Today’s pop culture is littered with references and jokes about single parent households from famous rapper Childish Gambino’s lyrics …

“This one kid said somethin’ that was really bad
He said I wasn’t really black because I had a dad”

…to How I Met Your Mother’s Barney Stinson bragging about how he loves “bimbos” with “unresolved daddy issues.” The question of the burnout dad and how this father affects the children he leaves behind has been a question of this generation.

In 2016, the census bureau reported 34 percent of families are single parents, and 83 percent of single parent households belonged to single moms. This statistic does not even encapsulate emotionally unavailable fathers or abusive fathers, the presence of whom can have the same damaging effects as absentee fathers.

Comprehensive studies have concluded that kids who grow up with single moms or abusive fathers, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity are more likely to be poor, have less educational opportunities. They tend to end up unemployed, with less lucrative jobs, in jail or they follow in their parents footsteps and ditch their kids too. Besides this, children with abusive parents, especially abusive fathers, are more at risk for diseases across numerous physiological systems which can lead to and cause anxiety, depression, low-self esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.

Kids with abusive or absentee fathers are just worse off in life.

But, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton all grew up without strong father figures in their life. There are two presidents in that list…  so are all the kids who end up in jails, alcoholics, or unemployed themselves just screw ups? Were they just the weak ones who couldn’t get over it?

According to the Census Bureau in 2016, 17.2 million children, were part of single mother households. 1.2 percent of children are abused annually (903,000), unfortunately amounting to a significant number. Also, 76 percent  of black families are single mom households, 66 percent of Hispanic families are single mom households, and 42 percent of white families are single mom households. The majority of children with absentee fathers are poor and live in in minority communities.

The United States government currently has programs which are centered around these children but welfare programs and free school lunches will do nothing to erase the emotional damage that children have when they are a missing a father figure. The government shouldn’t remove these programs, but even rich white kids who suffer from abuse or have absentee fathers are still at risk for serious problems later in life regardless of their economic status or race. So why isn’t there anything being done for children in either community?

Psychological trauma can be detrimental to a child’s chance of success. The number of single mother households has skyrocketed recently and there are no politicians preaching about “The War on Absentee and Abusive Fathers.” The emotional wounds inflicted by bad dads scar children throughout their life leaving them unemployed, depressed and angry. In order to combat this, schools should have comprehensive programs for children who are suffering from abusive or lack a father in their life.

We can  help the unnumbered multitude of children who grow up with severely damaging psychological issues by reaching out to them in our communities. We can implement school programs focused on tackling emotional problems. We can create NGOs that focus on helping kids without fathers.

Today, society has gradually let go of the shame of single mothers, and embraces the survivors of abuse. Neither of these are bad things. The government can’t regulate marriages of fathers who are emotionally unavailable. Who would believe in a bill, let alone pass a bill called “The Establishment of Fathers Who Pay Attention to Their Children and Treat Them Correctly Emotionally, Physically and Sexually?”

But we can focus on helping children who are victims of abuse or grow up without a father in their life. We can work with young men with children and create programs that teach fathers responsibility. We can try to end the brutal cycle of abusive and absentee fathers.

The government hasn’t or can’t intervene to end this issue and the amount of emotionally injured kids pile up year after year. The last thing we should do is sit by and watch.

Hallie Spear lives in Westport.

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