The internet and social media are buzzing this week with criticism of CNN's coverage of the Steubenville rape trial in which two juvenile males were convicted of raping a severely intoxicated 16-year-old girl. Trent Mays, 17, was sentenced to two years in a juvenile detention facility and Ma'lik Richmond, 16, was sentence to one year. Critics charge that CNN's approach is "pro-rapist" and that the anchors and correspondents are showing more compassion for the two perpetrators than they are for the victim.
There is plenty of commentary on CNN's angle on this story, so we won't address that here. However, in CNN's coverage of the conviction of the two young men, they have unwittingly highlighted the "father factor" in crime that we at National Fatherhood Initiative have repeatedly pointed out. (See previous posts on the Sandy Hook shooting, the Aurora theater shooting, the DC snipers, the Tuscon shooting, and the Chardon High School shooting.)
In her report after the judge handed out the sentence, CNN correspondent Poppy Harlow recounts an emotional moment between Ma'lik Richmond, one of the convicted youth, and his father:
You know, something that came up throughout this sentencing. Ma’lik’s father had gotten up and spoke. Ma’lik has been living with guardians. His father, a former alcoholic, got into to a lot of trouble with the law, been in prison before.
And his father stood up and he told the court, ‘I feel responsible for this. I feel like I wasn’t there for my son.’ And before that, he came over to the bench where his son was sitting. He approached him, he hugged him and whispered in his ear.
And Ma’lik’s attorney said to us in a courtroom, I have never heard Ma’lik’s father before say, I love you. He’s never told his son that. But he just did today.
Read that again. The first time Ma'lik heard his father utter the words "I love you" was the day that he was convicted as a sex offender and sentenced to juvenile detention.
On the one hand, it is wonderful that Mr. Richmond is affirming his unconditional love for his son at this moment when Ma'lik is emotionally devasted over the consequences of his actions for himself and for others. (His statement to the family after his sentencing was very emotional and sorrowful.) Harlow previously noted that when Ma'lik heard the sentence of the judge, he collapsed in the arms of his attorney and said "My life is over. No one is going to want me now.” He needs to know that his dad still wants him, despite his actions.
However, this seem like "too little, too late." What if Ma'lik had grown up hearing his dad say "I love you" every day? What if his dad had been a positive role model and an involved, responsible, and committed father? Would Ma'lik have made the choices that led to his involvement in a drunken party and ugly rape of a young girl if he didn't grow up with an alcoholic father who committed crimes and was absent for part of his life because he was in jail? What if Ma'lik's dad, while he was in jail, had the opportunity to participate in NFI's InsideOut Dad® program for incarcerated fathers and learn how to build a relationship with his son even while behind bars?
We don't know the whole story, of course, and it seems that Mr. Richmond realizes that his absence has contributed to his son's behavior and is now urging parents to be more involved in their children's lives. Hopefully he'll start to be more present in his son's life now. Unfortunately, the Richmonds are yet another fulfillment of the statistic that children with incarcerated fathers are seven times more likely to become incarcerated thesmelves.
The Steubenville case is a tragedy for all involved; most certainly for the 16-year-old girl who was victimized. If anything, the relationship between Ma'lik Richmond and his dad is a sobering reminder to fathers that their involvement in their children's lives shapes the decisions their children make.
The words "I love you" are powerful - say them now, before it's too late.
It seems that strong women beget strong women. However, research also shows that involved fathers beget strong women. Let me explain...
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has made headlines recently by imploring today’s working women to “lean in” to their careers in order to reach their full professional potential.
According to a CBS News story, “If there's one message she wants women to hear it's to aim high -- seek challenges and take risks -- and fight the instinct to hold back.”
Much of the response to Sandberg’s idea has focused on whether or not women should try to act more like men, whether it is appropriate for women to “lean in” as much as Sandberg thinks they should, what the future of work-life balance policy is, etc.
I am not going to get into that debate. Rather, I think it is critical that we are honest about the characteristics that many successful women tend to share – they grew up with involved dads.
The conventional wisdom seems to be that strong women beget strong women. I don’t doubt that that is true… to a degree. But what research has shown consistently is that involved fathers beget strong women.
- Children who have involved fathers expressed emotions in non-traditional gender patterns. Girls express more aggression, competition, and less intense fear and sadness whereas boys expressed more warmth and fear as well as less aggression. Also, 3 to-5-year-old children with highly involved fathers had less traditional views of future employment possibilities when they became adolescents than did their peers whose fathers were more aloof.
- A study of 302 adolescent girls showed that those who feel connected with their biological father but have little contact are at higher risk of problematic psychosocial functioning. Poor school behavior also increases for girls with low contact levels with their father.
- Fathers’ emotional involvement in the lives of their child can lead to less gendered roles.
- Fathers have a unique effect on their daughter’s tendency towards anti-social behavior. A study of 325 families revealed that fathers who present their daughters with more opportunities and reinforcement lessen the likelihood of their daughters’ poor behavior.
Having recently seen the upcoming DreamWorks Animation Film, The Croods, and then seeing what Sandberg had to say about women in the workplace, I couldn’t help but make the connection to this compelling data.
While you may not think of an animated cavegirl as the poster child for today’s working women, the reality is that Eep (pictured above on her father's shoulder), the young girl in the Croods’ family, drives the film’s plot through her desire to “leave the cave” and find new adventures out in the wide world. And guess what? She had a great dad.
As you may have seen on this blog, we gave Grug a Fatherhood Award™ for his heroic fathering in the film. Sure, these aren’t real people, but they are archetypes that mean something in our culture; the makers of The Croods have tapped into something very real. The reason Eep had the confidence to step out into a dangerous world is because she knew her father had her back. She may have been rebelling, and her father may have seen it as such, but the reality is that she would not have had the foundation to take such bold steps if she didn’t come from a supportive, strong family whose bedrock (Flintstones pun not intended) was dad. Again, take a look at the above data points if you have your doubts.
If a movie, even an animated one set in a fantasy world, is too unhinged from reality it will not be successful. That is why we at NFI believe The Croods is a special movie. DreamWorks is tapping into a truth about what gives children, especially girls in this case, the confidence they need to reach their full potential. Dads are the secret ingredient to “empowering” today’s girls to do their best.
The tagline for The Croods is “the first modern family.” Indeed.
Question: How have you seen this play out in your life as a dad?
Sources:1. Rivers, Caryl and Rosalind Chait Barnett. “Father Figures a Slew of New Studies Applaud Dads.” The Boston Globe 18 June 2000: E1.2. Coley, Rebekah Levine. “Daughter-Father Relationship and Adolescent Psychosocial Functioning in Low-Income African American Families.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, 65 (November 2003): 867-875.3. Deutsch, Francine M., Laura J. Servis, and Jessica D. Payne. “Paternal Participation in Child Care and Its Effects on Children’s Self-Esteem and Attitudes Toward Gendered Roles.” Journal of Family Issues, 22 (November 2001): 1000-1024.4. Kosterman, Rick. Et al. Unique Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Their Children’s Anti-Social Behavior. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 66. (August 2004). 762-778.
Image credit: The Croods © 2013 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Recently on FoxNews Live, Lewis Kostiner and Juan Williams spoke to Jonathan Hunt, host of "On the Hunt", on how men from all walks of life are working to be great fathers, all because of NFI's programming.
If you can't see the video, click here.
The interview centered around the book titled, "Choosing Fatherhood: America's Second Chance" which contains photographs from Lewis Kostiner's travels and meeting with 150 fathers from all walks of life in 17 states and 39 cities who had at least one thing in common – they were all working hard to be the best dads they could be.
Kostiner says he became aware of the national crisis of father absense while attending a luncheon with NFI. He then decided he would take photographs and illustrate how NFI's Programming was helping change the father absence problem in America.
Juan Williams wrote the introduction to the book and calls father absence, "the human tradegy of our time". He writes in the introduction, "No government can hold a child's hand or read to him at bedtime. No child will ever call a government "daddy". Regardless of a man's job status, or the struggles inherant in every romantic relationship, a child ideally needs two parents."
Juan continues, "we need to be child-focused...let's put the dad back in the picture...that's what Mr. Kostiner's book does."
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24 million children without biological fathers in the home. This is a stat we at NFI mention a lot. The number can be so big that it loses its meaning. However, if you take time to break most societal ills down, you find that father absence is a big part of the problem. Fix the state of fatherhood and remedy many ills in society. Education isn't immune to the father absence crisis, both in America and globally.
We recently wrote a column for CNN titled, "The Missing Piece in Education Reform—Dads". You can read our blog on it here.
Vincent DiCaro, National Fatherhood Initiative’s VP of Development and Communication, recently appeared on FoxNews Live to discuss the father-absence crisis and just how critical a fathers' role is in education.
Gregg Jarrett interviewed DiCaro on the FoxNews Live show "On the Hunt" about the state of education reform and fathers' roles.
If you can't see the video, click here.
Jarrett points out that America's children seem to be in a deficit compared to other nations and asks the question, "What's hurting education in America?"
1) Children growing up in father-absent homes
DiCaro does well to point out that "The biggest change that has taken place in education over the last generation has nothing to do with schools, but everything to do with what has happened to the family... One in three of our children are growing up without their biological father in the home."
2) Decline in marriage
Jarrett asks what's to blame for the decline of father involvement; unwed mothers or divorce or both? DiCaro makes clear that both contribute to what ends up being a situation where dad is just not there on a regular basis. DiCaro points out, "Out of wedlock childbirths have gone through the roof. We're at about 40% of all births are out of wedlock." He continues by pointing out that divorce is obviously still at a high rate. But DiCaro also mentions the "general mentality in our country that fathers don't play a unique an irreplacable role in their children's lives."
Jarrett asks about father absence and race. DiCaro makes clear that the father-absence issue is a global one. DiCaro says, "Father absence is not unique to any one community...this is a problem happening across the board." DiCaro continues, "...it isn't just in the United States, there was a global study done from Child Trends called the "World Family Map"; the report found, across the developed world, "children in two-parent homes do better in school than children in single-parent homes and this happens independent of income...this isn't about the haves versus the have-nots in terms of money, but kids who have two parents, and kids who have only one."
Jarrett asks, "do you think the important role that a dad plays in education is underestimated?"
DiCaro says, "Absolutely. Us dads ourselves often underestimate our role. We often think, mom has that covered, she's going to the parent teacher meetings, she's helping with homework, so the kid's gonna be fine. But even if mom's doing these things, it's still critically important for dad to do them as well. You know, dads do things differently. We interact with our children differently. We play a unique and irreplaceable role in our childen's lives, and so we need to be just as hands-on with our kids' education, reading to them every day, helping them with their homework, going to the school, being there, present in the school; a man's presence in a school communicates a lot to his kids and other kids in the school as well.
Facilities Across Pennsylvania Have Been Equipped to Deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® Program to Connect Incarcerated Fathers With Their Children
National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) has trained 37 Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) staff members on how to deliver NFI’s InsideOut Dad® program to incarcerated fathers across Pennsylvania.
The training took place at a Training Academy in Elizabethtown, PA on January 15 and 16 following the decision of PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel to standardize InsideOut Dad® at the state’s 24 adult male correctional facilities and 1 boot camp facility. The training equipped treatment specialists, corrections counselors, and chaplains to deliver the classroom-based curriculum to fathers seeking to reconnect with their children. The curriculum covers topics such as family history, what it means to be a man, showing and handling feelings, co-parenting, and much more.
Michael Yudt, NFI’s Senior Director of Program Support Services, who delivered the training, said, “The training revealed a great deal of excitement among Pennsylvania Department of Corrections staff for this type of program, aimed at helping inmate dads reconnect and strengthen their relationships with their children. In fact, one facilitator plans to delay her retirement until she has a chance to run InsideOut Dad® for a year.”
Pennsylvania is the 25th U.S. state to “standardize” InsideOut Dad® -- the nation’s only evidence-based program designed specifically for working with incarcerated fathers -- across its state correctional facilities. An independent study by Rutgers University qualified InsideOut Dad® as evidence-based, proving its effectiveness in building fathers’ knowledge and confidence in being better fathers, even while incarcerated.
"When individuals come to prison, not only does the community suffer, often their children, innocent victims in the situation, pay a toll. This program addresses the need for male offenders to stand up, face their responsibilities, and truly be a man in every sense of the word. Not only do we need this program, society does, as 90% of our men will return to our communities one day," said Secretary Wetzel.
SCI-Mahanoy, a facility in Frackville, PA, has been running InsideOut Dad® and was instrumental in arranging for implementation across the entire state. As a result of the training, each of the 25 facilities aims to offer InsideOut Dad® once per quarter as a voluntary program for inmates, with state-mandated eligibility criteria in place for fathers seeking to participate in the program.
“And we’ll work to strengthen families by removing the financial deterrents to marriage for low-income couples, and doing more to encourage fatherhood – because what makes you a man isn’t the ability to conceive a child; it’s having the courage to raise one. Stronger families. Stronger communities. A stronger America. It is this kind of prosperity – broad, shared, and built on a thriving middle class – that has always been the source of our progress at home.” -- President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2/12/13
Not for the first time, President Barack Obama urged the nation to strengthen the institution of fatherhood. He also made the important connection between marriage and fatherhood; two forces that work together to strengthen families and the economy.
The President’s timely comments ride on the heels of new research from the Pew Research Center (which we cited in a CNN.com op-ed on Monday) that shows that marriage is in decline, creating an enormous cultural and economic gap between those who marry and those who don’t. Thus, the President hit the nail on the head in tying the vibrancy of the middle class to the health of marriage.
The President has consistently voiced his support for responsible fatherhood, having formed the Responsible Fatherhood and Healthy Families Task Force in 2007, of which former NFI president, Roland C. Warren, was part. NFI and Roland helped create this report on how the federal government can address fatherhood issues.
For NFI’s part, we are inspired to hear the leader of the free world choose to take time out of his most important speech to voice his support for fatherhood and marriage. Twenty four million children grow up in biological father-absent homes today, and we don’t have a fatherless child to spare!
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
photo credit: white house
The Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012! We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. Today is our fourth most popular blog post of 2012!
From the blog:
We call him the “24/7 Dad.” We believe that every child needs one. What we are talking about is an involved, responsible and committed father. We are talking about a dad who knows his role in the family. He understands he is a model for his sons on how to be a good man. Likewise, if he has daughters, he models what they should look for in a husband and father for their children. There are five questions every responsible father should answer. These five questions come with a guarantee: if you answer each one honestly and take action, you will become a 24/7 Dad!
The questions fit into five categories:
1. Self-Awareness. The 24/7 Dad is aware of himself as a man and aware of how important he is to his family. He knows his moods, feelings and emotions; capabilities, strengths, and challenges. He is responsible for his behavior and knows his growth depends on how well he knows and accepts himself. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I know myself?
2. Caring for Self. The 24/7 Dad takes care of himself. He gets annual physicals, eats right, exercises, and learns about the world he lives in. He has a strong connection to his family and community, and chooses friends who support his healthy choices. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I care for myself?
3. Fathering Skills. The 24/7 Dad knows his role in the family. He knows he should be involved in the daily life of his children. Consider this: Who dresses and feeds your kids? Who attends parent-teacher conferences? Who supports their sports and other interests/activities? Who helps with homework and tucks them in at night? Said a different way, if you weren’t in the family, would anyone notice based on the daily household tasks? So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Father”?
4. Parenting Skills. The 24/7 Dad nurtures his children. Yes, nurturing is for men to do as well. He knows how his parenting skills help to develop their physical, emotional, intellectual, social, spiritual, and creative needs. His children trust and feel safe with him because he cares about and nurtures them through the use of proven parenting skills. The 24/7 Dad uses discipline to teach and guide his children, not to threaten or harm them. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I “Parent”?
5. Relationship Skills. The 24/7 Dad builds and maintains healthy relationships with his children, wife/mother of his children, other family members, friends, and community. He knows and values how relationships shape his children and their lives. So, the 24/7 Dad asks himself: How well do I relate?
Read the full blog post: 5 Questions Every Father Should Ask Himself
Tell us: Which blog post did you like the most in 2012?
Connect with The Father Factor by RSS, Facebook and on Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
The Father Factor Blog is closing out the year by revisiting some of our most popular blogs of 2012!
We've enjoyed talking parenting tips and tools this year with you. From today through December 31st, we'll post our top five blog posts of the year.
Today is our fifth most popular blog post of 2012!
We posted "3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child" and proposed thinking about communicating with our kids as a racecar driver thinks about race tracks!
From the blog:
Odds are good you didn’t wake up this morning and say to yourself, “You know, I should communicate with my kids better…or more…” No, that has never happened - EVER. Something must change in how we view communication. We understand the importance of communication, but we need something to help us remember that how we do it daily is of utmost importance...
We wrote three rules that can help you as you talk with your child. They are the same ideas that a driver must consider as he approaches:
1. Know Your Racetrack:
- Short tracks = Infants and young kids
- Intermediate tracks = School-aged children
- Superspeedways = Teenagers
- Road Courses = College-aged children and beyond
2. Practice, Practice, Practice. And then practice more.
When a NASCAR driver isn’t on the track, he is practicing. A driver’s life is about way more than that short moment on the racetrack. And all of his time leading up to the moment on the track is spent in preparation. When is the right time to practice? Early and often.
3. You Must Make Adjustments.
If Nascar drivers know anything beyond the track and practicing; they understand the importance of making adjustments. Adjustments are crucial in racing. Likewise, you as a dad will learn by trial and error. It’s good to understand you can learn both when you’re away from your child and during the moments you are with them. Great drivers know the importance of making adjustments, from “Research and Development” to “The Pit Box.”
Read the full blog post: 3 Rules for Communicating with Your Child.
Tell us: Which blog post did you enjoy the most in 2012?
In case you missed it, Vince DiCaro was interviewed on Fox News discussing our recent blog on the father factor and its possible role in the Sandy Hook School shootings.
Parents: watch the interview and tell us; what should be done to prevent these tragedies?
Connect with The Father Factor on Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.
In the wake of the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation is collectively mourning and trying to figure out how something this terrible could happen. While it is not our job at NFI to figure out how to solve issues around gun control and mental health treatment, we would be remiss not to point out that once again, like in so many tragedies of this nature, there appears to be a significant “father factor” at play.
As we learn more and more about the troubled life of shooter Adam Lanza, it appears that the divorce of his parents had a significant, negative impact on his life.
It is becoming clear that Adam Lanza suffered from some sort of emotional or psychological disorder that has not yet been specified. It also appears that this mental disorder contributed significantly to the heinous crime he committed. However, we know from research that children from father-absent homes are more likely to have emotional problems and are also more likely to commit crimes.According to this news article, he took the divorce especially hard – “The break up was traumatic, leaving the couple's sons devastated.” His father, Peter Lanza, had moved out and remarried in 2009; and although he had legal access to his child, he had not seen him in 6 months. In other words, there were no legal barriers preventing him from seeing his child, but he had not seen him since June. Adam Lanza was not alone in this – fully one third of children from father-absent homes never see their dads, and another third only see them once per month*.
This blog has written several times about the father factor in mass murders (the Aurora shooting, the D.C. sniper, and Chardon High School, the Norway terrorist, and Tucson), and the patterns we see in each and every one of these cases is eerily similar.
Had Peter Lanza been more involved in his son’s life -- helping him deal with the mental anguish it appears he was going through -- would things have turned out differently? Sadly, we will never know.
For now, all we can do is mourn with the families who were affected by this tragedy and start to work together to devise solutions that will reduce the likelihood of this sort of tragedy happening again. And certainly, part of the solution needs to be to ensure that all children have involved, responsible, and committed fathers in their lives who can help them navigate a difficult world, one that is especially difficult for the mentally ill.
- Stewart, Susan D. “Nonresident Parenting and Adolescent Adjustment: The Quality of Nonresident Father-Child Interaction.” Journal of Family Issues, 24 (March 2003): 217-244
- Aquilino, W.S. (2006). The noncustodial father-child relationship from adolescence into young adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68, 929-946
photo credit: Rickydavid