Who needs fathers?

Pew Research is out with a survey about fathers, which includes this finding:

Among all adults, 57% say it is more difficult to be a father today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Only 9% say being a father is easier today, and 32% say it’s about the same. Among dads themselves, 63% say the job is harder now.

How do people know this? They weren’t fathers 20 or 30 years ago, or if they were, they’re not raising kids now. This question, which bloggers like to write about, doesn’t make a lot of sense in the big scheme of things because we can’t properly swap positions with our parents (or with our children) with any degree of reliability.

I think being a father is way harder than anything else in the world, but all I take away from that is a new appreciation for my father, who passed away some years ago, shortly after I wrote him a letter telling him so (I’m still waiting for my letter, kids).

The survey presented some interesting data, but shied away from the deeper questions about the role of fathers. If 1 in 10 fathers lived apart from the family in 1960, and now it’s 1 in 4, is that a failure of fatherhood? Is that why fathers think it was easier to be a father way back when?


There’s clearly a racial component to this, the survey says:

Black fathers are more than twice as likely as white fathers to live apart from their children (44% vs. 21%), while Hispanic fathers fall in the middle (35%). Among fathers who never completed high school, 40% live apart from their children. This compares with only 7% of fathers who graduated from college.

Among fathers who live with their children at least part of the time, nearly nine-in-ten say they are doing a very good (44%) or good (44%) job as fathers to those children. Fathers who do not live with their children rate themselves much more negatively. Only 19% say they are doing a very good job as fathers to the children they live apart from, and 30% say they are doing a good job. One-in-four say their parenting as not very good (13%) or bad (9%).

  • bsimon

    That makes perfect sense – its logical to me that being a good father is more difficult if you don’t live with the children. Its not the nature of fatherhood that has changed so much as the nature of families.

  • John P.

    Expectations have changed a great deal between my father’s time and mine. Dad’s job (1950’s – 60’s) was to bring home a paycheck. Mom’s job was everything else. By the time I became a father in the 80’s this arrangement would not have flown in most families. Women routinely in the workforce means more responsibility goes to dad.

  • David

    Maybe it’s the media’s fault, every few weeks we get another article about how stay at home moms are worth 1.5 million a year while implying working dads are worth slightly than their paycheck.

  • bigchicken170

    Not to be cynical, but I feel that the many fathers in 970 b.c. might have thought that fatherhood was easier in 950 or 940 b.c.

  • http://linkert.name gml4

    People make parenthood much more difficult than it really is, and make up all kinds of stress on themselves.

  • Vivian

    Fathering and mothering are both difficult positions in this days workforce. With both parents working and possibly distances apart leaves less of a family structure.

    Part of the problem, I think, is due to the change in economic structure where a career has a shorter life and is recreated several times in one lifetime and that doesn’t always come with increased pay. Work is undependable and can keep a family on the move or seeking employment further away from the homestead. Post-Industrial Foragers if you will. Sound familiar?

    Stress increases as dependability in employment decreases which adds to termoil and fewer times spent together. Our system as it is in NOT family friendly.

  • dude

    I’m not sure the chicken understands timelines.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Dude – Give the Big Chicken a bit of a break. He was thinking that b.c. meant “before crispy”, and perhaps understandably got a bit flustered. I think we all understood his gist. 🙂