Over the next few weeks I will be offering reflections on a more global level. Parents matter. Fathers matter. What have we learned regarding why this is so?
Much of the initial research on why fathers matter was based on his absence. In other words, those in the household (moms) reported on the qualities of life when dad wasn’t around. For the better part of the 20th century parenting research really was about mothering. And a good deal of the challenges we face in the small and larger circles of life still revolves on a father’s presence or lack thereof.
When I speak on fatherhood, a piece of information that is sure to produce a collective gasp is the data on abuse and neglect. For a child growing up in the conditions of physical or emotional abuse, developmental outcomes are impacted in a substantial way. A very negative way and one would likely predict this.
But a father who is in the home but emotionally unavailable to his children creates the same conditions. The developmental outcomes between abuse and being emotional unavailable are eerily similar. The internal conditions children feel when they are beaten, criticized and debased are of the same quality as when fathers are unresponsive to emotional needs. An emotional desert and the chaotic battlefield offer the same message:
You don’t matter.
And if I don’t matter to those I value deeply and depend upon, I must not have any value… This message runs deep in the heart and soul, and it is a fragile foundation for life’s challenges.
In the next post I will take a leap and connect a certain myth about boys and feelings and how this plays out on an intergenerational perspective…