By Jeffery M. Leving | September 23, 2008
More kids have died in Chicago between September 2007 and August 2008 than servicemen and women from Illinois during the same period in Iraq. A recent survey estimates the greatest fear Chicago schoolchildren have is “getting shot.”
Government officials, educators, and community activists debate continuously over the causes of the explosion of youth violence in Chicago — gangs, drugs, guns, poor school funding, etc. While all of those factors certainly contribute to the rising statistics on youth violence, the largest contributing factor that continually gets overlooked is absent fathers.
Studies show that school systems with above-average rates of father absence have nearly double the rates of school violence compared to those with below-average rates of father absence. Children who do not live with both parents are also more likely to carry a gun, assault another student and assault a teacher. To put it simply, father absence is the single strongest predictor that a child will grow up to be violent or fall victim to violence.
When male youths do not have a father figure in their lives, they often join gangs to fill that emptiness and look to gang leaders to fill that “fatherless” void in their lives. There is a critical connection between a father’s absence, juvenile delinquency and anti-social aggression in our youths. The likelihood that a male will engage in criminal activity doubles when he is raised without a dad. In fact, 72 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without their father (Characteristics of Adolescents Charged with Homicide, 1987).
Boys who grow up in broken marriages are more than twice as likely as other young males to end up in jail and each year spent without a father in the home increases the likelihood of future incarceration by 5 percent (Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, 1999).
Delinquency and crime are among the many damaging effects created by father absence. The solution to stopping the continued slaughter of Chicago children is to stop kicking fathers to the curb. Fathers who are not involved in their children’s lives need to step up to the plate and start building a solid lasting relationship with them.
But there are also millions of great dad’s out there in America that are being pushed out of their children’s lives. Gender bias and parental alienation are preventing many good fathers from getting involved in their children’s lives.
The solution to youth violence must begin with reuniting fathers with their children. Until this happens, every other measure that is taken is like putting a band-aid on a wound. We have to restore fatherhood as a societal norm in our community. It is an inalienable right for children to walk to school each day, play on the playground, ride their bikes on the street and not fear for their lives.
The Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood is issuing a call-to-action for all parents and concerned community leaders to make a commitment to restoring responsible fatherhood in our community. We have to come together to protect the future of our youth. For more free information, visit http://www.responsiblefatherhood.com. Jeffery M. Leving of Chicago is the author of “Divorce Wars” and the Chairman of the Illinois Council on Responsible Fatherhood.
The opinion expressed in this column is the writer’s and not necessarily that of The Times.
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