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Book of the Month

Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, by David Blankenhorn, 1995, Basic Books, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., New York, NY, 234 pp, $23.00.

The United States is becoming an increasingly fatherless society. A generation ago, a child could reasonably expect to grow up with his father. But about 40% of U.S. children will go to sleep tonight in homes in which their fathers do not live.

David Blankenhorn, founder and president of the Institute for American Values and chairman of the Fatherhood Initiative, examines this problem in his new book Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem. Blankenhorn analyzes our new culture of fatherlessness, along with its devastating consequences, and offers promising solutions in his book.

Never before in our nation's history have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father. More than half of all children in America will live apart from their fathers for at least some of their childhood. It seems that American society has come to accept and even endorse fatherlessness. Does that mean fathers are no longer necessary? Blankenhorn argues "no" and insists that America must recognize that every child needs and deserves a father.

Fatherless America shows that fathers are increasingly viewed as superfluous to family life. Even the best mother cannot replace a father, since parenting is not a gender-neutral skill, according to Blankenhorn. For sons, the father defines masculinity. If this task is left to mass culture, masculinity will be seen as being sexually predatory and violent.

For a daughter, the father is the first man in her life. If that father is absent, it will be hard for her not to conclude that men are fundamentally unreliable. Blankenhorn shows that, in our decade, "Dad" has been redefined to include a variety of models: the deadbeat dad, the visiting father, the sperm father, the stepfather and the nearby guy. In Fatherless America, Blankenhorn not only critiques our culture of fatherlessness, but offers a renewed model of the good family man, the father who puts his family first.

Fatherless America demonstrates that, despite teenage pregnancy, crime, violence against women, educational failure, or child poverty, no social trend is more dangerous than fatherlessness.

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