Dr. Peggy Drexler, author of the new book Our Fathers, Ourselves, and chick we’ve talked about before, hooked up HuffPo with a discussion on growing up fatherless, and the questions it created. First and foremost, her lack of a father drove Drexler to get a degree in psychology, get a PhD and write a book.
Behind her was a strong mom. But even losing a father at a young age, (Drexler was 3 years old when her father died of a heart attack) the effect of a father lives on. Whether it is positive or negative, something happens to a daughter without a father. It either drives her or destroys her.
Drexler’s experience drove her to dig deeper and interview women for Our Fathers, Ourselves. She found women that had all sorts of experiences concerning their fathers. You can read more about that, sauced at the end of this post.
Back in 8BitDad-reality, my wife and I have a guilty pleasure: watching MTV’s crap shows “16 & Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” I mean, she watches, and I read about tough man crap on the computer, while faced the other way and not at all listening. Yes, that’s definitely how it happens. I’ll take the oath.
Anyway, something that’s common among many of the girls on these shows, as they’re squirting out a generation of unfortunate children:
1) Their mothers gave birth to them in their teens as well.
2) Their mothers look like they are/were addicts of some sort (okay, this is highly qualitative).
3) Their father isn’t/wasn’t around.
I can’t help but think that if you want your daughter to have a baby at 16, all you’ve got to do is walk out on the family. According to “Contextual Effects on the Sexual Behavior of Adolescent Women.” in the Journal of Marriage and Family, adolescent girls between ages 15 and 19 that are raised in homes without fathers are significantly more likely to engage in premarital sexual activity. Or to admit it at least. In another study, “Facing the Challenges of Fragmented Families” featured in The Philanthropy Roundtable, the authors note that “a white teenage girl from an advantaged background is five times more likely to become a teen mother if she grows up in a single-mother household than if she grows up in a household with both biological parents.” These two often-quoted facts tell us something – that regardless of other factors, just the bare minimum of a father BEING THERE means something powerful. This is assuming the father’s not destructive or harmful to his family. That’s a whole ‘nother topic.
Where this relates to Drexler is in the void. What happens when a child is raised without a father? In Drexler’s Raising Boys Without Men, she found that, “Contrary to then-prevailing wisdom…my ten years of research for the book found happy, well adjusted and perfectly masculine boys being raised by these maverick moms.” Typically, the similarities between fatherless sons and the girls of “16 & Pregnant” is that both genders find other men to be “the man” in their life. Boys typically turn to gangs (though not in Drexler’s book!). Time and time again, on “16 & Pregnant,” as the boyfriend and father-of-the-child walks out of the girl’s life, you hear the girl saying that she “just wanted to make the family that she never had.” Sad dude. Then, you realize it’s MTV, and the last time you shed a tear from MTV was during Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” music video. JK, probably.
Read up on Drexler, sauced below. And don’t watch “16 & Pregnant,” because you’re not missing much. Well, maybe a chance to see who your tax dollars will be housing in prison in 18 years. Oh snap!