So, singer Katy Perry wants to have a baby—just leave the man out of it!
“I don’t need a dude,” she told Rolling Stone. “It’s 2014! We are living in the future; we don’t need anything. . . . I’m not anti-men. I love men. But there is an option if someone doesn’t present himself.”
I don’t know what “We don’t need anything” means in Perry’s world, but when it comes to parenting, do we need a man? Surprisingly, when “The Five” on Fox asked that question, the ladies seemed generally supportive of Perry. Only Juan Williams—the token liberal on the panel—condemned Perry’s comments. That’s not surprising since Williams has written about the tragedy of absent fathers in the African-American culture.
“I bet the child would want two parents,” Williams said. “The child would say, ‘I’d like to have someone walk me to the park while mom is out on tour as opposed to the latest nanny. . . .’ Oh, please. Talk about someone who is irresponsible.”
Williams seemed to be the only person really thinking about the child. Most of the others boiled the issue down to money—as if the value of a father is based on what he can contribute financially. Granted, in our high-divorce culture with battles over child-support checks, many women think just that.
Dana Perino said she “totally” gets what Perry means. “I love the father-figure idea, but maybe there just isn’t enough research or time yet to see if women like Katy Perry can make it work.”
“A woman like Katy Perry”? You mean a rich woman? Does wealth, therefore, make up for the flesh-and-blood influence of a loving father? This is what she and others seem to be saying—especially since Perino reduces fatherhood to a nebulous “father figure idea.”
Daddies Are Best For Kids
In other words, if a woman has enough money and maybe some help from friends and extended family, she can “make it work,” and a loving father isn’t necessary. But is that what’s best for the child? Not according to recent studies.
Sociologist David Popenoe, a pioneer in the field of research into fatherhood, says, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”
That means it’s not just the fact that he provides money so there is reduced stress in the home, and it doesn’t mean just any “dude” can step in and replace him. There is a real and organic relationship between a father and a child that is irreplaceable and essential in the development of the child.
Williams wrote in an article at the Wall Street Journal that “when fatherless young people are encouraged to write about their lives, they tell heartbreaking stories about feeling like ‘throwaway people.’ In the privacy of the written page, their hard, emotional shells crack open to reveal the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if their father has any interest in them.”
Study after study has shown that children with fathers in the home are better off in school, commit less crime, have more stable relationships, and are less likely to be involved with drugs or engage in other deviant behavior. Girls, in particular, exhibit higher self-esteem and are less likely to have out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
According to Psychology Today, “Girls whose fathers left either before they were born or up to age 5 were seven to eight times more at risk of becoming pregnant as an adolescent than girls living with their fathers. A father’s departure between ages 6 to13 suggested a two to three times greater risk of becoming pregnant.”
Daddies Mean More Brains, Less Abuse
According to a report on “The Importance of Fathers in the Health Development of Children” by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities.”
The influence of a dad on academic achievement extends into teenage years and young adulthood. Studies have found that active fathering is associated with “better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents.” A 2001 Department of Education study found that children who had highly involved biological fathers were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly As, and they were 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade.
While Perry dismisses fathers out of hand because she evidently “doesn’t need anything,” it is all too clear that children desperately need a father. Money won’t make up for the loss. Nannies can’t replace him. Another man (or woman) will never really fill his shoes—in fact, HHS found that “unrelated male figures and stepfathers in households tend to be more abusive than biological, married fathers,” and “the presence of fathers in the home is tied to lower rates of maltreatment.”
Before you start thinking that kids might be better off without dads because you assume men are more abusive, HHS has found that “approximately two-fifths (40.8 percent) of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone while 18.8 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone.” It seems “Mommy Dearest” is a bigger threat than Daddy.
Social and Emotional Stablity
While adoption by singles is certainly better than having a child drift from one foster home to another—and there are many heroic single men and women who have adopted children domestically as well as from other countries—the flippant disregard expressed by Perry and others who would rather go to the sperm bank than build a solid marriage with a man (and then raise children on that strong foundation) is quite a different matter. It reveals failure to grasp not only the value of family but what actually constitutes a viable family. This isn’t to say that single moms or dads or homosexual couples can’t “make it work” (whatever that means), but if we want to build a strong, stable, good society, we have to be developing strong, stable, good individuals—and fathers are essential to that.
Of note, one of the “indirect effects” studies found regarding the importance of a father in the development of children is how he treats the mother. One of the best things a father can do for a child is to treat their mother with love, honor, and respect. When he does this, children are more secure, more confident, and more likely to develop strong relationships when they get older. When a mother chooses to go it alone, children are robbed of witnessing—and benefiting from—the love of a man and a woman as they work through all the trials and tribulations of building a life together.
HHS has found that fathers have a profound impact on the psychological and social stability of children in many areas. “Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers.” Could there be a link, therefore, between a society that has become more socially disconnected (even though it is bound by technology and a constant exchange of information) and a growing number of families without a father? It is certainly logical that there could be at least a relationship between the two even if there is no direct cause and effect.
Studies have shown that fatherless children are more insecure, more likely to experience depression, and more inclined to exhibit disruptive behavior. “Boys with involved fathers have fewer school behavior problems,” and “girls have stronger self-esteem.” In other words, “fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children.”
Some studies have even found that fathers have more of an impact on a child’s development than mothers. Ronald P. Rohner, director of the Center for the Study of Parents Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, has discovered that while, overall, the love of mothers and fathers equally affects children’s emotional and mental health, “in some cases, the withdrawal of a father’s love seems to play a bigger role in kids’ problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse. . . . And for others, the presence of a father’s love may do more to boost children’s sense of well-being and improve their emotional and physical health.”
Rohner is quick to say that the issue isn’t who’s more important, but to recognize that dads are key, just as moms are. “We hope findings like these will encourage men to become more involved in their children’s care,” he said. “Then the whole family benefits.”
Don’t Mess With Society
When the whole family benefits, the entire community is better off. But when you have growing trend of absent fathers, society is sure to feel the effects, and this trend is growing. In 1960, the proportion of children living in mother-only families was 8 percent, but by 2013 that number had tripled to 24 percent. Insecurity, lack of confidence, anxiety, fear, inability to compete, deviant social behavior, and isolation—all of this adds up to a deterioration of the civil society. And the civil society is the bedrock of a healthy republic.
When we have a pop icon flippantly saying she doesn’t need a dude to raise a child (and she’s not the only one), and when we have conservative pundits equating “making it work” with how much money you have—as if men were mere ATMs—those who know better need to speak up and not be afraid of coming across as intolerant or judgmental. That’s because we are the ones who truly know by our own experiences what is best for children. We have seen the tears, the insecurities, the longing looks as our children who stand alone watch friends high-five their dads after a soccer game; or the way they get too attached to that first boyfriend or girlfriend because they’re trying to fill that missing place in their hearts where their father should be; or the yearning they feel when they talk about how they like to go over to their friend’s house to eat because their mom and dad sit down with them as a family.
A dad isn’t just some dude to dismiss. Children need him. They will always need him; from infancy to adulthood, he is the cornerstone of their lives. To take that security—that love—away from them will leave them unstable and crippled. Such a great cruelty should not be trifled with and it certainly shouldn’t be praised. It should be condemned just as Williams did when he called Perry’s comments irresponsible. And that’s what they are—irresponsible—and thoughtless, especially considering that many of Perry’s fans are young, impressionable girls.
Kimberly Guilfoyle of “The Five” said she hopes Perry is trying to empower girls by telling them “if you’re not lucky in love you can still fulfill your dreams.” But can statements that encourage behavior which undermines the very foundation of the family and kids’ health and well-being empower girls and help them fulfill their dreams? More likely, if they follow Perry’s example, they’ll end up living a nightmare. Maybe not all of them. But if the statistics are to be believed, then the truth is that growing up without a dad is no fairytale.