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Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014

News

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Children accomplish great things guided by fathers' influence

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

By William Loeffler

Tribune-Review

When it comes to her son Daniel, 7, Marilyn Adams has learned that there's only so much a mother can do. 

Sometimes, a boy needs his dad.

"There's certain things he wants to do with a male that he doesn't want to do with me, like baseball," said Adams of McCandless. "When I want to correct his swing or something, he doesn't like that."

Daniel was 4 when his father, Pennsylvania National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Brent Adams, was killed in a rocket attack in Ramadi, Iraq.

"We don't need no stinkin' girls!" Brent Adams would joke when he and Daniel spent father-son time together.

"(Daniel) said to me the other day, 'Do you know how much I'm missing by not having a daddy?' That blew me away, for a 7-year-old to say that to me," Adams said. "I said, 'Well, you know, there's all different kinds of families.' "

The Adams household, which includes Jason, 1, is one of at least 62,000 single-mother families in Allegheny County, according to the Census Bureau.

Nationwide, 24.3 million children lived apart from their biological fathers, according to the 2004 Census Bureau report, the last year for which figures are available.

That can spell trouble.

"We find that children who don't have a father figure in the home are more likely to have some behavioral problems, maybe drug abuse, mental or emotional problems or drop out of high school," said Jan Glick, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh. "We try to break the cycle, help kids stay in school and graduate. It's clearly not to replace a father."

Big Brothers Big Sisters provides male and female mentors for boys and girls. More than 75 percent of children the organization serves come from single-parent homes.

Douglas Kukura became a big brother to Daniel in March. The two play baseball or miniature golf together, but Kukura said he also tries to get Daniel more interested in reading. He discovered he knew Brent Adams when they were classmates at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The connection made Daniel a little more open to talking to him about his father, he said.

"I talk to Daniel about his real dad," said Kukura, 41. "He's a hero to me. I made that clear to his mother. I would never, ever try to replace his dad. It can't be done."

Michael Franzen, chief of psychology and neuropsychology at Allegheny General Hospital, said researchers only recently began to evaluate a father's role beyond that of breadwinner.

"Fathers relate very differently to children than their mothers do, but they do so in a way that helps to round out their emotional development," Franzen said.

"One of the things that fathers do is that they're involved in increasing the risk-taking that the chid will engage in, encouraging them to take physical or emotional risks," he said. "The dad throws the infant in the air and catches them, or holds them upside down. The child learns a safe way of trying things that are somewhat dangerous."

A boy's relationship with women is influenced by watching the way his father interacts with his mother, Franzen said.

A report titled "The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man," commissioned by the National Fatherhood Initiative, concluded fatherless households cost taxpayers an estimated $99.8 billion in 2006. The figure was tallied from 13 government programs, including Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Medicaid.

To read more, visit the Tribune-Review web site.

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