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Dads, realize your importance: Statistics of a fatherless America

Joe Johnson

To bring up a child in a way they should go, you must travel that way yourself once in a while.

Josh Billings

My next few columns will be dedicated to the subject of nurturing - the word "nurturing" itself, what it is to be a nurturing parent and the issues we as parents need to examine to become nurturing for our children.

It's impossible to teach you through a newspaper column how to be nurturing. If you want to be educated on how to be nurturing parents, please consider joining or visiting the FATHER Project.

In order for us to awaken as a collective population to the needs of our children, we need to first realize why it is so important to have fathers be part of their childrens' lives and the subsequent consequences and detrimental impacts the absence of a father will have on a child's entire being.

If you are a father, grandfather, brother or father figure in any child's life and have ever contemplated if your presence truly means something then please consider these facts:

n Sexual activity - In a recent study researchers found that "compared to families with two natural parents living in the home, adolescents from single-parent families have been found to engage in earlier and more sexual activity.

n High risk - Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of suicide.

n Fatherly influence: Children with fathers at home tend to do better in school, are less prone to depression and are more successful in relationships.

n Divorce disorders: Children whose parents are separated are significantly more likely to engage in early sexual activity, abuse drugs and experience conduct and mood disorders. This effect is especially strong for children whose parents separated when they were 5 years of age or younger.

n Double-risk - Fatherless children - kids living in homes without a stepfather or without contact with their biological father - are twice as likely to drop out of school.

n Violence - 72 percent of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. Sixty percent of America's rapists grew up the same way.

The fact is that more than 75 percent of American children are at risk of paternal deprivation. Even in two-parent homes, fewer than 25 percent of young boys and girls experience an average of at least one hour a day of relatively individualized contact with their fathers.

We as parents and role models have a decision to make; we can become aware of our important parental roles with which to do our diligence and be responsible for the future generation, or we can hang our heads in shame at the state of it all.

The question is, "Do you know how important you are?"

Editor's note: Joe Johnson and his wife Amanda have two children. He is a licensed master trainer/consultant for St. Joseph's Area Health Services Community Health Nurturing Fathers Program and is a case manager for the FATHER Project, a program funded by Goodwill/Easter Seals Minnesota. To learn more about participating in Fathering Skills classes, call him at 255-2063 or e-mail josephjohnson@catholic