November 10, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
On the heels of James Taranto’s article in the Wall Street Journal about which I wrote here and here, comes this (Peace Quarters, 10/26/17). Taranto’s entire piece simply channeled psychoanalyst Erica Komisar whose astonishing ignorance about the science of fatherhood and fathers’ relationships with their children she made no secret of. In a nutshell, Komisar’s belief is that, particularly in the first years of a child’s life, fathers simply aren’t terribly important and mothers are.
I naturally pointed out that countless reputable studies of parenting and children’s welfare demonstrate their deep-seated need for both parents, not just one. How, at this late date, a mental health professional managed to conclude otherwise, baffles me. How Taranto swallowed the bait Komisar was dangling is beyond me as well.
Among other things, Komisar pointed out that women produce oxytocin during pregnancy or after birth and that promotes bonding with their children. That of course is true, but she also claimed that fathers don’t do the same. But of course they do, either during or after their partner’s pregnancy.
All in all, Komisar reminded me of no one so much as Jennifer McIntosh in her anti-scientific statements about the greater importance of mothers to children. Has she read the consensus report by Dr. Richard Warshak endorsed by 110 eminent mental health professionals worldwide? Among its many findings is the fact that there is no hierarchy of parents. Children neither prefer one over the other nor benefit more from one than the other. They need both.
So, as a partial counterpoint to Komisar’s remarkable claims, the article linked-to makes some important points about the value of fathers to their daughters. For example:
According to this study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, girls who have good relationships with their fathers are less likely to develop anxiety and depression, plus are better at handling everyday stress. They’re also much more comfortable talking about their feelings, and that ability to be open about how they feel can help prepare them to have fulfilling relationships with others in the future.
Things like personal values, self-image, relationships, sexuality, and a feeling of control over their own lives are other things that dads help shape for their daughters. When a father forms a deep, healthy relationship with his daughter, he helps her create a positive self-image and allows her to establish a feeling of control over her life that will enable her to have the confidence to succeed.
According to this study that was done by Rutgers, girls that have a father who’s involved from the beginning are more likely to have enough to eat and are in better physical health than those who have uninvolved or absent fathers.
Fathers also help to provide financial stability for their daughters which, when combined with good physical and emotional health, allows them to be much more likely to succeed and be able to further themselves financially.
The likes of Komisar won’t like it, but the value of fathers is particularly important from the beginning of a child’s life, as the article says. The sooner a father is involved, the better. Komisar takes fathers to task for being insufficiently like mothers. It’s true that fathers’ parental behavior is in many ways different from mothers’, but to claim, as Komisar did, that mothers’ parenting is better, more necessary, is simple nonsense. She actually claimed that fathers aren’t very good at comforting their infants when they’re in distress. That’s why I posted a link to a video of a father comforting his newborn who was undergoing the trauma of receiving his first set of vaccinations. That video is as good an answer to Komisar’s claims as any I know.
The earlier fathers are involved with meeting their daughter’s needs, the stronger the bond between them is, which leads to all the benefits above.
Meanwhile, the Peace Quarters article gets one last thing right.
Unfortunately, even with these greater opportunities [for fathers] for involvement, there are a lot of negative influences in the media that some men may find difficult to overcome. Consider nearly every television show that’s come out in the last 20 years and how fathers are portrayed: bumbling idiots that know nothing about women. It’s important, however, for fathers to recognize that these stereotypes don’t have to be followed, and are simply poor portrayals of what a father should be.
I’d only add that, when we talk about derogatory portrayals of fathers by the communications media, we shouldn’t leave it at television. Indeed, some of the most respected print publications in the world casually denigrate fathers and seek to marginalize them in the lives of their kids. The Wall Street Journal of course is just the most recent.
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