Sunday mornings were always special in my house. Home from church, my father and I would adjourn to our living room to watch the morning shows — “This Week with David Brinkley” was our favorite.
After the hour of punditry, my dad would quiz me on the discussion, intently listen to my thoughts and challenge me to sharpen my arguments.
Even well into my tumultuous teenage years, when time spent with either parent was some combination of agony and obligation, our Sunday morning ritual was a sacred hour, always spent in mutual respect and admiration. Only some years later did I appreciate how these interactions with my dad profoundly elevated my self-esteem.
Yet we often discount both the implicit and explicit societal implications of the relationship between girls and their dads. For understandable reasons, the recent focus has been trained on fathers and sons. But young women are equally injured by the absence of a reliable male influence during their formative years.
Numerous studies have linked single motherhood to higher rates of adolescent sexual activity and teenage pregnancy, and increases in future failed relationships and declines in academic and professional achievement when young women reach adulthood.
Some progressive thinkers argue that the issues should be solved through a litany of federal social programs that offer little incentive for mothers and fathers to co-parent. But such solutions fail to acknowledge the devastating reality that downward trend lines plotting academic achievement and income inequality look a lot like the trend line representing the trajectory of marriage and co-parenthood. The connection is incontrovertible; effective long-term solutions must seek ways to reclaim and reinforce the value and necessity of fatherhood in a healthy society.