The Biological Need for a Father in the Home
The answer to the question of why the lack of an active father is so devastating to child development is profound, complicated, and many faceted. The need is first and foremost based on the way God has created us. There is a natural biological need for human connection since the creation of humanity. This need greatly affects our development and is especially evident in the closest of relationships, the relationship between a child and his father and mother. A great deal of scientific evidence shows that there are numerous biological factors dependent on these close relationships that affect a child’s early and adolescent development. The monograph produced by the Commission on Children at Risk, titled Hardwired to Connect, the New Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, proposes that a great deal of scientific evidence strongly shows that “we are hardwired for close attachments to other people, beginning with our mothers, fathers, and extended family, and then moving out to the broader community. The mechanics by which we become and stay attached to others are biologically primed and increasingly discernible in the basic structure of the brain.”1 Allan N. Schore of the UCLA School of Medicine says, “The idea is that we are born to form attachments, that our brains are physically wired to develop in tandem with another’s, through emotional communication, beginning before words are spoken.”2 In other words, our very brain structure demands that a healthy, close relationship to immediate family, especially one’s father and mother, is absolutely indispensable for proper emotional development.
The monograph continues by stating, “Even as children grow into adolescence, parental presence can have an impact on their biology. Researchers have found that, for an adolescent girl, living in close proximity to her biological father tends to slow down the onset of puberty. Conversely, living with a biologically unrelated adult male―for example, a stepfather, or mother’s boyfriend―seems to speed up the onset of puberty.”3
There has been a long debate between the impact of nature versus nurture in the development of children. Do children develop negatively or positively because of genetics or does the influence of one’s particular nurturing have a greater influence? Further research has shown that “A social environment can change the relationship between a specific gene and the behavior associated with that gene.”4 This new evidence gives us reason to marvel at how wonderfully our created structures interact with our relationships as part of God’s design.
Finally, the influence of close relationships has a profound influence on the child’s development. “The ongoing development of morality in later childhood and adolescence involves the human capacity to idealize individuals and ideas.5 Our sense of right and wrong originates largely from the biologically primed need to connect with others. . . . Thwarting the child’s need for close attachments to others also thwarts basic moral development.”6 Of course, this moral development will progress in a positive or negative way depending on the type of influence imposed on the child. Even the child’s concept of God is closely connected to his relationship with his parents. “Ample research now suggests that children’s concepts of God―who God is and how God acts―initially stem partly from the child’s actual day-to-day experiences with his parents.”7
It takes little effort to realize that the absence of the father in the home, complicated by the widespread number of working mothers, has devastated our society. We must do everything possible to train our men to be faithful and consistent fathers and to teach women the importance of mothers staying at home at least when the children are not in school.
Another essential need for a father’s nurturing is that a father is the substance of destiny for the child. What do I mean by that? It is the presence of the father in the home that influences the boy’s masculine characteristics and the girl’s feminine characteristics. This forges their identity as they look to the future and determines who they look for in a future life partner.
1. Commission on Children at Risk, The Hardwired to Connect: The Scientific Case for Authoritative Communities, New York, Institute for America, 1996, p. 14-15.
2. Ibid., p. 16.
3. Ibid., p. 18.
4. Ibid., p. 19.
5. Ibid., p. 15.
6. Ibid., p. 26.
7. Ibid., p. 28.
This article comes from Chapter 9, Urban Impact)