No question but boys need dads

4th May 2007 at 01:00
I am writing in response to Oliver James's article, "How much do boys really need their fathers?" (TES magazine, April 20) which I found both outrageous and insulting to men and boys (and girls) in equal measure.

Our school has approximately 45 per cent of our intake from army families based at the barracks in our village. Dads and mums from these families have been deployed to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. There is absolutely no question that these children are "bothered" by the lack of a parent for the six or even nine months during which they are away from home.

Like many other psychological issues, the extent to which a child may be "bothered" by an absent parent is difficult to quantify. Indeed, as a school we are trying to put a figure on the effect deployment of a parent to a combat zone has on the well-being of a child.

The effect on a child is difficult to measure, yet as a school we are well aware that their worries are significant enough to affect behaviour, attitude and ultimately performance.

The work of Stephen Biddulph, author of Raising Boys, points to the change in focus of boys from their mother to their father at around the age of seven or eight. At this age, boys are looking to their fathers for direction. This is when fathers have an opportunity for making their input and influence into raising the family.

I see no reason why this should not be the same for girls. At around 12 or 13, boys are looking for another adult male to act as a mentor. Presumably (pre-historically speaking), this equates to checking out whether dad's sabre-tooth clubbing tactics are up to the mark.

The implication that the influence of a dad is unimportant in this regard is simply insulting. Having successfully managed to get through my mid-life crisis, I now know, and passionately believe, that I have a vital role to play in the raising of my own children.

I am what used to be called a family man: a loving husband and doting father, and a thoroughly modern man. I am proud of that.

Chris Perry. Deputy Head. Swanton Morley primary school, Norfolk

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