24 million children in America - one out of three - live in homes without fathers. A study of 13,986 imprisoned women showed that more than half of them grew up without their father. Forty-two percent grew up in a single-mother household, and 16 percent lived with neither parent.
While these statistics, compiled by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, are saddening, they are not altogether shocking.
In 2012, Professor Ronald Rohner examined the cases of more than 10, 000 sons and daughters around the world. He discovered that a distant or cold father damages a child for the rest of their life, often resulting in some kind of criminal activity or substance abuse. Prof. Rohner concluded that a father's love is indisputably as important to a child's emotional development as a mother's.
"In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother,' he said.
"And that dads are there as support for the mother and to support the family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children," he continued. "But that belief is fundamentally wrong. We have to start getting away from that idea and realize the dad's influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother's."
However, children who lived in stable homes or had involved fathers were found to overall have greater cognitive ability, educational achievement, psychological well-being, and social behavior.
In addition, fathers who showed affection, gave support and yet offered an authoritative parenting style had a more significant impact on their children when compared with fathers who adopted a more authoritarian and detached style
For Christians, this discovery should not be surprising in the least, for secular studies proving the necessity of an attentive, kind father directly align with Biblical wisdom first found in Deuteronomy 6:1-3.
In this passage, God gives Moses advice to pass on to the Israelites in the desert before they could enter the Promised Land. After instructing the Israelites to fear Him and obey His commandments, God reveals how the same principle should be applied within the family structure.
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deut 6:4-9)
God instructed the men of Israel to obey Him and love Him with their entire being-not just part of them. He expected men to teach His commandments to their offspring continually in order to not forget them; to "write them on their doorposts" and "hide them in their hearts."
These words are as relevant today as they were in the time of Moses.
"If we were to translate this biblical picture into contemporary terms, we would see a father who seeks to obey and honor God, who sets a good example for his family, who models what it is to be a child of God. Such a father spends time with his children, listens to them and shares godly wisdom at meal times, while resting, while together at home, while travelling. This is an engaged father who makes time for his family," writes Trevor Cairney, Master of New College and Director of CASE.
"This is a father who is responsible for his children, who is accessible to them, and even more significantly, who engages with them. He talks with them, listens to them and does things with them. And as a Christian, what he does is framed by his faith in God and an understanding of what God expects of him," Cairney continues.
While God is certainly able to bless and grow children despite family circumstances, both Christian and secular experts agree that fathers are crucial to the emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing of their offspring. In a society that places little emphasis on the role of the father, it is vital that Christian fathers take seriously the Biblical mandate to "train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6).