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Commentary: Why girls need fathers as they develop

April 28, 2012|By Dr. R. Claire Friend

Can a woman raised without a father feel psychologically whole?

The question came to mind while watching the funeral service for Whitney Houston several months ago. A beautiful, gifted woman, she rose to incredible heights, only to jettison her career and future for a loser. Irreparably damaged by a ruinous 15-year marriage, she could never recover the unique gifts that made her a star.

Houston's death at age 49 was attributed to alcohol and drugs. It was as troubling as the tragic death of Marilyn Monroe 40 years ago.

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The lives and the deaths of both women share a common thread. Both had absent fathers.

Houston lived with her mother after age 13, when her parents divorced. Monroe's mother was unmarried and institutionalized much of her life. Monroe was raised in an orphanage or foster home without either of her parents.

Modern feminists discount and devalue the importance of men in the lives of women. They deny that women need husbands and families or that children need fathers. Their argument that it takes a village to raise a child is both specious and false. From outward appearances, history would suggest the country and the culture were in far better shape when children were raised with both parents in the home.

The loss of a parent through death or divorce in childhood or adolescence has profound effects on mood, mind and metabolism. Studies in the medical literature have shown that adults who have suffered the loss of a parent during childhood have an increased rate of depression, morbid obesity and premature heart disease.

The mother envelopes her nursing infant in a protective physical cocoon. This promotes optimal neurophysiological development. The infusion of love also strengthens the nascent immune system because breast milk is laden with maternal antibodies.

But mother is only half of the parental couple, and her love is not enough for optimal psychological development. It requires both halves to make the psyche whole. With his greater size and strength, the father's physical presence confers a sense of protection and security. He makes the world feel safe.

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