We are constantly bombarded about fatherhood and family myths by a media who live by the maxim, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. The end result? – the exotic and the statically minor always grab the headlines. The stories of the ordinary fathers who are providing, nurturing and caring for their children and their families are forgotten. What is even worse, fathers are maligned for the misbehaviour of a few.
Take the issue of child sexual abuse. For years you and I have been hearing the statistical nonsense that one in four girls is sexually abused by her father. When you unpack the true statistics the figure includes stepfathers, male relatives, mums revolving-door boyfriends and random strangers. Yes, in my experience the one in four women before the age of 18 have suffered sexual abuse in some way or another is true but the touted allegation about biological fathers being responsible, has no basis in reality.
A feminist friend of mine who has researched the statistics, and is supportive of fathers, told me that the true figure for biological fathers who sexually abuse their children is 1%. Recent figures from Western Australia show that mothers physically abuse their children at 3 times the rates of dads. All child abuse is horrific, but the truth of the matter on the basis of statistical analysis, is that the safest place for a child to grow up is with his or her natural biological father and mother who are in a married relationship.
Some years ago, to celebrate Father’s Day in USA, Professor Brad Wilcox from the University of Virginia wrote a very good article on the Five Myths of Fatherhood and Families. The article applies to Australia just as much as USA as the same myths are prevalent in both countries. We include his first two myths in the article below with the other three included here: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/227738/five-myths-fathers-and-family-w-bradford-wilcox
The ‘Mr Mum’ Surge
Open a newspaper or turn on a TV in the week heading up to Father’s Day and you are bound to confront a story on stay-at-home dads. I have nothing against stay-at-home dads, but they make up a minuscule share of American fathers.
For instance, less than 1 percent (140,000) of America’s 22.5 million married families with children under 15 had a stay-at-home dad in 2008, according to the U.S. Census. By contrast, about 24 percent (5,327,000) of those families had a stay-at-home mom. This means that the vast majority — more than 97 percent — of all stay-at-home parents are moms, not dads.
The focus on Mr Mum obscures another important reality. In most American families today, fathers still take the lead when it comes to breadwinning: In 2008, the Census estimated that fathers were the main provider in almost three-quarters of American married families with children under 18. Providership is important to protect children from poverty, raise their odds of educational success, and increase the likelihood that they will succeed later in life. Thus, the very real material contribution that the average American dad makes to his family is obscured by stories that focus on that exotic breed, the stay-at-home dad.
Women Want Everything 50-50
Another prevailing media myth is that contemporary women are looking for fathers who will split their time evenly between work and family life. It may be true for the average journalist or academic, but it is not true for the average American married mum.
Most married mothers nowadays do want their husbands to do their fair share of housework and childcare. But they do not define fairness in terms of a 50-50 balancing act where fathers and mothers do the same thing at home and work. Instead, contemporary mothers take into account their husbands’ work outside the home when they assess the fairness of the division of labour inside the home.
Moreover, most women who are married with children are happy to have their husbands take the lead when it comes to providing and do not wish to work full-time. For instance, a 2007 Pew Research Centre study found that only 20 percent of mothers with children under 18 wanted to work full-time, compared with 72 percent of fathers with children under 18. My own research has shown that married mothers are happiest in their marriages when their husbands take the lead when it comes to breadwinning — largely because his success as a provider gives her more opportunities to focus on the children, or balance childcare with part-time work (the most popular work arrangement for married mothers).
So… dads who are fortunate enough to hold down a good job and make a major contribution to their families’ financial welfare should take some comfort from the fact that they are likely to be boosting not only their families’ bottom line but also their wives’ happiness.
Read other 3 Myths Here:
It’s hard not to get angry at the constant barrage of misinformation. Why not turn that anger into positive activity?
The next time you see a questionable article. Do your own research. Verify the truth and write a letter to the newspaper or ring in on talkback radio and get the truth into the public arena. As Brad Wilcox says, “Dads are not dispensable”.
Yours for more dads
PS: Thank you to all readers, especially those who contributed to our End of Year Appeal. The good news is that the $23,000 matched funding was achieved in the last 24 hours before the deadline. We are extremely grateful for your kindness and your support!