Some of the most well known men of our time, President Barack Obama, Actor Tom Cruise and Olympic champion Michael Phelps, along with some of the most notorious and deadly, Pearl's Luke Woodham, Ted Bundy and Saddam Hussein all grew up without their fathers. Mississippi is number 1 in the nation when it comes to children growing up without their fathers. We talk with two local authors about their research, a single father and a single mother who are making the right choices to make sure their sons don't become a statistic.
Dr. Mardi Allen and James Dickerson have written a book, Sons Without Fathers, What every mother needs to Know. Dickerson says he knows first hand what it is like to grow up without a father.
"My father died when I was 7 and I was raised as a son without a father and that was one of the things that made me want to write the book. My mother did all of the right things, she made sure I had male role models, she encouraged my interest in music and in reading, and books," said Dickerson.
Dr. Allen says the research is clear on what can happen when fathers are not apart of their children's lives, especially their sons.
"70 percent of the criminals come from fatherless homes, 70% of people who drop out of school are without their fathers, 70% of teenagers who commit murder are from fatherless homes," Dr. Allen said.
Dickerson says Mississippi has 100,000 fatherless white children, 230,000 black children. About half are sons without fathers.
"Nationwide there are twice as many White and Hispanics without fathers than there are African Americans. Some people like to characterize it as an African American problem, but when you look at the data that doesn't hold up," said Dickerson.
Matthew Ellis will be 21 in July. His son Brayden is almost 3. Matthew says because he did not grow up with his father, although his dad tried, it has made him more determined to be apart of his son's life even though they live in different states.
"We work things out and we make sure that we put our son first. And there's no really anything else that comes before him," said Ellis.
Dinah Givens says after her divorce, she has made sure her 11 year old son Donovan has been surrounded by positive role models like her father and an uncle.
"Definitely lead by example. Children will not do what you tell them to do but they certainly will do what they see you doing. Even down to basketball practices and baseball practices, sometimes I was the lone parent sitting out there, but I had that staying power to be sure that he was safe and that he knew that I supported him," Givens said.
Dickerson and Allen say there are solutions to what they call one of the most serious social issues in this state and the nation.
"If I could provide a strong male role model to every fatherless child in the state, in 5 years we wouldn't be talking about this," Dickerson said.
Dr. Allen and Dickerson hope more churches, schools and community groups will pitch in to assist mothers who may not have the resources or family support to help their children.
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