What’s the real impact of growing up without a dad? FV1’s Daniel Zsigmond investigates
Last year the riots turned England into turmoil. After kicking off in Tottenham, the anarchy spread across the country, involving wide-spread looting and violence on an unprecedented scale. So who was to blame? Well, after much analysis, it turns out that many of the young people involved came from single parent families, with fathers absent.
Of course, we can’t blame single mothers. Many of them try hard to bring up their kids while also trying to work to put food on the table. Yet we do need to look at the impact that absent fathers might have on children as research shows that, particularly for boys growing up, they are more likely to underachieve without a male figure in their lives to aspire to.
The data on absent fathers is staggering. The number of lone parent families (where it is the father that is absent in 9 out of 10 cases) has grown from being 1 in 14 families in 1972 to almost 1 in 4 today. Within the black community 59% of children of Caribbean origin grow up without a father, and 44% of African origin. Compare this to the national average of 22%. Also, in other ethnic minorities, it’s higher than the national average. A further shocking statistic is that 25%-33% of these children never, ever see their fathers.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, has talked at length about the problems that a lack of fatherhood poses on personal development in children. He speaks from personal experience - he grew up without a father at home - and tells me that the impact an absent father can have on his children is enormous. Citing research on the issue, he tells me that children who don’t have a father as a role model are more likely to drop out of school or be expelled. And they’re more likely to have kids themselves during their teenage years and to suffer from depression.
So, it does seem that when we’re young we really do need a man in our life who can show us how to take responsibility. But is society doing enough to help? Fathers named on birth certificates are legally bound to pay child support, but the many who aren’t recorded still get off scot-free. Lammy is backing a campaign for fathers to be forced to have their names recorded on birth certificates so that they have to cough up and can’t run away from this responsibility.
Fatherhood isn’t easy and yet there are many young dads in society who do stay with their children and feel great satisfaction from it. Being a father gives them a great deal of happiness, knowing that they’re looking after their own flesh and blood. And it’s always inspiring to see celebrities looking after their kids. Take Eminem, for example. Despite his own father walking out early on, the rapper’s always continued to be a doting dad to his birth daughter and adopted kids.
Raising a child is hard work and even harder when you don’t have your own father to look up to and give the helping hand, and yet there are plenty of people who stay with their children no matter how difficult it may be. Both David Lammy and Eminem are testament to that. We should not use them as role models, but rather as inspiration to be role models for our own kids.
Watch Daniel's interview with David Lammy in FV1 magazine!