During critical years in their upbringing these boys had no role model of how a loving father should act. This deprivation handicapped their own fathering when they had children; perhaps, for instance, causing some to feel at a loss as to how to express in a masculine way their genuine love for their children, other than by material provision. Being a compassionate companion to their children did not feature in their understanding of the qualities of a successful man. Many of these men unintentionally gave their own sons even worse preparation for fatherhood than the abysmal one they had received. Their own upbringing provided them almost no idea of how a good father should act. They in turn, however, by their flawed example, unintentionally gave their own sons not merely little idea – but the wrong idea of how a father should act.
Add to this the increasing marital breakdown in our era. More than ever before, men find themselves separated from their own children and living with children they have poorly bonded with, because not only are they genetically not their children, they had never laid eyes on them for their first years of life. And not only have modern rates of marital breakup resulted in a downhill slide in the number of good role models, there has been a marked increase in bad role models – abusive, irresponsible, selfish men who influence children they have never bonded with because the children were fathered by other men.
I was shocked when I first realized the extent to which government welfare and western prosperity have contributed to family breakdown. When working as a short term missionary in a third world country I was amazed to see how much stronger the family bond was there than anything I had seen in my own country.
I also noted how adult children cared financially and practically for their parents. Then a young man told me how in his country if anyone couldn’t work due to sickness or unemployment, family support was one’s only hope. It was a scary thing, he confided, for a childless person to grow old in a country with no welfare system and with few people able to earn enough during their working years to retire on. The best financial investment one could make is to have as many children as one could afford, and pour all one’s resources into them by giving them a good education. They will then earn sufficient money to support you in your old age. It’s even a great way to beat inflation. This dependence upon one’s children and the knowledge that if treated lovingly they will remain devoted to you for life might be a somewhat selfish motive, but it nevertheless serves as a strong factor in bonding parents to children.
Another obvious side effect of western welfare and prosperity is the ease at which it makes single parent families possible. This not only further reduces the number of good role models for future fathers, those who are currently fathers are made to feel redundant – an optional extra. This pressures men to underrate the value of their contribution to parenting. Anyone told by society that his contribution is of little value faces an uphill slog in trying to motivate himself to put in the mammoth effort required of a good father.