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Fathering at Risk, by James R. Dudley, Glenn Stone

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Fathering at Risk

Fathering at Risk, by James R. Dudley, Glenn Stone

Parenting may be one of the most difficult jobs that anyone can do, but this doesn’t mean that there is an adequate understanding among psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers about what parenting is and what good parenting requires. This is especially true when it comes to fathers and fathering.


Title: Fathering at Risk
Author: James R. Dudley, Glenn Stone
Publisher: Prometheus Books
ISBN: 1591021294

•  Examines serious issues about fathering that often go unnoticed

•  Not clear that a “crisis” in fathering actually exists

•  Analysis of problems with fathering and fathers in modern society
•  Focuses on absent fathers: divorced, teen, unmarried
•  Explains how fathers can be helped to improve


Book Review

As difficult and complicated as fathering might be, matters are far worse when it comes to “nonresidential” fathers — those fathers who are divorced, unmarried, and/or teens. Whatever fathering entails, it surely requires that one actually be there in the daily life of a child. So how can anyone accomplish even adequate fathering when they aren’t around?

This is the subject of Fathering at Risk, by James R. Dudley and Glenn Stone. More than just a book about social issues, this is also a text designed to teach students how to deal with those issues, help men become better fathers, and hopefully improve the social situation of fatherhood in general.

As the title indicates, it’s the premise of the authors that fathering is at risk, both generally on the social level and specifically on many individual levels, and that’s what prompted them to write this book in the first place. I’m not entirely convinced, though, that fathering is as “at risk” as the authors suggest, though there is certainly plenty of evidence of problems in American society.

The authors make a great deal out of the differences in the number of at-home fathers between today and 1960, but that’s an awfully short span of time for a solid comparison. Is it really implausible that societies in the past have had similarly high numbers of absent fathers due to, for example, wars or jobs located a long distance away? I don’t honestly know but it’s worth considering. Just because families had a certain pattern in 1960 doesn’t mean that that should serve as a model which we must take as definitive — even if, for various reasons, it has many strong points.

Fathering at Risk

Fathering at Risk, by James R. Dudley, Glenn Stone

Even if there's no “crisis,” though, fathers are still important for childhood development, and it’s difficult for any man to succeed in being a father when they aren’t there on a regular basis. Because there are increasing numbers of fathers who are absent for whatever reason, it’s important to come up with ways for nonresident fathers to overcome the obstacles before them.

This is what the book focuses on, explaining what sorts of obstacles exist, why they cause problems for children, and how social workers, psychologists, politicians, and others can help such fathers do a better job. Because this is a text designed for classroom situations, the authors provide questions for readers to reflect upon, numerous references for further research, questions for group discussion, and more. Hopefully this text will become a resource for people interested in furthering the needs of children and parental bonds.

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