330 Healing Family Relationships is Healing Society and reducing the Vulnerability of Young People" Recording: Patric Erlandson, founder and Director of “Father-Con”
Statement of Mr. Patrick ERLANDSON at CCPCJ 23, in the Plenary, Item Nr.6, May 24th, afternoon
To create homes in which children are protected and enabled to thrive, it became apparent that we need to understand both what fathers uniquely contribute to the development of children during all stages of their lives, but also what is causing so many men to get derailed from care for their children and commitment to their spouse. What are the forces that are causing men who intend to be good parents to get sidetracked and lose focus on the real, lasting prize of their lives, their children.
With regard to the contributions a father makes in the home, there are several that are immensely important and also address 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations: poverty, education and violence. There is a father correlation to each of these objectives. Research and studies over the past 50 years have demonstrated clear links to the unique contributions fathers make to early childhood development. First, children who grow up without a father presence are 4 times as likely to live in poverty as those with both parents. According to the US Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in 2021, 9.5% of children residing with two parents live below the poverty level, compared to 31.7% of children who live with a single parent. Second, in the area of empathy, a 26 year longitudinal study by Koestner and Weinberger, concluded that fathers are instrumental in developing empathy in children through play. The methods of play generally speaking between a mother and a father, are at work in the development of many characteristics of children as they assign meaning to their lived experiences. When a child plays with a mother, the safety of the child is paramount, whereas, when a father plays, challenge and risk taking are intrinsic in the “rough” play. Often someone does get hurt which leads the child to conclude that consideration of the feelings of others is critical if one wants to continue playing. Another important contribution of a father is in how he reads to his children. Fathers tend to bring drama to the reading which has been shown to increase language retention by 15 – 20 percent which leads to reduction in early school dropouts by boys which sees them through to graduation (US Department of Health and Human Services). Additionally, having a father in the home and present for his spouse and children provides a greater sense of worthiness to be loved, lower rates of sexual activity at younger ages, especially of girls, decreased violent and behavioral problems, a shrinking of gang membership, less drug use and higher rates of successful marriages in the future.
So if there is so much benefit for children of a two parent home, why are there currently over 101 million single mothers in the world? Why are over 300 million children being raised by a mother alone? Though there are no singular answers to these questions, there are contributing causes in how men see themselves today. As assistance and resources have shifted to women and girl’s empowerment, in part to offset the disadvantages of single motherhood, and the opening of career choices for women and options in life, men no longer have the traditional roles that provided a sense of purpose in life, namely, career, work and income. Funding for women’s empowerment, though absolutely necessary, has had the unintended consequence of marginalizing men and adding to a sense of being adrift in a world without a correlative shift in purpose for men. This lack of male mission has left many men to drop out of the workforce to the number of 7 million the US and many hundreds of thousands in Asia and Europe. It also contributes to suicide rates – the number one cause of death of males in the UK, the cause of death of about 45,000 men annually in the US where self-induced death is the number two cause of death of children as young as 10! Clearly large numbers of men are not finding a reason to continue living. Commitment in marriage is also suffering a decline up to 60% from decades ago, and dropping birthrates in most advanced countries is threatening economies worldwide. Though this is producing greater numbers of lonely elderly citizens as in Japan and Korea, the real toll in losing the mutual growth benefit of raising children as parents is hardly considered.
In examining what is causing this shift and decline of fathers engaging attentively with their families, there are many reasons of which I will highlight a few. There is a growing sense of entitlement that is the message of advertising, politics and most dangerously of pornography. The idea that freedom is choice and the more choice the more free, is a misunderstanding of freedom that is contributing to breaking apart of marriages and leading men to look back on their lives with a sense of regret and shame rather than satisfaction. Internet pornography has done more harm than just about any other single technological development of the 20th and 21st centuries. The use of algorithms to drive viewers farther from their self-image with the cooperation of dopamine and oxytocin in the brain, has caused many a porn observer to develop an addiction that leaves both men and increasingly women to become unrecognizable to themselves through their behavior. Pornography saturates the viewer with thrilling images and videos that create an appetite not satisfied by a spouse or partner, with many having their brains rewire around the images on a screen leaving them unable to be intimate with a partner. It is estimated that porn is a contributing factor in over 500,000 divorces in the United States alone. One of the most damaging aspects of porn is the creation of expectation in relationships and in sexual experiences. This fuels the demand for commercial sex as well as breaking down the intimacy that bonds couples in marriages and committed relationships. Where children are collateral damage of derailed marriages and relationships, the vulnerability to exploitation rises. When children are removed from a family home and placed in the system of foster care or other institutions, trauma ensues. Many survivors of sex trafficking trace their vulnerability back to sexual abuse experienced as children, or divorce. Many ran away from abusive homes and wound up in the arms of an exploiter who promised to provide what their own father did not.
Though the freedom to come and go in relationships experienced by men is believed to be a perk of masculinity, it can increasingly be seen as a liability that leads to shallow lives and a feeling of worthlessness. Men trade the things and people of greatest value for momentary pleasure and children are left in the wake to suffer. What I have found over the past decade of working to prevent human trafficking victimization, is that there are many men who, when informed, inspired and equipped with support systems and resources, are eager to overcome obstacles to being the husbands and fathers our families and communities need. If we invest in elevating, celebrating and educating boys to aspire to fatherhood, prioritizing integrity and trustworthiness, with becoming a father an identity marker with success measured by thriving children and not just income or employment status, we will be creating a future of stable homes and communities and decreasing the participation in criminal activities and the vulnerabilities that criminals seek to take advantage of.
Father-Con is not a men’s organization but is father-centered as it is clear that both men and women need to understand the unique contributions fathers make to the positive development of their children and through prioritizing children, not with endurance and suffering as in the past, but to realize a higher level of individual satisfaction through the experience of parenting with purpose. Father-Con has provided conferences and multiple awareness raising events and trainings to thousands of men and women with the most common response being, I now see my role as a parent very differently than before. My appeal to the governmental as well as the non-governmental organizations working for the prevention of crime and the reduction in poverty, failed education experiences and disruptive and violent behavior, to invest in fathers. It is never too early nor is it every too late to realize the benefits of investing in healthy, intentional fatherhood.
and the See it End it Film & Arts Festival for the awareness and prevention of human trafficking.