News Analysis

Thursday 18 September 2014

David Quinn: Loving fathers play key role in children's lives

Published 19/08/2011 | 05:00

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The Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones, did himself no favours when he described children from certain types of families as "born losers" in remarks to this paper the other day.

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It was a most unfortunate turn of phrase.

But he was talking about children who grow up without love, and how, as a result of this deprivation, they are "denied a sense of self-esteem and self-worth".

I presume there isn't a person anywhere in the world who believes it's okay for a child to grow up without any love in their life? I presume there isn't a person who believes this does not place a child at a severe disadvantage compared with children who are loved?

So, seeing as everybody agrees with the bishop on this point after all, maybe we should calm down?

Or maybe not, because it remains almost impossible to have a calm and rational debate in this country about the family.

If you have something good to say about marriage, you are instantly accused of disparaging all other families, even when you go out of your way not to disparage them.

What has occasioned the latest debate about the family has, of course, been the looting and arson that took place in England last week.

The looting and arson obviously had various causes, but one of them was surely the fact that in those areas of London, Birmingham and Manchester that were most affected there is a very large number of families without fathers.

It is simply amazing that there are people who refuse to believe that lacking a father can have negative effects. No sensible person would deny that a child benefits from having a mother who loves them. Why are there so many people who deny that a child benefits from having a loving father as well?

The evidence is all on the side of those who say it is generally better for a child to be raised by their own two loving parents.

Even the left-leaning UNICEF accepts the evidence. In its 2007 report, 'Child Poverty in Perspective', it summarised as follows what the various studies have to say on the issue: "At the statistical level there is evidence to associate growing up in single-parent families and stepfamilies with greater risk to well-being -- including a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health, of low skills and of low pay."

Why do so many on the left resist the evidence? There is a good reason and a bad reason. The good reason is that they don't want to stigmatise anyone.

The bad reason is that they are so dogmatically attached to the idea of lifestyle choice and personal freedom that they can't bring themselves to accept that the married family of mother and father is generally best for children.

In addition, they are absolutely loath to concede any point whatsoever to the dreaded and hated 'right', even though the people most hurt when marriage goes into decline are the poor and children.

So instead of facing the facts, they dissemble. As I know from personal experience, even when you ask them point blank whether they think, even in general, that it is of added benefit to a child to be raised by a father, as well as by a mother, they still say, 'not necessarily'.

But if you asked them whether children born into poverty are at a disadvantage compared with children who are not, they will say, 'absolutely', even though some children born into poverty do perfectly well. Seeing as they're not going to listen to me on this point, or Kevin Myers, or John Waters, or probably even to UNICEF, let's see if they'll listen to Barack Obama instead.

Here is what he said on the matter back in 2008: "But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that too many fathers ... are missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it."

He added: "We know the statistics -- that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioural problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it."

Obama was, of course, raised by a single mother himself, but he is still capable of looking at the evidence objectively.

And because he has looked at the evidence objectively, his views on the family are closer to those of Bishop Christopher Jones than to the bishop's critics. Who'd have thought it?

Irish Independent

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