There is rigorous debate in our culture about gender roles,
including the appropriate roles of the mother and father in raising children. We are all now aware
that mothers can do a lot of what fathers used to do, and fathers can do a lot of what was
historically “mother’s work.” There is a new flexibility to gender roles. It is essential to
celebrate each of these advances.
At the same time, mothers and fathers are also “naturally
different” and are thus “naturally needed”? in a child’s life. Remove one parent’s core strengths,
and problems can occur. For instance, when scientists study what happens to children whose fathers
are not active in their lives, they find a higher probability of mental, emotional, and social
Boys without the substantial presence of a father are 70 percent more likely to
commit violent crimes, and each year spent without a dad in the home increases the odds of future
incarceration by 5 percent.
Girls without the substantial presence of a father are 150
percent more likely to become pregnant during the teen years and will experience 92 percent more
marriage breakups than girls raised with two parents.
Both girls and boys raised without
fathers are substantially more likely to be sexually abused than their peers in two-parent
This doesn’t mean that every father (or mother) is good for a child, nor that there is
fault in being a single parent. Many children are being raised wonderfully by single mothers (and
single fathers), people who are adapting heroically to circumstances in their lives.
Michael Gurian is a social philosopher, family therapist, corporate
consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books. A parenting and
family expert, he is co-founder of The Gurian Institute, a training organization that provides
schools, homes, workplace sand community agencies with crucial understanding of how boys and girls
learn differently, and how women and men work and lead differently. Blending brain-based
theory with practical application and cultural relevance, the Institute conducts research
internationally, launches pilot and training programs, and trains professionals.
His groundbreaking books on child development and education that have sparked
national debate include The Wonder of Boys, Boys and Girls Learn Differently!, The Wonder of Girls,
and The Minds of Boys. He has pioneered efforts to bring neuro-biology and brain research into
homes, workplaces, schools and public policy. A sought-after speaker and consultant, he lives with
his wife and two daughters in Spokane, Washington.
Read another excerpt from Nurture the
You can also catch Michael on an interview with