In a world of toxic masculinity, patriarchal oppression, and systemic misogyny, defending the value of a father figure in the development of children might easily get written off as yet another case of “mansplaining.” Regardless, the cultural consequences of a society pivoting away from the necessity of strong male role models are hard to ignore.
Statistically, families tend to thrive when the nuclear unit is complete and are more likely to struggle when that unit is broken down. This tends to result in a single mother left to support her children, sometimes needing some other form of assistance in lieu of the other half of the paternal equation. This is where government has asserted itself as the solution, and however well-intended, the state fails to replace the insurmountable value of a father to a family.
Both mothers and fathers are responsible for the growth of their children, and children learn by example. By observing their parents they gain valuable social skills along with a better understanding of who they want to become, and what it means to be an adult. An absent parent or a parent who shoves personal responsibility off onto the state results in children who grow to be equally dependent upon a government welfare system which never incentivized them or their parents to overcome their dependency.
In a father’s absence, there can still be the effect of learned behavior. Government assistance can affect this behavior as well by influencing a nurtured dependence on the state. It can create a self-defeating paradigm where a child growing into adulthood gains the impression that they are not capable of caring for themselves, depleting their own confidence and sense of self-worth.
Discussion of this topic is often polarizing. Nonetheless, the effect of the Welfare State on the nuclear family is hard to ignore. Since its inception, the trend has been stark and obvious. The more generous and available the State becomes, the faster the growth of single parent households accelerates. Around the time of President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” the erosion of the familial unit began to take off.
Famed economist Thomas Sowell has noted that the Welfare State led to a massive increase of children born out of wedlock. Single mothers are given more government benefits, thus incentivizing cohabitation rather than marriage. Studies show that children raised in cohabitated homes are less likely to thrive, more prone to abuse, and far more likely to suffer serious emotional problems later in life. Rates of homicide and violence often coincide with men who grew up in homes without married, stable parents. In fact, a majority of mass shooters come from households without biological, active, present fathers. This is not a coincidence, and a fact which should not be overlooked.
Dr. Jordan Peterson, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, often speaks of the responsibility of fathers for their sons. “It is very difficult to be a courageous person unless you have a father, in body and spirit, behind you. It’s very demoralizing”, says Peterson. This self-reliance is learned, giving young men purpose and confidence. As Peterson put it, “The more responsibility you take on, the more meaning your life has.”
On the other hand, the absence of a father and his influence on a home can be detrimental to a son’s growth. Instability in the household often results in volatility in the behavior of children. This can lead to a crisis of personal identity and undeveloped social skills, shaping young men without the ability to express themselves emotionally or handle problems constructively, sometimes leading to dangerous or violent actions. No example of this is as tragic as the prominence of fatherless homes among the young men responsible for school shootings.
Regardless of today’s societal circumstances, a profound appreciation of the right to bear arms is still necessary in our culture. We are in the midst of a heated debate over the legitimacy of our essential human rights, and many are calling for those rights to be infringed upon due to a culture of fear. Few things could possibly be more tragic than a school shooting, and all Americans agree that something needs to be done to prevent them. But if we weigh out the data available, it’s clear to see that these horrible occurrences are not the result of access to firearms. While the media is desperate to use this argument and blame everyone from the NRA to our own president every time without fail, they are missing an important piece of the puzzle. They blatantly ignore the fact that almost all of these shooters come from broken homes.
Failure of law enforcement has also been a recurring factor in these shootings. If the current laws have not been kept, it does not stand to reason that the creation of new ones will help either. Rather than react emotively and look for solutions that don’t address the root of the issue, we should focus on the larger problem. The best way to curb violence in our culture is through families and communities working together to raise children and help them grow into hard-working adults. Sweeping policy cannot change a person’s bitter attitude nor will it affect the personal behavior of a disturbed youth. The heart of the issue is in the home, and that is where it must be addressed.
We should be praising fathers who raise young men to be productive members of society. We should be congratulating the dads out there who won’t neglect their duty to be impactful and present, and those who step up to take on that responsibility in the stead of another who has not or couldn’t.
Downplaying the importance of fathers and demonizing the impact of a masculine role model will not lead to solutions. Blaming guns, video games, and political parties won’t change anything. To put together the pieces of broken young men, we must first take a look at ourselves and what kind of impression we should leave upon the youth. Focusing on family, unity, and responsibility can make a world of difference to a little boy, who grows into a man who can make the world a different place. We need fathers to set good examples and show their children from an early age the impact they have.