Promoting fatherhood

SALT LAKE CITY, - Good kids require good dads - a link that may require an act of Congress, says a parenting expert who is part of a nationwide fatherhood movement.

Alan Hawkins, a professor of Marriage, Family and Human Development at Brigham Young University, says a lack of caring, responsible fathers is the No. 1 reason kids today are more likely than previous generations to fail in school, have premature sex, develop drug problems or be violent.

Hawkins is part of the National Fatherhood Initiative, created in 1994, which is working to make good fathering a national priority. The non-partisan, non-profit, non-sectarian organization promotes marriage, successful parenting and improvement of fathers' economic status.

The group is urging passage of two bills before Congress that would amend the Social Security Act to promote fatherhood and marriage, as well as increase job and education opportunities for fathers. The bills would provide $140 million over three years to promote fatherhood through media campaigns and educational programs.

Hawkins said that while the divorce rate is down a little, births to unwed mothers continue to go up - even in Utah.

''The fact is that fathers are great monitors of the present and especially the futures of children's lives,'' Hawkins said. ''Research shows that fathers just being around helps kids stay out of trouble in their youth, and they link them to the future by harping on how failing now has a direct bearing on their success as adults.''

Along with society distancing itself from fathers, the notion has taken root that the individual matters most, Hawkins said.

''We've kind of become an every-man-and-woman-for-ourselves culture, and in the process severed the link between adult relationships and parenting, and between having sex and having children,'' Hawkins said.

Wade Horn, president of the initiative and former United States Commissioner for Children, Youth and Families, said a declining number of children in every state lives with two, married parents:

- 24 million of the country's 71 million children do not live with their biological fathers, and 17 million don't live with a father at all..

- More than 60 percent of convicted rapists, 72 percent of teen murderers and 70 percent of long-term prison inmates are males who grew up without fathers.

''Many children growing up in a single-parent household do well,'' Horn said. ''It is nonetheless also true that growing up in a single-parent household increases the risk of poorer outcomes for children.''

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com.)

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