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Gender roles and the importance of fathers

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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 problems.

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 homes.

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

Excerpted with permission of the publisher John Wiley & Sons, Inc. from NURTURE THE NATURE.  Copyright (c) 2007 by Michael Gurian.  This book is available at all bookstores, online booksellers and from the Wiley website at, or call 1-800-225-5945.

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 Nature:
You can also catch Michael on an interview with GreatDad.
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Gender roles and the importance of fathers

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