The month of June plays host to two celebrations of parenting – the Global Day of Parents on June 1 and Father’s Day on the third Sunday. For good or ill, parents and those who parent play a tremendous role in children’s lives. Parents are a child’s first teachers and hold with their hands the power to determine much of the trajectory of their lives.
According to the Handbook of Parenting and Child Development Across the Lifespan, “The quality of parenting children receive during childhood and adolescence plays a major role in influencing their developmental competence and ultimately their life course trajectories. The parent-child relationship has a pervasive impact on children, and affects many different areas of development including language and communication, executive function and self-regulation, sibling and peer relationships, academic attainment, and mental and physical health.”
Parenting now, as in the past, is demanding, sometimes difficult work with many challenges, and now that family life has undergone many changes in the modern world, many parents are juggling new challenges, with limited success.
Fractured families result in a fractured society. Since society as a whole comprises family units, the more fracture these suffer, the more frayed the societal fabric becomes. The greatest threat to modern society is engendered by the rise in single parenthood. Single parenthood precipitates many ills in families and societies and is most often caused by delinquent fathers who shirk their responsibilities to their families. Worldwide, single mothers are forced to assume the roles of both parents.
Lack of a male role model and an authority figure in their lives – which only a caring, responsible father can provide – has been irrefutably proven by statistics to often cause children to fall prey to societal predators, even criminals. Young girls in their bid to seek out an equivalent father figure often fall victims to paedophiles, with related problems such as dropping out of school, child pregnancies, abusive relations, etcetera, with a recurrent nightmarish continuum of self-destructive behaviour. Similarly, boys who grow up in fatherless homes are often lured into anti-social, even criminal, behaviours.
“There’s a growing realisation that the increase in fatherlessness constitutes a clear and present danger, not only to the children but to the long-term health and success of our society,” said David Blankenhorn, President of the Institute for American Values, a New York-based organisation concerned with family issues.
Men have been engaged in a massive migration away from their children for centuries. Statistics worldwide indicate that divorce rates are nearly tripling, and out-of-wedlock birth rates more than quadrupled since 1960. Demographers say the typical male spends a smaller portion of his adult life living with his children than ever before.
For families to succeed, men, and women, must be given all assistance possible to fulfil their parental roles. Given that the parent-child relationship and the cultural and community context combine to influence the quality of parenting children to receive, support to strengthen these two factors will improve outcomes for children.
As the <<<<Handbook of Parenting and Child Development Across the Lifespan>>>> notes, “Parenting support that is delivered at a whole of community level and is attuned to the broader ecological context of modern parenting is needed to promote competent parenting and to reduce the adverse effects of poor parenting on children. Policy-based investments in evidence-based parenting programmes have great potential to enhance life course outcomes for both children and parents that can have major economic benefits to the entire community.”