Divorced dads take a lot of abuse in society. Often it is assumed that if a father does not have custody of his child, it is because he is disinterested. The term deadbeat dad is often thrown out broadly to describe a father who does not see his child or financially support his child. For most dads, this could not be further from the truth.
The Origins Of The Term Deadbeat Dad
The term deadbeat dad was initially used in the late 1970s to describe non-custodial fathers who had the ability to pay child support, but refused to do so. Over the years the term was applied to any father who did not meet his child support obligation and eventually to fathers who did not see their children at all.
While on the term was intended to shame fathers into coughing up, the impact of using the term deadbeat has been anything but helpful. In fact, there is now research suggesting that it is not only inaccurate, but it may also be harming the very people it was supposed to protect.
The Truth About Dads
There has been a growing body of research about fathers involvement with their children over the past 10 years. Studies are showing a consistent desire of fathers to play a greater role in their children's lives, but financial factors are frequently limiting. Fathers who do not pay child support do not do so because they are unwilling, but often because they are unable. These are most often poorer men who are struggling to find a job to make ends meet.
Research shows that even these fathers are making an effort to contribute. An article in Time magazine last year cited a recent study in the Journal of Marriage and Family which showed that many fathers who cannot afford to make child support payments attempt to help out by giving goods. The value of these goods is often significant.
Fathers trying to make good on child support often do so at the expense of quality time with their children. Fathers, who often work lower paying jobs, are often forced to work multiple jobs at odd hours in order to meet their child support obligation.
Fathers who are unable to afford their child support, may be sent to jail for those missed payments. While in jail, their child support obligation continues. Once released,they face an even higher child support obligation and an even greater challenge finding a job. These fathers get caught in a cycle that is difficult to break free from.
According to research conducted by The American Prospect, these fathers still and they are caught in a cycle.
How A Father's Absence/Presence Impacts Children
The impact of marginalizing fathers is clear; when fathers can't be with their children, the children suffer. Children who do not have access to their father are more likely to suffer from low self esteem, feelings of abandonment and difficulties processing their emotions. This often results in behavioral problems, including anxiety and resentment. These children are more likely to struggle in school, skip school and drop out.
These children are significantly more likely to act out, commit crimes, engage in risky sexual behavior and use drugs/alcohol. Many will develop mental health disorders and will struggle to form trusting relationships. These children are also susceptible to being exploited and becoming victims of abuse.
Contrast that outlook with children whose fathers play a regular role in their lives. These children benefit from having a strong emotional connection with their father that provides critical stability and aids them in their ability to develop nurturing relationships.
Fathers also stimulate their children cognitively. Tumbling around with children helps children develop the ability to regulate their own emotions. As children get older, fathers tend to encourage autonomy, helping children develop problem-solving skills.
Ultimately, fathers play a critical role in children's lives. Having a father involved in a child's life is crucial to the child's healthy development and well-being. If you are a father facing a dispute over child custody, it is important to be represented by an attorney who understands the value of a father's role in a child's life and can relay it to the court in a compelling way.