As a result of national and EU legislation amendments and “updates”, which demonise the father and blindly protect and defend the mother, the role of fathers has become devalued and disparaged, and many are forcefully disengaged from their children’s daily lives.
A recent article by Sheila Wayman (Wayman, 2019) queried the reasons behind the eradication of parents. She states that Parental Alienation has now been recognised as an official mental health concern by the World Health Organisation (Bernet, 2019) and in Ireland the statistics heavily lean towards the afflicted party being the absent father. Yet this has only recently become an agenda item for our political parties though it remains contentious for many (womensaid.ie, 2022).
The effects of parental alienation on a child, she states, can include clinical depression, anxiety, fractured attachments, suicide ideation, deliberate self-harm, alcohol and substance abuse, premature sexual activity and academic underachievement. But what of the afflicted parent? According to the CSO Census 2016, over 30% of the 1 parent families in Ireland are the result of divorce or separation. In over 90% of these cases the children reside with the mother (Coulter, 2011).
Despite the fact that changes to our national laws have proceeded at pace, these have focussed only on female contributions, and no law changes related to the modern male role in the family have been even discussed. Similar to the misappropriation and insidious redefining of the term “toxic masculinity” (Salter, 2019), cherry-picking of the many studies on gender roles in the family facilitated the malapropism of the evidence to create the concept of a nonessential family member – the Father.
As suggested by (Wax & Alexander, 2017), for children of these forgotten minorities, this leads to widespread antisocial issues with drug abuse, inner city homicidal violence plagues, the lack of basic skills by college students, and the demise of the educational structures. This argument is further refined by (Haidt, 2017; McLanahan, 2009), who suggest that the denigration of co-parenting structures exacerbates these negative outcomes. In a related study, it was found that 80% of prisoners come from fatherless homes, but also that a fatherless child is:
- 4 times more likely to live in poverty
- 7 times more likely to deal with teen pregnancy
- More likely to perform poorer in school
- More likely to abuse alcohol and drugs
These findings are replicated in multiple studies across numerous decades of research. (Kruk, 2012) found that, for the children affected by an absent father, direct and indirect impacts were nothing short of disastrous. Similar to (Haidt, 2017), Kruk lists the negative dimensional aspects of a fatherless household. These include: ֎ diminished self-concept and compromised physical and emotional security ֎ behavioural problems, truancy and poor academic performance ֎ delinquency and youth crime, including violent crime ֎ promiscuity and teen pregnancy ֎ drug and alcohol abuse ֎ homelessness ֎ exploitation and abuse ֎ physical health problems ֎ mental health disorders ֎ life chances ֎ future relationships ֎ mortality (Figure 2). While (Eizirik & Bergmann, 2004) state that father absence has the potential to generate conflicts within a child’s psychological and cognitive development.
As stated by a representative of One Family, proper parenting, rather than structured marriage, is that on which government policy should focus, whether new or those being updated.
Co-parenting is an imperative, not a luxury, and should be promoted in law as such. Ireland, in contrast, disproportionately penalises the father when marriages break-down, as they are inordinately targeted for continued financial supports despite the need to self-support, and they are immoderately criminalised in terms of continued access to their children.
The question is “Why?” Why have fathers become the perpetual victims of the Woke society in which we now live? Why are the judiciary not required to properly train for family courts and why are laws that are clearly not fit-for-purpose, being re-interpreted daily in the courts to the detriment of fathers, their relationships with their children, and, ultimately, their children’s mental health. The loss of parental structures and the growth of egocentric autonomy has occurred to the detriment of society as a whole, and to the father-child relationship extensively.
So what does this mean? The ongoing participation of fathers in the development and growth of their children needs to be promoted and embedded in Irish legislation and culture. Men have more than demonstrated their abilities as primary caregivers, during the recession, during the rebuild, and during the pandemic. This is an opportunity for Irish society to demonstrate its respect and support for what has widely demonstrated to be a critical element of childhood and growing-up. Society must promote equality, rather than selective equality.
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