Today on Parent Choices for Struggling Teens, our guest Dr. Ronald Levant joined host, Lon Woodbury to talk about the new Fatherhood and what it is all about. Over fifty years ago, the iconic father figures we watched and learned from included Ward Cleaver and Ozzie Nelson, both nice guys, good providers for the family, but not that involved in their children's lives unless there was some disciplining to do. Just the idea of wearing an apron or working in the kitchen was not manly! But the new fatherhood? Since the 1980's, dads have started to take a more active role in their children's lives. "In the 80's, I created a course in parent education for Dads, back then it was non-existent and we called it the Fatherhood Project. Dads would sign up and take the class one day a week for 8 weeks. When we put the flyers out, the classes would be filled within a week" shared Dr. Levant. Dads started to move into a non-traditional role, and took over either the morning shift in getting the kids ready for school or daycare, or the night shift, picking them up and getting dinner ready. This phenomenon has continued to grow through the years. Nowadays, married couples, husbands and wives have interchangeable roles.
"Corporate attitudes in America on the other hand are slow to recognize that fathers need family time. And actually, such men are looked down upon! This goes for women too." Motherhood and fatherhood are becoming more similar as time goes on, there is a commonality of primary care with the babies, consoling a crying preschooler, taking kids to appointments or team sports practices and games. Both parents are doing the same.
In talking about absent fathers, Dr. Levant stated that it is damaging to children when there is no father and equally so, with no mother. But the most astonishing figure that he shared with us, was that 50% or ½ of fathers lose contact with their children one year after divorce.
Since the changing roles of parents in the 70's and 80's, the estimate that still holds true today is one half of marriages will end in divorce. In a 'friendly divorce' where both parents work together for the good of the kids, the wife will get custody of the children and the father will have frequent scheduled visitation. Then there is the 'visitation father' who only sees his children on a pre-set schedule and yet it gives them some continuing contact with the kids. There is the father who gets custody of the children due to incompetence of the mother and the father is the most able parent and then there is the 'stepfamilies'. And contrary to the beliefs…it is not the Brady Bunch! In fact, second marriages are two times likely to end in divorce! Blended families can be tremendously upsetting for the kids…the whole, "You're not my Dad!" and "You're not my Mother!" Often come into play within these families. There are loyalties to the original families. A lot of stepfamilies seek out counseling to find a neutral third party to help them reach a middle ground and work as a 'referee'. Two more types of fathers that were unheard of in the 80's are 'stay at home' dads and 'Gay dads". These fathers want a different kind of relationship with their kids, not like the one they had with their own Dads.
Lon Woodbury is the owner/founder of Woodbury Reports, Inc. and www.strugglingteens.com. He has worked with families and struggling teens since 1984 and is the host of Parent Choices for Struggling Teens and The Woodbury Reports.
Dr. Ronald Levant is currently Professor of Psychology at the University of Akron and is serving as Editor of the Psychology of Men and Masculinity.
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