Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is Fatherlessness The #1 Problem Facing America?

Can our fatherless leader restore families?

In a bipartisan act this last week, President Barack Obama's top advisor, Valerie Jarrett, appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel to talk about the problem of fatherlessness in America. Warren Farrell, author of "Father and Child Reunion" is leading a commission that has asked President Obama to create a White House Council on Boys and Men. The president told America six years ago as a candidate that "the government—and society as a whole—has an obligation to deal with poverty, particularly poverty that is deep-rooted. Not just in the inner cities but in rural communities all across America. But we also have to recognize there's a particular problem when more than half of African American children are growing up without a father in the house, and oftentimes not even knowing their father."

Added the future president, who himself grew up with only meeting his father two times: "That's a problem, and I won't back up one bit in asserting that is a problem that we have to be honest about."

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So often honest discussion gets shortcircuited by the blame game. But Warren Farrell says, "None of this implies that men are better as dads than women are as moms." A commission to promote two parent families would not diminish the hard work single moms are doing. Neither would it blame dads who are often marginalized by antiquainted alimony and child custody laws and may feel pushed away from being part of their kids life.And it isn't a racial issue- twenty four million American children are growing up in homes without their real father present, and it affects blacks, Hispanics and whites.

Barack Obama grew up without a father and became president. But he wrote of the gaping wound he felt his whole life in his autobiographical book "Dreams From My Father." He has spoken of how he has devoted himself to be the father to his two daughters that he never was able to enjoy himself. He personally knows how important that issue is, and how it affects everyone no matter what your political persuasion. What is important is calling a truce between moms and dads, Democrats and Republicans and Libertarians, and focussing on what scholar Elaine C. Karmarck and Third Way president Jonathan Cowan found in their report Wayward Son: "There is a great deal of evidence that children from single parent homes have worse outcomes on both academic and economic measures that children from two parent families. There is a vast inequality of both financial resources and parental time and attention between one- and two- parent families."

Unless we deal with the reasons why men and women are estranged from one another we will not be able to make a dent in the problems passed on to their children. Social science research shows that children do best in two parent households. We also agree that men and women should only marry and stay together for love. When men and women use physical attraction and charm to create fragile mirage relationships, they aren't going to stay together and provide the optimal atmosphere in which to raise children. Barack Obama is just one of millions of kids who were produced by a mirage relationship. He overcame it, but he bears the scars to this day. We urge him to call together the best and the brightest to solve the problem of mirage relationships which are causing the disintegration of the American family.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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