Entries in Mythbusters: Fathers (10)


The myth of the tyrannical dad (BBC News, UK)


Lily Barron (nee Jones), left, and family when her father was home on leave

Fathers of yesteryear tend to be portrayed as cold, detached, even callous creatures. But, says Steve Humphries, the cuddly, hands-on, sentimental dads we know today are by no means a modern-day creation.

Every night when 98-year-old Lily Barron goes to bed, she looks at the large framed photographs that line her bedroom wall and says a prayer for her father, "the most important man in my life. I loved every inch of him."

Lily's dad was a miner who lived with his wife and four young children in the town of Blackwood in south Wales. In his attitudes to his children, he was in some ways surprisingly modern. He never smacked them, he read bedtime stories, and he cuddled and kissed them every day. Twice-married Lily remembers him as "the loveliest and gentlest man I ever knew".

This image of the gentle and loving Edwardian working class father is at odds with our general perception of fathers in the past. We tend to picture them as tyrannical patriarchs whose children were seen and not heard and lived in fear of father's punishments. It is only in recent decades - or so we imagine - that dads have become approachable, caring and committed to the wellbeing of their children. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The testimonies of fathers, and of their sons and daughters during the first half of the 20th Century, reveal just how prevalent the loving and devoted dad was.

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Press Starting To See the Light in Abduction Case | Fathers & Families

This case has stirred the Australian press for almost a month now.  I posted this piece about it some two weeks ago.  It’s the case of the Australian woman who moved to Italy to study the language, met an Italian man, married him and had four daughters with him.  They separated with her getting primary custody and him getting fairly sparse visitation.  Two years ago, she took the girls to Australia for what she said was a holiday, never to return.  He’s been going through various court procedures to try to get his kids back and earlier this year, prevailed.  An Australian court found that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction required the girls’ return to Italy.  The mother had claimed that the father was abusive, but the Australian judge found no evidence of that.  

What’s been most remarkable about the case is the press coverage it’s received in Australia.  In my first piece on it, I pointed out that, of the many articles on the case, not one reporter thought to contact the father.  Against a seamless backdrop of pro-mother outrage, the father remained literally voiceless.  That was true despite the fact that the mother had plainly violated the law.  As well, her claims of abuse had been investigated and found unsupported.  So in fact, the judge did the only thing he could do and the only thing he should have done for the sake of the children, the father and the rule of law – order them returned to the father in Italy.

But the fact that the legal system worked properly and reached the correct result seemed not to dawn on any reporter on the case.  If it did, they never let on about it.

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The Father Factor: Data on the Consequences of Father Absence (USA)

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of three -- live in biological father-absent homes. Consequently, there is a "father factor" in nearly all of the social issues facing America today. This website by the National Fatherhood Initiative presents data on the effects of father absence on: poverty, maternal and child health, incarceration, crime, teen pregnancy, child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, education, and childhood obesity


Fathering in Australia among couple families with young children

There has been growing recognition of the importance of fathers to families in recent years. Societal trends, such as rising levels of employment among mothers of young children and recognition of the importance of the father–child relationship, have given more prominence to the contribution that fathers make to family life. Governments are increasingly interested in creating conditions that can foster fathers’ involvement in families; for example, through promoting more flexible working arrangements or by ensuring that children maintain contact with fathers following family breakdown. This growing interest in the role of fathers has been mirrored in the scientific community. However, there has been a limited amount of research on fathers in Australia, with the result that there remains much to be learnt about the ways that Australian fathers contribute to families and how they feel about themselves as fathers.

This report aims to increase understanding of the many ways in which fathers in couple families with young children contribute to family life, through the study of their time investment with children, their supportiveness as partners, their financial contribution, their parenting behaviours and styles, and their perceptions of their own adequacy as fathers. The impact of fathers on children’s wellbeing is also examined.


Feminist ideal a myth: Gloria Steinem

Women grappling with the overwhelming pressure for perfection that can wreak havoc in their lives need to realise that the notion of "having it all" is largely a myth, women's movement icon Gloria Steinem told eating disorder clinicians at an annual meeting in the US. Women have made huge strides in the workplace over the past several decades, but with no reduction in their amount of responsibility for child-rearing and household duties, she said. Steinem told the group of several hundred attendees, many of them psychologists, physicians and nutritionists, that women cannot "have it all" unless and until men have an equal role in rearing children.