Why the Influence of a Father Lasts a Lifetime

Brian Kutys, 36, Lebanon, and his 7-year-old son, Riley, play at a local park. Kutys is a single father. (Photo: Merriell Moyer / Lebanon Daily News)
Brian Kutys, 36, Lebanon, and his 7-year-old son, Riley, play at a local park. Kutys is a single father.
(Photo: Merriell Moyer / Lebanon Daily News)

Over the past decade, experts have come to the realization that fathers play an important role during the formative stages of a child’s life. 

“We already know that everyone has a father biologically, and that is not the issue,” Ralph Whitaker, outpatient clinic director at Philhaven’s Mount Gretna facility, said. “The issue is growing up with or without one present. Psychologically, most of us have a desire to have a relationship with our father — to know him.”

Whitaker’s clinical specialties include adolescents 10 years and older, and family therapy, and he is a certified addiction counselor.

Studies conducted by several organizations and compiled in “Statistics on the Father Absence Crisis in America” by the National Fatherhood Initiative support that assertion.

Their report shows that “father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning” and that “the results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement.”

Further, the report indicates that youths in households where a father is absent had significantly higher odds of incarceration, even after controlling for income, and that “obese children are more likely to live in father-absent homes than are non-obese children.”

Whitaker agreed that having a father in the home is good for children.

“The research does say that besides the mental-emotional connection, we know that a youth has a much better chance socio-economically when a father is in the home,” Whitaker said.

Research performed by the Pew Research Center in its 2015 report, “Five facts about today’s fathers,” indicate that modern dads play a more significant role in their children’s lives now than in years past.

With more households requiring two incomes — among married couples with children under age 18, dual-income households, at 60 percent of those surveyed, are the dominant arrangement — fathers are sharing duties at home with their wives more often than not, according to the Pew report.

“Dads’ and moms’ roles are converging,” the report said. “As the share of dual-income households has risen, the roles of mothers and fathers have begun to converge.”

That statistic can be a bit misleading, however, according to Whitaker.

“It never did kill a man to wash the dishes or do some of the other things needed to keep a household going,” Whitaker said. “In fact, it is a mistake to think that men didn’t do that before because mothers may have passed away and fathers would have had to take on those tasks.”

The Pew report also shows that more fathers are staying at home to care for their children.

“Today, 7 percent of U.S. fathers with children in their household do not work outside the home — that’s roughly 2 million dads,” according to the report. “Although stay-at-home dads represent only a small fraction of fathers, their share is up from 4 percent in 1989.”

One local dad is working full time and taking care of his son, and he’s doing it all on his own.

“My biggest challenge is that it is just me and him,” Brian Kutys, 36, Lebanon, said. “My parents just moved to South Carolina, so I don’t have any family out here — it is just me and Riley doing it all ourselves.”

While his sister in King of Prussia, Pa., does help him occasionally, Kutys said, that his and 7-year-old Riley’s daily routine is carried out solely by the two of them. Kutys gets up at 4 a.m., Tuesday through Saturday, has Riley at daycare by 5 a.m. and then has to be at his full-time job in Reading, Pa., by 6 a.m. Kutys works as a contractor for Comcast.

“Riley is good at it,” Kutys said. “It really drains me, though.”

Kutys and his wife parted ways when Riley was 4 years old, and while Riley keeps in touch with his mom, who now lives in Georgia, she does not have a direct presence in his life, according to Kutys.

“We Skype with her every two weeks or so, so he does see her a lot,” Kutys explained. “I try not to keep him away from talking to her, but he hasn’t seen her in person in over a year.”

While his parents were still in the area, Kutys said, they would help him with Riley when he needed them to.

“I didn’t take advantage of that often, though, because I didn’t want to get in the habit of pawning off my responsibilities on them,” he said.

Kutys said he has no doubt that he can raise Riley himself.

“I feel like I’m fully capable of taking care of him by myself,” he said. “I know he’s in better hands with me. That’s why I fought for custody.”

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Source: USA Today | Merriell Moyer, Lebanon (Pa.) Daily News

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