The number of fatherless homes has risen dramatically since 1960, but the Gospel possesses the power to repair broken family pictures.
According to results from a recent Pew Research Center study on marriage and children published by Christianity Today, the rate of out-of-wedlock childbearing increased sevenfold in the United States between 1960 and 2005 from 5.3 percent of all births to 36.8 percent.
The survey draws the tragic implications of its numbers, concluding that, "Marriage exerts less influence over how adults organize their lives and how children are born and raised than at any time in the nation's history."
The bottom line? More than one-third of all newborns in America will grow up without a father. The survey attributes this sharp rise in non-marital births to "an ever-greater percentage of women in the 20s, 30s, and older…delaying or forgoing marriage but having children."
The situation in the United Kingdom is no better. According to a BBC report, the proportion of children born outside marriage in the UK has increased dramatically from 12 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2005. The average size of a UK household fell from 2.9 people in 1971 to 2.4 in 2005. As in America, the father is typically persona non grata.
While these figures may strike few as shocking, the fallout from fatherless homes is devastating, particularly for boys, who need role models for spiritual development and authentic manhood, roles best played by a committed father.
Men need to hear and heed the clarion call of Weldon Hardenbrook, who writes in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, "Real men do not make babies. Real men take responsibility for the physical and spiritual care of children they beget and for those begotten and deserted by others. Responsibility lies at the heart of fatherhood as it was intended to be."
Of course, there is a congruent truth for girls and mothers, though moms are the remaining parent in the vast majority of single-parent homes.
The increase in fatherless homes brings with it a correlative upswing in the number of single mothers, many of whom desire an arrangement that more closely resembles that of God's design, as CT points out: "Single mothers often long for a strong, caring male to enter their children's lives."
So is there any good news for these single moms and their children? As with all things in life East of Eden, the Gospel brings profound hope for fatherless homes. The task falls to local churches to demonstrate the love of Jesus through practical and patient service to single parent homes.