The Modern Fatherhood Movement and Ministry to Fathers in the Faith Community -- By: Ken Canfield

Journal: Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry
Volume: JDFM 001:2 (Spring 2011)
Article: The Modern Fatherhood Movement and Ministry to Fathers in the Faith Community
Author: Ken Canfield


The Modern Fatherhood Movement
and Ministry to Fathers in the
Faith Community

Dr. Ken Canfield

Dr. Ken Canfield (Ph.D., Kansas State University) is the Executive Director of the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University and the founder of the National Center for Fathering. He is the author of several books including The Heart of a Father (Northfield Publishing, 2006) and the award-winning Seven Secrets of Effective Fathers (Tyndale, 2002). He and his wife, Dee, have been married for over thirty years and have five grown children, several grandchildren, and live in Malibu, California.

Beginning in the mid-1960s, practices and perspectives on fathering garnered new attention. In practice, it was a major development when fathers were invited to be active participants in the birth room. Related to perspectives, researchers demonstrated that children reared in a home with a father present faced fewer psychological and social challenges compared to children who were “fatherless.” Such findings helped to shape the rationale and basis of the modern fatherhood movement. Soon health care professionals, social–scientific researchers, and community organizers tuned into the need for responsible fathering and did so with earnestness.

In the 1940s and 1950s, fathers who went to hospitals to share in their child’s birth typically ended up smoking cigars in the waiting room and then being summoned to the glass-windowed viewing room to see their offspring. Lamaze childbirth classes helped to change the culture and increased father involvement.1 In addition, leaders in the social-scientific field noted the positive benefits that would be realized in facilitating father/child attachment in the birth process.2 Practitioners described the power of the “magical moment” of childbirth, paving the way to celebrate fathers as enthusiastic participants in their young children’s lives.3

On the negative side, fatherlessness became a contentious and racially-focused issue. The Moynihan report was the first to stress that male absence in homes within the African-American community would be devastating.4 Today, it’s strikingly clear that fatherlessness and its negative outcomes impact all children, irrespective of ethnicity. The current and conservative cost of fatherlessness is estimated at one hundred billion dollars annually.5 Though a significant sum, money cannot account for the staggering emotional and moral costs, as well as “loss of potential,” that ...

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