Fathers Are the Most Important Men

Stats show fathers play the most critical role in the health of families and society.


John Stonestreet

Shane Morris

After doing a little research on the ranking of Americans’ favorite holidays, comedian Ali Siddiq joked 

Father’s Day is the worst holiday in the world. … Mother’s Day is the second most celebrated holiday in the world. Christmas is first. So that means it’s Jesus, then your mamma. You know where Father’s Day falls at? Number 20! I can’t think of 18 other holidays.  

Fathers may not sell the most Hallmark cards, but as author and theologian Anthony Bradley has often argued, they absolutely should be at the center of national attention—and the attention of the Church. As he put it in a recent Substack article, “fathers are the most important men in any community, anywhere, everywhere, ever.”  

Bradley’s article summarized a deluge of data on the crucial role dads play in their children’s lives. It is a must-read, not only for families, but for those involved with schools, churches, nonprofits, and government. Here are some of the findings Bradley highlights.  

First, children from fatherless homes are, on average, far more prone to delinquency, crime, and behavioral issues. They account for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of runaways and homeless kids, 71% of high school dropouts, 70% of those in juvenile detention, and 75% of those in substance abuse treatment.  

At the root of these issues is the critical role fathers play psychologically, biologically, and spiritually in their children’s development. Bradley cited research showing, for instance, that “father-youth closeness” is one of the chief sources of mental wellbeing for teenagers: “If teens don’t feel close to their fathers, they report having poor mental health. This is especially true for boys.” 

Early puberty in both girls and boys is also correlated with absence of fathers. Girls especially engage in higher rates of sexual promiscuity in their teens and early adulthood if they have a poor relationship with their dad. Alcohol and drug use that contributes to risky sexual behavior is also far more likely among kids and teens without fathers in the home.  

In contrast, high academic achievement, better emotional regulation, and even improved social skills are all associated with paternal investment. One study even found that involved and responsive fathers have a profound impact on the development of their infants, who exhibit fewer externalizing behavioral issues later in life if Dad loves and plays with them. 

Most importantly, warm father figures are the biggest predictor that children will grow up to share their parents’ faith. As Bradley wrote, 

A 35-year longitudinal study shows that “having a close bond with one’s father matters even more than a close relationship with one’s mother.” The study, by Bengtson, Putney, and Harris, demonstrates that “emotional closeness with mothers remains important for religious inheritance but not to the same degree as it is for fathers.” 

In other words, if Dad follows Jesus, there’s a much higher chance his kids will, too.  

Taken together, a picture emerges from an enormous body of evidence that fathers aren’t optional add-ons or expendable luxuries. They are essential and God-ordained pillars in their children’s lives and development, which makes them God-ordained pillars in society. Their absence, either physically or relationally, is devastating. And moms can’t fill this role, any more than dads can fill the role of moms. As author and policy expert Ryan Anderson says, there is no such thing as “parenting,” only mothering and fathering. This means kids need their dads. Period.  

Now, let me be very clear about this: Statistics are averages, not destiny. We live in a fallen world, which means there are many who don’t have good earthly fathers, or any father at all. There are also many children raised by heroic single moms who have grown into solid citizens and followers of Jesus. On the other hand, there are kids raised with Mom and Dad who didn’t turn out so well.  

Know that we have an infinitely good Heavenly Father who gathers the outcasts, heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. Through His love in Christ, we enjoy not only the possibility but the power to write new family stories with our spouses, children, and churches. We should take God at His word when He promises to be a Father to the fatherless. 

In that task of writing new stories, there are many ways churches can help. In his terrific article, Bradley goes into detail on how congregations and pastors can prioritize father-youth connection, combat the negative effects of father absence, and support dads practically, spiritually, and emotionally.  

My favorite suggestion was that, given the powerful role dads play in transmitting Christian faith to their kids, churches should consider strengthening families as a part of missions work and evangelism! After all, the data is clear that there is no better way to convince the next generation to follow Jesus than for them to hear it from Dad, and see it reflected in his love.  

To read Dr. Bradley’s article, visit and click on this commentary. 

This Breakpoint was co-authored by Shane Morris. For more resources to live like a Christian in this cultural moment, go to 


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