A BYU sociology professor recently coauthored a study about fathering that suggests Young Men and Scouting leaders can have a profound impact on the lives of boys who do not enjoy a close relationship with their own fathers.
Professor Renata Forste, whose article "Just Be There for Them" appeared in a recent issue of the journal Fathering, focused her study on fathers who were often single, young and low-income. Interviews from study participants got divided into two categories: those who felt close to their own fathers, and those who did not. Comparing the two groups' attitudes towards fathering revealed recurring themes.
The study concluded that "respondents close to their own fathers aspired to become the 'good dads' by whom they had been raised, [while] subjects who were distant from their fathers wished to avoid becoming the 'bad dads' they remembered from their childhood."
Also, the men in the study who did not feel a meaningful bond with their own fathers didn't know how to fill the parental void from their respective childhoods because they lacked positive role modeling.
"Those who didn't have a father role model knew what they didn't want to do, but they didn't always know what to replace the negative parenting behavior with," Sister Forste said.
According to Sister Forste, the opportunity for Young Men leaders in the Church to impact the lives of those they serve is twofold: model effective fathering skills and, when needed, continue a mentoring-type relationship even after the calling ends or the boy grows up.
"[In the Church] we have youth who do not live with their fathers all the time," Sister Forste said. "They need a man in their life, and part of what I think [leaders] need to be modeling is good fathering. I think it's an opportunity for us as an LDS community to help strengthen families by strengthening fathering.
"It is important, when possible, to continue mentoring relationships over time, not just when they're young but as they enter young adulthood too … [and] as they attempt to be fathers to their own children."