Increased youth crime rate is caused largely by absent fathers as a result of divorce made too easy. Consider this chilling forecast. When we pass the year 2000, we will see two groups of working age adults emerging. One group will have received psychological, social, economic, educational and moral benefits and the other group will have been denied them all. The first group will have grown up with a father present in the house and the second group will have not had a father present. The groups will be roughly equal in size.
In order to be divorced in my parent’s era of the fifties, one mate had to be proven dulterous. Legally, one party was deemed guilty and one was innocent. That finding affected each party financially and socially enough so that most couples tried hard not to divorce. In Canada the rate of divorce in 1951 was one out of twenty couples. In the late sixties, the “sexual revolution” began and couples rebelled against the constraints of marriage. Movie makers and journalists became rich extolling the virtues of free love and liberation.
The addition of more grounds for divorce and the elimination of the need to appear in court made it easier for couples to split. Now there are “no fault” divorces which further decrease the stigma. By 1987 one out of two couples divorced. Since then, the annual divorce rate has dipped slightly. The stigma is almost gone. Books are written about doing your own divorce. One can obtain a low budget quickie divorce by phone or fax to the Dominican Republic in about three days. There are “divorce parties”. Even the Royal Family discusses its divorce dilemmas on t. . The divorce picture is not all rosy.
According to sociologist Lenore Weitzman, divorced women get by on about 64% of the income they had during marriage. For their children, this translates into less oney for school activities, clothes, opportunities for traveling and learning, day care and sometimes food. Children can be called on to do adult tasks before they are ready, like caring for younger siblings. Older children may be required to work long hours at a job to help bring money to the family. As a result, they may fall behind in their school work.
After a while, the child may feel it is hopeless to try to keep up and decide to quit school. At this point a girl may decide to get pregnant and bear a child. She may feel that in doing so her life will have more meaning and she will receive unconditional love from the child. A U. S. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth reveals that 27% of girls from divorced families become mothers versus 11% of girls from traditional families. For boys, leaving school generally means a succession of low paying jobs or life on the streets.
Certainly our “fatherless society” cannot be blamed for all juvenile delinquency but it is a major contributor. Morals are taught best within the confines of a stable home with both parents present. Retired Edmonton Police Service Superintendent Chris Braiden, notes that in the thirty year period in which violent youth crime rose by 300% in the U. S. the number of single parent families rose by 300% and the divorce rate doubled, the same as it did in Canada. Seventy percent of juvenile offenders in the U. S. jails grew up without a father. There is a drastic shortage of positive male role models.
There is no doubt about it; single mothers have and can continue to raise good and responsible children. It takes the physical and emotional strength of Hercules to do it and I have great respect for mothers who have succeeded. My own mother did it. But the numbers show that lack of fathers contribute greatly to juvenile crime. Lately, the role of the father is superfluous. He has been reduced to being a household helper or a child support payer. His role is important because he provides a love that is different than the mother’s. Mother’s love is unconditional.
Father’s love is sought after and earned through achievement. The child must work for this love. This type of love may sound like unreal love, but I think it is real. The lucky child is the one who has the benefit of both kinds of love. The father can yield the power to invoke fear among children. This sounds bad but it isn’t. Of course, the father can be friendly and loving but never underestimate the power of fear to keep them in ine. I am not talking about laying a hand on the children, just the idea of something “bad happening” if they don’t “shape up”.
I can attest to the success of fear in my own family. It works! Without the father present, children are ripe for becoming anything their peers want them to be. They find it hard to resist temptation to be dishonest or criminal. There is no father to answer to. Yes, there is Mom to answer to but she is usually not as intimidating as a father. In the community, a safer street is one where there are fathers out mowing the lawn or fixing a car. A child s less apt to commit a crime with fathers visibly present.
There is a saying that “it takes a whole community to raise a child. Mothers set the standards for the community and fathers enforce them. To get back on the course of a family oriented instead of a divorce oriented society, I feel we should start with acknowledgment of the sad state of affairs our families are in. We should recognize the link divorce has to youth crime. We should pay close attention to what makes successful families and model ours after theirs. We need to recognize that marriage and parenting is a difficult job but can be oh-so-rewarding. Children’s needs should always come first.
If there are marital difficulties, couples should commit to counseling unless the situation is dangerous for the mother and children. I feel couples should give themselves a year of work, then re-evaluate their marriage. Applaud organizations such as Al Gore’s “Father to Father” program and the group Promise Keepers. These groups seek to elevate the importance of fatherhood. Several years ago, Vice President Dan Quayle accused t. v. character Murphy Brown of ridiculing the two parent family. He endured a lot of ridicule himself from people of conservative and liberal beliefs.