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By Mere Tuqiri

HONOLULU, Hawaii (August 21, 1998 - PIDP/CPIS)---A disturbing trend in the United States, because of increasing divorce rates and high non-marital births, is the absence of fathers in the lives of their children

Mary Hartsock, Director of the Hawaii Kids Court and a faculty member at the University of Hawaii's Center for the Family, made the comment at the Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women’s Association’s regional seminar Friday at the Hawaiian Regent Hotel.

Speaking on the changing roles of men and women in the family and society, Hartsock said the non-involvement of fathers in the family often results in children participating more in delinquent activities.

Children in such families also are more likely to repeat a grade, have lower education expectations and lower average scores in school, which she says is especially true for boys.

The lack of a male role model in the family also leads to some gender identity problems in children, Hartsock noted.

Health issues include high accident rates, asthma, speech defects and headaches. As the children become older, they are more likely to become involved in risky behavior, such as smoking, drugs, alcohol and early sexual activity.

Therefore, research indicates that men have an important role to play in children’s lives and men living with their children, said Hartsock, are learning to become increasingly involved in their children’s development.

Hartsock said she devotes a lot of her time trying to encourage men to be avid participants in family affairs, stressing that there is more to family involvement than bringing home the pay check.

Hartsock, in her presentation to the pan-Pacific women's group, also pointed out that children raised in poverty households are likely to have inadequate pre-natal care, are born with low and sometimes dangerously low birth weights and have a higher infant mortality rate.

These children also experience slower intellectual development and low levels of educational attainment, she said. In addition, since destitute families are likely to move frequently from one location to another, they have higher levels of stress. Frequent movement may be due to an inability to afford rent. Therefore, the likelihood of owning a house is reduced. Often this leads to family instability and the instability of children’s education.

Hartsock said U.S. research on working mothers in the U.S. indicates that 60 percent of mothers of very young children are in the work force compared to 70 percent of mothers with school-age children, 6-18 years old.

Maternal employment during the first year of a child’s life generally has negative effects. But maternal employment during the second and third years generally has positive effects, she said. Heavy work hours by both parents when children are very young, ages 1-3, have more effect on social and behavioral outcomes; children tend to be less compliant.

Many children are now entering pre-school and day-care programs. These programs, she said, can help reduce the negative effects of poverty in their lives.

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