Sunday, August 29, 2004

An absent father

In today's Herald Sun there's an interview with lesbian singer kd lang. I was interested to note kd lang's comments about the break up of her parents' marriage:

My father leaving was a turning point in my life. I was 12 and it taught me about the impermanence of relationships and the impermanence of life. It has shaped my life.

Note how deeply kd lang experienced the loss of her father. It affected her deeply enough to shape her later life. It destroyed her sense of security not only in regard to relationships, but even in regard to life itself.

Human psychology is such that when we feel insecure we withdraw from the more important attachments - for to actively make and then lose such attachments would be too great to bear.

Judith Wallerstein, in a major California Children of Divorce Study, found that,

many of the young women who had done well during their early adolescent years experienced a 'sleeper' effect as they moved into late adolescence and became frightened of failure. Almost all confronted issues of love, commitment and marriage with anxiety - sometimes with very great concern about betrayal, abandonment and not being loved. In response to all this, many of the young women, and some of the young men, appeared counterphobically to have thrown themselves into short-lived sexual relationships.

Little wonder then that researchers Garfinkel and McLanahan found that "Daughters of single parents are ... 164% more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92% more likely to dissolve their own marriages."

In part, this goes to show the importance of fathers in families and the need to drastically reduce the rate of divorce in Western societies.

In a larger sense, it also underlines how important it is for men to act on their "protector" instinct: the instinct to uphold the healthy forms of social life so as to create a protected space in which individuals can form secure attachments.

This is a much worthier goal for the adult men of a community than the liberal quest to create ever greater (but largely illusory) forms of individual autonomy. The men who succeed in creating a protected space are creating an environment in which the deeper kinds of human emotions and spiritual life can flourish, including stable and enduring forms of marital love.

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