Park rangers discovered an interesting problem occurring at an African elephant reserve that might shed light on the relationship between absentee fathers and youth violence.
The connection between teen violence and the presence of a father in the family became evident after bull elephants were removed from the main herd and shipped to another park, leaving only the females, babies and adolescents. Park rangers began discovering a great deal of destruction and violence in the park. Trees were torn up and animals violently stomped to death for no apparent reason.
Ultimately, the park rangers realized the violence coincided with the bull elephants’ removal from the herd. After some scrutiny, park rangers determined that rampaging adolescent elephants caused the violence. Soon after, the bulls were returned to the herd and all violence ceased.
Perhaps we can see a parallel between the elephant herd behaviors and our human social behaviors, especially concerning male teens.
According to one study, when male youth do not have a father figure in their lives, they often join gangs to fill that emptiness and look to gang leaders to fill that “fatherless” void in their lives. There is a critical connection between a father’s absence, juvenile delinquency and anti-social aggression in our youth.
The study goes on to say that the likelihood that a teenage male will engage in criminal activity doubles when he is raised without a dad. In fact, 72 percent of adolescents charged with murder grew up without their father (Characteristics of Adolescents Charged with Homicide, 1987).
Furthermore, other studies show that school systems with above-average rates of father absence have nearly double the rates of school violence compared to those with below-average rates of father absence.
Children who do not live with both parents are also more likely to carry a gun, assault another student and assault a teacher. To put it mildly, father absence could be the single strongest predictor that a child will grow up to be violent or fall victim to violence (Father Absence and Youth Incarceration, 1999).
Moreover, fatherless children are twice as likely to drop out of school (National Fatherless Imitative, 2002).
Instead of focusing on juvenile violence, perhaps we need to also examine why fathers become absent in the first place?
For example, unemployment was a significant factor for divorce as researchers discovered male unemployment not only increases the chances that his wife will initiate divorce, but also that he will be the one who opts to leave.
In my opinion, although the problem of youth violence is the result of many factors, why not be preventative and enact a safety net to help fathers stay in their marriages and/or homes to avoid the absentee father dilemma, juvenile violence, and the school dropout problem?
In this day and age with high unemployment, cutbacks in education and apprentice training programs etc., there should be no excuse or lack of money needed to address this problem.
Bottom line: it would seem to be a win/ win solution?
Investment in jobs addresses the absentee fathers problem, lowers juvenile crime and the school dropout rate with one sweep. Are we asking too much?
*David Sortino, Ed.M, Ph.D. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org — 707-480-1649