By Derick Dickens
New research has concluded what most of us already knew: children need fathers.
There is a myriad of evidence that shows a father in the home reduces violent crime, produces a better social environment, and provides essential growth opportunities. However, researchers have questioned the need for fathers thinking they only provide more parenting, not distinct and unique parenting.
New research conducted by Professor David Eggebeen of Penn State University, uncovers the unique impact fathers have on their children that is pointing researchers to the conclusion that fathers do not merely give more parenting, but distinct and unique parenting needed by children of both sexes.
In his research, Dr. Eggebeen found 60 different links from parenting factors and teen outcomes and found that while mothers and fathers do have significant overlap, there are a significant 20 factors and outcomes unique to a father’s role.
Girls, for instance, have fewer instances of depression and both sexes exhibit lower teen delinquency when they have an engaged father through the teenage years. In the early years of development, a father’s role and interaction helps children to moderate their emotions and develop emotional stability.
This leads Professor Eggebeen to conclude that fathers are not replaceable, but intrinsic to parenting.
He understands this research can be very controversial, “The reason it’s controversial, of course, is that not only does it imply that children with two parents do best, but also that those with both a father and a mother do best. This has implications for the growing concern about same-sex marriage and adoption and the likelihood that children may end up in these families.”
This research should not come as a surprise to Christians. Even before the fall we see the design of creation is for kids to have both a father and mother. Thus, in a perfect world without sin, God designed the family to include both parents for the upbringing of a child. If in the garden, God saw the perfection of His plan includes both a father and a mother, how much more in a post-Genesis 3 world do children need both parents?
In the Christian worldview, a father is more than another parent, it is a special role and responsibility unique and distinct from the role of the mother. God specifically designed this diversity within the family for the best impact on the child.
Some wrongfully believe that Christ’s redemption eliminates the distinctions of males and females. They think that since there is neither male nor female, the two sexes are interchangeable. This viewpoint misunderstands redemption.
Christ came to restore what was lost in the fall. We see, though that gender distinctions and gender roles were a part of a pre-fallen world. The fall did not eliminate the gender distinctions but brought sin into these roles (Genesis 3:16). In the modern era, many attempt to see males and females as being the same with no unique and intrinsic beauty apart for the external appearances. Christians, seeing God’s design, should look at each as exhibiting a beauty far beyond the external realities, but built in by God’s design to accomplish God’s distinct purpose.
What the research did not study is the long range impact to a society where fathers continually are absent. This most likely will result in a greater confusion of gender and make families more unstable for children. Delinquencies will rise and emotional problems will too. Men will further delve into an abyss of confusion about their role in society, in the family, and also in the church.
But I do not want to end the article with doom but with a call to action. As we minister in our churches, we will undoubtedly face families in less than ideal situations. Churches should be purposeful in helping families in these situations and working to ensure we assist these families.
When I was 10th grade, I had not seen my father since I was in the fourth grade. In our church, an older couple came alongside of me and several other kids in a similar situation to be a mentor and guide. Denny and Ann’s ministry during the tumult of adolescent youth added to my life security and structure to an otherwise unstable home life.
In ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we can help families and children see the impact of sin, but the power of the Gospel as it is in the process of saving us–and will ultimately save us completely–from sin.
Derick Dickens has an MBA in Leadership, MDiv, and MA in Religion. He speaks regularly on topics ranging from Christian Worldview issues to business leadership, and he is an Professor of Business and Human Resources. Married for 15 years to his wife Lacie, they have three children and live in Lynchburg Virginia. You can follow Derick on Twitter at twitter.com/derickdickens.
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