Fathers count

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 31, 1999

From staff reports


Tuesday, August 31, 1999

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Surprise. Fathers do count.

Including in whether their teen-agers will use drugs.

A study by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse reveals that the less interaction with fathers, the more likely teens are to use drugs.

Among the findings, teens in two-parent families who have &uot;fair or poor&uot; relationships with their fathers are 68 percent more likely to use drugs, alcohol and smoke than those who have average relationships. By contrast, those raised by only their mothers were 30 percent more likely to use drugs.

That suggests having an &uot;AWOL&uot; father, the center says, is worse than having no father at all.

While just one study of 2,000 youths ages 12 to 17 and 1,000 parents, the results none-the-less should make dads stop and think.

Fifty-eight percent of teens said they had very good or excellent relationships with their fathers, compared with 70 percent with their mothers. Mothers also influence their children’s important decisions three times as often as fathers, the study reports. It also found children who never have dinner with their parents have a 70 percent greater risk of substance abuse.

One support group for fathers said the study shows that it is important fathers not only be present, but &uot;emotionally engaged;&uot; that’s difficult, the National Fatherhood Initiative says, because fatherhood is not &uot;culturally valued.&uot;

Maybe that is true.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Fathers can be just as involved in their children’s lives as are mothers, particularly in an era in which most households have both parents in the workforce.

Dads can start early, along with moms, by speaking to children about drugs, alcohol and smoking.

At a more basic level, dads can eat meals with the family, and use that time to talk to and be involved with their children.

Even reading a bedtime story every night will help dads make a lasting connection with their children.

Of course fathers count.

But only if they want to.