In praise of fathers Editorial
Stabroek News
December 20, 2003

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The presence of an increasing number of fathers out shopping with their children and at Christmas school concerts and other such events, which were formerly 'mothers-only' domains, would suggest that fathers are becoming even more actively involved in the lives of their children. Respect due. Too often, the poor example shown by the many 'deadbeat dads' around is used to brand all fathers. And if society continues to negate fatherhood and put men down as being useless with children, then that is what they will be.

However, it would be naĆ¯ve to attempt to ignore the fact that there are still too many children without fathers in their homes or in their lives. Divorce/separation rates are still very high and the reality is that many fathers tend to also divorce their children or drop out of their lives, once they have split with the mothers.

Recently, a team of academics from the University of Lancaster (UoL), who examined 700 British and international reports spanning 20 years on the impact of fatherhood, has reported that children whose fathers take an active role in their upbringing are more likely to do well at school and avoid getting into trouble with the police. The research team wrote: "In families where fathers offer kindness, care and warmth during primary school years, children are likely to do well at secondary school." The team found evidence that children in Britain were likely to achieve better GCSE results if their fathers were more involved with their development.

One might wonder why academics even felt the need to conduct the research, since their conclusions seem more like commonsense than scientific advice. However, as Professor Charlie Lewis of UoL, who led the team, revealed, it led to the discovery that in the UK, an increasing number of fathers were now the main carers for children when the mothers worked. And though no studies have been done here, the increased visibility of fathers dancing attendance on their children in Guyana seems to support this theory.

The concept of more men taking primary responsibility in caring for their children must be encouraged, nurtured even. The reality is that homes are no longer being run like little empires where 'King Daddy' sits on his distant throne and only ventures down to build kites, teach his sons cricket or take them fishing. Fathers, more power to them, are beginning to realize that from the day of conception or adoption, both parents have equally important roles. One would hope that perhaps in the coming year, some enterprising local group or organisation would undertake to provide parenting classes/workshops for men.

Today's children also seem to see their dads in a different light. A survey conducted by the group Fathers Direct revealed that 91% of children aged nine to 11 valued their fathers and considered the role to be important. No fewer than 88% of boys wanted to be fathers when they are older, and 90% of girls wanted the father of their children to be caring rather than rich. Over 75% of children said it was okay for fathers to stay at home looking after the children, while mothers went out to work. Clearly, this is a good sign for the future, since today's children are tomorrow's parents.