Johns Hopkins Medical School commissioned two professors, Dr. Thomas and Dr. Duazunski to study 1,337 medical doctors who graduated from Johns Hopkins University. They wanted to determine a cause factor, for these five diseases: (1) hypertension; (2) coronary heart disease; (3) malignant tumors; (4) mental illness; and (5) suicide. There was only one factor to these five diseases that these graduates had in common—and it was a lack of closeness to one’s parents, especially the father.*
When I (Josh) read that study I was shocked. I called Johns Hopkins Medical School and got in touch with the researchers of the study. I wanted to find out why the lack of closeness to one’s father was the one single factor to those five diseases. It only took the researchers about three minutes to convince me why that was the case. They said anyone with a disconnected relationship with their father is more likely to have increased stress in life, and stress is the primary contributing factor to all five diseases.
These and other studies were landmark findings back in the early and mid- 1980s. Many studies followed that closely tracked these previous studies that relationships and our physical health are interrelated. As recently as February 2012 Time Magazine reported that:
Studies have shown that people with close social networks have lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress hormones and more robust immune systems than those without. In 2010, scientists at Brigham Young University analyzed data gathered from more than 300,000 people. They found that having poor social connections can raise the risk of premature death as high as that from a smoking habit and even higher than that from obesity.**
God designed us as relational beings. We all need the unfailing love of a mother and a father and the abiding friendships of others. And if we don’t get those relational connections, we suffer the consequences, especially when we lack a father connection. Another Johns Hopkins University study found that “young white teenage girls living in fatherless families…were 60% more likely to have premarital intercourse then living in two-parent homes.”***
It is apparent we are making a special point about the need for fathers to make a deep relational connection with their kids. And it’s not that men have less of a desire to connect with their children than moms, it’s just that most men don’t intuitively know how. That is why we devoted an entire book to the subject entitled The Father Connection. We wanted to help dads know how to better connect on a deep level with their sons and daughters. We encourage you to get that book. But even thought kids are crying out for their fathers – this should not be seen as a negative reflection on you mothers.
For the most part, studies and our own observations show that you moms are doing it right. Most kids in many respects take their mothers for granted. They sense mom is going to be there for them, listen to them, hurt with them, sympathize with them. But with dad it’s another matter. Kids generally don’t feel that same relational security with their father. And it negatively impacts them. Most fathers could learn so much from their wives if they would just listen.
And if you are a single mom, let us say this to you: you are doing a far better job with your kids than you think. No, you can’t model before your kids a woman’s love for a man or a man’s love for a woman. But you can be there for your children with all the God-given nurturing and love and support that he gives you. Your kids know you have it rough and somehow know you are going the extra mile every single day.
Also consider this: if your children’s father is no longer around or not a suitable dad, look for mature, godly men in your church who can provide a positive role model of Christian manhood for your kids. Perhaps another dad would be willing to include your kids in family outings or make special efforts to befriend and talk with your kids. A father figure has a tremendous influence in a child’s life. And in families where the father is absent, it’s wise to try filling this void with a friend who can serve as a positive role model to your kids.
And for all moms: you, more than anyone else, will determine how your children see their father. You have enormous power either to support Dad in his love toward his children or to undermine him and make him look incompetent in their eyes. Encourage your husband in his attempts at fathering. He needs it. Be supportive in your words to him and to your children. He needs you more than he probably realizes. So be patient, be wise, and continue to encourage him to be there for the kids.
- Bonus Chapter from Straight Talk with your kids about sex
- Find The Father Connection and 10 Commitments for Dads in store.Josh.org.
- * Claudia Wallis, “Stress: Can We Cope?” Time magazine (June 6, 1983), 48-54.
- ** Carl Zimmer, “Friends with Benefits,” Time, February 20, 2012, 39.
- *** Kathleen Fury, “Sex and the American Teenager” Ladies’ Home Journal (March 1986), 60.