not unique, many sociologists have noted that the observations have also been the subject of controversy as some people feel they are offensive. The African American community in particular has long noted that although the welfare system may seem like it has been set up to reward irresponsibility, that fact that children who grow up with little supervision in the home often turn to crime, and the risk is 90 percent higher than it is in American households with two parents does not set well with everyone who researches the statistics. In the most simplistic approach, some sociologists say the answer is to simply stop allowing our public assistance system to make it so easy for single mothers to have more babies. The problem is growing too, as 70 percent of all African-American babies in the U.S. are now born to single mothers and many young single mothers who now depend on welfare have very few other good options available.

According to data from the National Fatherhood Initiative, the overall prospects of success for the children raised by single parents of any ethnicity are not good. A full 44 percent of children in mother-only families are financially poor, compared with 12 percent in married-couple homes, and the infant mortality rate is nearly twice as high for unmarried mothers. Nearly half of the nation's prison population (43 percent) comes from single mother households, and girls from single-parent households have four times the risk of engaging in teen sex and double the risk of teen pregnancy. The children of single-mother households fail a grade in school twice as often as their two-parent peers, and the kids are disproportionately at risk of having other behavior problems in school, like falling behind socially and emotionally, and having very high levels of aggression. Kids from single-mom homes are far more likely to use alcohol, tobacco and drugs, and they make up the largest group of children who are on their way toward developing obesity as adults.

Although the situation has caused the nation's doctors, educators and policymakers to struggle to get more fathers to stay with their families or at least get them to support their kids financially and stay more involved in their lives, the problem still persists under our current welfare system. It also demonstrates how ineffective government solutions can be when it comes to changing such deeply ingrained social problems. Now that healthcare reform is such a big topic in the nation today, it seems like it might also be a good time for a bit of welfare reform too.

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