Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things

I found this video the other day while doing some research on Being Dad USA - a fantastic DVD where dads give their perspective on becoming a parent.

On the Being Dad website, they have a video where they ask kids a series of questions: What is a dad? What does your dad do all day? What is the difference between a mom and a dad?

The kids give some pretty fantastic answers, including:

What is a dad for?
To protect you.
To help you if you don't know how to ride scooters or skateboards.

What is the difference between a mom and a dad?
They have different shoes.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Infant mortality and father absence

Time magazine just published a piece on premature births in the U.S. We lead the industrialized world in infant deaths. The article explores the medical mysteries behind this and touches on some of the social factors as well.

We know from research that when fathers are involved in the pregnancy, mothers are less likely to have low birth weight babies or for their infants to die. The Time article does not mention this "father factor" but hints at it when discussing "social stress" affecting the health of unmarried mothers.

Interestingly, the two-page photo at the opening of the article shows a man's hands holding a tiny baby. Indeed, infant health is, in part, in the hands of involved fathers...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ignoring the data again ...

After the recent cover story in Time about the benefits of marriage for children and society, some have decided to attack the author and the idea that marriage is an institution worth preserving and encouraging.

This piece in The Nation by Katha Pollitt reads like a lot of sarcastic noise. While it is successful at being snarky, it, like most articles of its kind, ignores decades of social science research that show that marriage is best for children. The article ignores the data on the benefits of marriage and the negative effects of divorce and out-of-wedlock birth so that it does not have to confront, head on, a very simple idea - children do best when their parents get and stay married. If this is not the case, someone needs to produce a body of research that shows otherwise - I have not seen it yet.

This article, predictably, offers no data of its own, just meaningless comparisons to other countries (where, by the way, cohabitation is a completely different beast than it is here in the U.S.).

Pollitt also lists several other solutions to improving child well being that she says are more attainable than improving marriages or reducing divorces. You have to see the list for yourself, but the items are far from 'no-brainers' that could be easily implemented. For example, she says that we can achieve "Neighborhoods safe enough for kids to play outdoors and air clean enough so they don't get asthma." Needless to say, we have been trying to create safe neighborhoods and clean air for decades, to no avail (ironically, the cause of much neighborhood violence is fatherless boys acting out).

Would Pollitt give up as easily on the idea of creating safe neighborhoods as she does on strengthening marriage because it is "hard to do"?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Rethinking Responsibility

Our friends at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy yesterday released a wonderful compilation of mini-essays on the definition and shape of personal responsibility vis-a-vis unplanned pregnancy. "Rethinking Responsibility: Reflections on Sex and Accountability" surveyed 29 leaders for their thoughts on this critical issue.

NFI's own Roland Warren contributed an essay on the resounding benefits of putting a ring on it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dad's Greatest Fear: A Teenage Girl

The teen years are scary...for everyone (have you been to a movie theater or a mall on a Friday night?!?). But I think they can be scariest for fathers of daughters. To quote Britney, she's "not a girl, not yet a woman." Teenage girls are changing in ways that dads can't understand and frankly, find quite uncomfortable. And all dads, having once been teen boys, are scared witless for their growing daughters.

I remember thinking my teen years were going to be an all-out war between me and my dad. Somehow, they weren't; we survived with relatively few screaming matches and tantrums. My father didn't say much to me about boys, but he did have this glare and this tone of voice that could instill the fear of God in anyone - including me and my homecoming date. He also had strictly imposed curfews and rules about where I could drive and with whom. was difficult.

A recent study shows that dads have a significant influence over their teen children. More than mom, actually. Teens with involved dads engage in fewer risky sexual behaviors - dads significantly affect the behavior of their adolescent boys and girls.

Not exactly rocket science, but a good reminder for dads who may shy away from relating to their teens, especially their teen girls. It took me quite a few years to realize that my dad was right about some things...okay, most things...he said about guys. Yes, there was some domestic strife and neither of us did everything right during those years, but I'm glad my dad braved the attitude and sulkiness and insisted on being involved.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Work-family "balance" or "choice"?

In this piece from the Wall Street Journal, General Electric CEO, Jack Welch, pulls no punches in telling working moms that if they choose to spend more time with their families, they are likely giving up the highest levels of career advancement. Thus, he says, there is no such thing as work-family balance, only work-family choices.

He makes some valid points, but he takes his argument to an extreme and among the things he leaves out of his analysis is the fact that working fathers are equally susceptible to being “left back” for not being there "in the clutch,” as he puts it.

In fact, working fathers who spend "too much time" with their families may be even more stigmatized than working mothers, as it is less expected of them to leave work early for the ballet recital.

Do you think Welch's views are representative of today's corporate CEOs, or is he part of the old guard, being replaced by a younger generation of corporate leaders who are more attuned to the work-family balance needs of both men and women?

Online Adultery

I just read an item from Time about a "personal site aimed at facilitating extramarital affairs." It is called Among the many ghastly things about this, one of the most interesting statements in the article was this: traffic on the site tripled the day after Father's Day. According to the site's CEO, it is because the day after Father's Day is a day when many men feel "underappreciated."

That is very sad - not a reason to cheat - but sad. Why don't we as a culture appreciate fathers enough? Too many bad ones, our own screwed up priorities, selfishness .... Any ideas?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Other Side of the Story

Just when we thought we were done grieving the loss of several celebrities (well, perhaps the media will never give up on grieving Michael Jackson), former NFL quarterback Steve McNair's life was tragically taken this past weekend.

As people praise "Air McNair" for his electric performances and thrilling stats, there is another side of the story to look at: the four children he left behind.

Sadly, fact of the matter is, he left his four kids - Junior, Stephen, Tyler, and Trenton - behind long before he left this earth. Like too many high-profile athletes, McNair wasn't the leader he needed to be off the field. McNair left his family behind in pursuit of his mistress, giving his children a tarnished legacy, a bad example, and a violent separation from their father.

Not surprisingly, McNair himself was raised without a father. It seems as though history is once again poised to repeat itself, as it does so often with father absence.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

We couldn't agree more.

Excellent TIME magazine cover story: Why Marriage Matters, by Caitlin Flanagan:

Few things hamper a child as much as not having a father at home. "As a feminist, I didn't want to believe it," says Maria Kefalas, a sociologist who studies marriage and family issues and co-authored a seminal book on low-income mothers called Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage.

"Women always tell me, 'I can be a mother and a father to a child,' but it's not true." Growing up without a father has a deep psychological effect on a child. "The mom may not need that man," Kefalas says, "but her children still do."