Though this page comments about most other major holidays, ordinarily we ignore Father's Day. Many fathers tell us they would like to ignore it, too.
But now an exception is in order because fathers have come under attack from an unexpected quarter, the scientific laboratory. More than just a few kind words are needed to cushion the blow. So are a few solid facts about dad's true importance.A few days ago some biological scientists concluded that fathers are genetically superfluous. They insisted the human species would be better off if mothers procreated by themselves, like some lizards and fish do. What a blow to the male ego. But then how many women can be flattered by the comparison to lizards and fish?
No matter. Someone needs to tell the biologists there's much more to fathers and fatherhood than genes and DNA. If they haven't already learned that lesson from practical experience, the biologists ought to talk to some of their colleagues in the social sciences.
Mounting psychological studies, for example, show that boys who grow up in homes without fathers are more likely to be juvenile delinquents, philanderers, bullies, or abusive fathers. Girls who grow up without fathers are more likely to be unwed teenage mothers and abused wives.
Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers: 60 percent of all rapists, 72 percent of adolescent murderers, and 70 percent of all long-term prison inmates are boys who grew up without their fathers in the home.
When a father is present in the home, the likelihood of teenage girls becoming teenage mothers is reduced by as much as 50 percent.
Fathers are likely to mean a better education, too. The General Accounting Office reports that fewer than half the welfare mothers who gave birth as teenagers had a high school diploma.
Yet four out of every 10 children in this country will go to bed at night in a home where their father doesn't live. If present trends continue, the figure will rise to six in 10 by the end of the decade.
This Father's Day, dad deserves much more than a card or a necktie, much more even than that power saw he's been coveting. More important, he deserves respect and understanding. Families and society desperately need him. They need him to be in the home, listening and occasionally scolding, taking pride in his children's accomplishments and in general helping them to a better life than he has had.