What’s the link between the frequency of school shootings and father-son relationships?
by Joseph Cohen, President and co-founder, Empowered Fathers in Action (EFA) Foundation
The signs are in bullying incidents and low self-esteem. In increasing rates of teenage suicide. And in the disturbingly frequent school shootings. These “red flags” call attention to one aspect of parenting getting too little attention. The relationship between fathers and sons.
The impact of fathers on the well-being and behavior of their children has been well documented. The dangerous and extreme results of boys growing up without a positive bond with their fathers are obvious. Those results are school shootings, bullying incidents, and increased rates of teenage suicide.
The impact and extreme results of being dad deprived is the subject of The Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell, Ph.D. He is the Chair of the Commission to Create a White House Council on Boys and Men. The price society pays for a generation of boys without a father can be seen in many ways. “We are paying the price in increased taxes,” says Farrell, “and these costs are reflected in welfare, incarceration, and unemployment.” The extreme results of absent fathers are boys who join terrorist cells or become the perpetrators of school shootings.
Journalist Peter Hasson captured the essence of this crisis in an article in The Federalist. “Unstable homes produce unstable children,” said Hasson. “It’s no coincidence that, much like the number of fatherless children, mass shootings have exploded since the 1960s. Throughout the entire 1960s, six mass shootings took place. That number doubled in 1970.” Hasson reported more mass shootings in 2012 than in the sixties. Fifty-seven shootings occurred since 2012, according to Everytown, a gun safety organization. All the shooters were male.
What The Studies Reveal
The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children is a report by the U.S. Department of Human Services. “Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure,” according to the 2006 report. “They are confident to explore their surroundings, and as they grow older, have better social connections with peers.”
Another study about children who live with their fathers was referenced by the co-author in the 2006 report. That study said they are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, achieve academically, and avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.
The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children features another prominent psychologist. “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home,” says Dr. David Popenoe. “Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.”
Two other important studies bolster the positive findings of children who live with their fathers. Published in 1996 was The Relationship between Family Structure and Adolescent Substance Abuse. Published in 1998 was Father Absence and Youth Incarceration. Both link good physical and emotional health, academic achievement, avoiding drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior to an involved father.
JOSEPH COHEN is a former New York city public school teacher and journalist who recently published Write Father, Write Son : A Bond-Building Journey.