Absence of fathers in homes described as social emergency

Absence of fathers in homes described as social emergency

Friday, June 06, 2014

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THE absence of fathers in most Jamaican homes has been described as a social and public health emergency that demands urgent attention, according to Dr Michael Coombs.

Dr Coombs, founder of the National Association for the Family (NAF), was speaking at Tuesday's official launch of the organisation in Kingston.

Dr Coombs, who said the NAF was a group of concerned Jamaicans from various professional groups sharing the common concern for the degrading of family life, noted that "85 per cent of Jamaican children were born out of wedlock, which he said was perhaps the highest in the world. He added that the breakdown in family life has led to increased levels of crimes and violence, youth incarceration and sexual abuse, among other social maladies.

According to Coombs, a medical doctor, the association plans to rebuild all pillars of family life and the initial focus will be the re-engagement of fathers and preparing young males for fatherhood.

"Research done in the United States and here in the Caribbean indicates that fatherless children are 11 times more likely to display violent behaviour, nine times more likely to run away from home, twice as likely to drop out of school, nine times more likely to become gang members, and more than twice as likely to experience teen pregnancies," said Dr Coombs, who provided statistics at the event, held in conjunction with the Ministry of National Security and the Unite for Change initiative.

In the meantime, the association said it would be aiming to transform the nation by repositioning the Jamaican male through a national Male Mentorship Initiative, a campaign to impact male knowledge and attitudes and the training and education of males.

The focus will not only be on intervention but also on prevention. The NAF said it was working to have a male development module added to the Health and Family Life Education programme currently in high schools, where students would be educated on the importance and requirements of fathers.

Though no overnight change is expected, Dr Coombs told the Jamaica Observer that he hoped to see the indicators of results in five to 10 years. "For example, in households headed by females, we should see a shift there downwards. The ultimate impact would be the change in the female-headed households and the involvement of our males, children born out of wedlock and even the fact of the registration of births including more fathers." Coombs said.

-- Suzette Bonas

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