The Importance of Fathers-in-Families

"The outcomes for children are greatest when they have two committed parents. We know that the further we move from the ideal, the greater the risks that emerge. If we start to look simply at homes where there is no father, we see that some of the figures from around the world are quite alarming . . .

"They are 5 times more likely to commit suicide as children; they are 20 times more likely to have behavioural disorders; they are 32 times more likely to run away and so on. Daughters of single parents are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages, and are 164% more likely to have premarital births.

"We are talking about a set of circumstances that are starting to set in train a whole lot of consequences that are negative for the children and negative for the community over time. Forty-one percent of Maori children under 18 live with one or none of their biological parents. Around 60% of our prison inmates are Maori.

"We might conclude that those are two quite separate statistics. We might conclude that this is just a coincidence. I have to say that all of the social science research says that that is absolute nonsense; that one is very largely a consequence of the other, and that the factors that exist around the fragmentation of those families, the lack of presence of [usually] fathers in those families is very closely related to, and quite predictive of, the outcome that we see for those children later in life.

"We can look at the research of David Fergusson,1 where he followed children from birth to 18 years of age and we start to look at the risk factors at the time of birth, that predicts negative outcomes for children. Again, the fragmentation of family, particularly sole parenting at a very early age, is very highly predictive of all sorts of clusters of negative consequences."

Bob Simcock 2

1. Professor David Fergusson is a research doctor at Canterbury University, Christchurch, doing the world's longest ongoing longitudinal study on adolescence and youth suicide. The Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) is a longitudinal study of 1265 children born in the Christchurch urban region who have been studied from birth to age 18 and on. 2 National MP, as read in Parliament, 10 May 2000.

2. National MP, as read in Parliamnet, 10 May 2000

Source: Are You My Father? The Family Court and Other Experiments  by Greg Hallett.