A good man, a good father


“Listen, there is no way any true man is going to let children live around him in his home and not discipline and teach, fight and mold them until they know all he knows. His goal is to make them better than he is. Being their friend is a distant second to this.” - Victor Devlin

THE presence of a father in a child’s life is no small thing. There is no need to dig up stats and research and data to know that this is true. We know instinctively this is true.

The presence of a mother in a child’s life is equally important, though the impact of each relationship fosters different things for children’s emotional and mental well-being.

The impact of family structure on children’s well-being is substantial and multifaceted. Research in America consistently underscores the positive influence of intact families on children’s outcomes across various domains. Children raised in homes with continuously married parents tend to experience fewer problems, including academic, social, emotional, and cognitive difficulties, both during childhood and later in adulthood. Intact families typically provide access to more economic and community resources, as parents can combine their time, money, and energy to prioritise the needs of their children.

Additionally, family intactness correlates with higher earnings for prime-age males and plays a crucial role in reducing dependence on welfare programmes targeting poverty. Children in intact families exhibit higher high school and college graduation rates, increased employment opportunities, and better overall health outcomes. They are more likely to engage in community activities, excel academically, and demonstrate fewer behavioural problems in school compared to their peers from non-intact households.

In contrast, there are challenges faced by single-parent households, particularly those headed

by single mothers. Single mothers often grapple with lower incomes, higher poverty rates, and limited access to resources compared to married couples. Despite the increase in single-father households, single mothers remain more prevalent and tend to face greater financial hardships.

While the benefits of two-parent households are evident, staying together solely for the sake of children may not always be beneficial, especially in high-conflict relationships. Irretrievably broken marriages can negatively impact children’s wellbeing, underscoring the importance of prioritising healthy familial dynamics. Ultimately, while marriage provides access to resources and opportunities for children, effective parenting transcends marital status, emphasising the significance of nurturing environments and supportive relationships for children’s development.

It is important to note again that this is based on research and statistics gathered in the United States so while the information sheds light on the fact of healthy homes with a mother and father involved in a healthy relationship, some data may not correlate the same way as it relates to Bahamian society.

Here I want to focus on more of what we see happening here in The Bahamas and especially considering what is going on with our young men and the role father – and more specifically fatherlessness has played on where we find ourselves today.

So, as many of us know, really anyone can father a child, but being a dad takes a lifetime. Fathers play a role in every child’s life that cannot be filled by others. This role can have a large impact on a child and help shape him or her into the person they become.

Fathers, like mothers, are pillars in the development of a child’s emotional well-being. Children look to their fathers to lay down the rules and enforce them. They also look to their fathers to provide a feeling of security, both physical and emotional. Children want to make their fathers proud, and an involved father promotes inner growth and strength. Studies have shown that when fathers are affectionate and supportive, it greatly affects a child’s cognitive and social development. It also instills an overall sense of well- being and self confidence.

Fathers not only influence who we are inside, but how we have relationships with people as we grow. The way a father treats his child will influence what he or she looks for in other people. Friends, lovers, and spouses will all be chosen based on how the child perceived the meaning of the relationship with his or her father. The patterns a father sets in the relationships with his children will dictate how his children relate with other people.

Young girls depend on their fathers for security and emotional support. A father shows his daughter what a good relationship with a man is like. If a father is loving and gentle, his daughter will look for those qualities in men when she’s old enough to begin dating. If a father is strong and valiant, she will relate closely to men of the same character.

Unlike girls, who model their relationships with others based on their father’s character, boys model themselves after their father’s character.

Boys will seek approval from their fathers from a very young age. As human beings, we grow up by imitating the behaviour of those around us; that’s how we learn to function in the world. If a father is caring and treats people with respect, the young boy will grow up much the same. When a father is absent, young boys look to other male figures to set the “rules” for how to behave and survive in the world.

So, when we now see young men engaging in criminal behaviour often – as research shows – their father was not in the home, as a study published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency found that adolescents from single-parent families, particularly those without a father figure, were more likely to be involved in delinquent behaviour and criminal activities.

Also, according to a report by the US Department of Justice, children raised in fatherless homes are significantly more likely to be incarcerated than those raised in two-parent households. The absence of a father figure has been linked to a higher likelihood of involvement in juvenile delinquency, including drug abuse, violence, and gang-related activities.

Again, the absence of a father has been associated with increased levels of violent behaviour among adolescents. A study published in the Journal of Adolescence found that boys from single-mother families were more likely to exhibit aggressive and violent behaviours compared to boys from intact families.

Again, the lack of a positive male role model in the household may contribute to the development of aggressive tendencies in children. Research suggests that fathers play a crucial role in teaching their children self-control, empathy, and appropriate conflict resolution skills, which are important factors in preventing violent behaviour.

Fatherless homes have been identified as a risk factor for gang involvement among adolescents. Studies have shown that young people who grow up without a father figure are more susceptible to joining gangs as a means of seeking belonging and identity.

So, the absence of paternal guidance and supervision may leave children vulnerable to peer influence and recruitment into gangs, which often provide a substitute sense of family and support.

The absence of a father figure during crucial developmental stages can result in a lack of guidance, discipline, and structure, leading to ongoing involvement in criminal behaviour.

It’s important to note also the correlation between fatherlessness and criminal behaviour can be influenced by various socio-economic factors. Poverty, lack of access to quality education, and limited opportunities for employment can exacerbate the negative effects of father absence on children’s behaviour.

However, research suggests that even when controlling for socio-economic variables, the absence of a father figure remains a significant predictor of criminal and violent behaviour among youth.

Understanding that it is important for the healthy development of our children not only to have a father present in their lives, but that the father is a positive force, a role model, is a distinction that needs to be addressed.

To point out the obvious, single-parent homes are in a challenging position to provide the full range of paternal guidance to sufficiently develop all a young life needs to become a respected functional adult in society.

This is not to say it is impossible for a single-parent home to accomplish this, but it is fraught with difficulties and no two situations are exactly alike – more on the nuances of single-parent homes in a future article.

But it is one of the more crucial aspects of our current issues - crime, violence and gang activity – that is vital for us to consider how to address.

Nothing replaces a good biological father in a child’s life, so our first objective needs to be figuring out how to encourage men to embrace that role and take it seriously.

But in some cases that may not be the best option; what do we do then?

We need good men to stand in the gap, to be role models, and positive influences in young lives wherever possible.

This is our country; these are our problems which if we did not cause we also did not prevent. We need to care about each other and find ways and means to make a difference for the better.


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