Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Garth Rattray | Dead beat dads are 'waste men'

Published:Monday | January 29, 2018 | 1:19 AM

Our high rate of physical and psychological abuse of children, criminality and murders usually have a common, causal thread. In almost all instances, mothers and/or grandmothers are left to struggle alone with their children. This is by no means or by any stretch of the imagination, an excuse. There can be no defensible excuse for murder and mayhem.

However, we can confidently deduce that if the fathers of those children who become criminals and cold-bloodied killers were in their lives, to whatever degree they are capable (financially, domestically or emotionally), things would have turned out differently.

Honestly, regarding the number of ‘deadbeats’; in our society, I wonder why it is that women can’t learn from their horrible experiences and from the very obvious terrible situations of the other women around them.

I’ve been promising myself to do an informal survey of fatherhood in Jamaica, because when I seek to complete the social and family history section of first-contact notes for patients I ask about the history of both parents. It is sad, troubling and frustrating when the fathers are usually dead, unknown, estranged, incommunicado, uninvolved, non-contributory, parasitic or abusive. I suppose I could sum up what I’ve heard in Jamaican parlance: dunno, dead, deh deh (there in body, but useless) or deh ’bout (alive, but not at home and not contributing anything).

I’m not a judgemental person. Consequently, I try to imagine myself in the other person’s situation. I realise that many underprivileged girls simply passed through the school system and, for whatever reason (bad social circumstances, bad parenting, bad experiences, bad life choices or bad whatever), never benefited in any way whatsoever. They grow into women who become dependent on men for financial support. And, unfortunately, many men have the rather nasty habit of taking advantage of needy women. Some may argue that it’s tit for tat, a sinful symbiosis.


Bad enough that this sort of thing happens regularly, but then children are often involved and the sin takes on massive proportions. Many men want their women to ‘give them a yout’. It may start out as a primal need to propagate or a desire to have progeny with someone who he might assist, but somewhere in the mix is the urge to stake his claim.

Since he can’t plant an immovable flag in her head or visibly brand her as a conquest, he gets her to produce a child for him. Now everyone will know that he had sex with her; everyone will know that he has conquered her and planted his seed inside of her. It’s a warped perception of manhood that pervades our society and continues to wreak havoc.

Conversely, some women see having children as a means to an end. Those women view children as investments; blandly put, they see children as livestock. They rear the kids and expect valuable returns from them one day. Then there is the question of why some women produce so many children for so many different men. Essentially, it’s partly a biological (subconscious) drive to produce many children whenever there is poverty, which represents a danger of terminating the family line.

Additionally, some women keep gambling that this child or that child will be the ‘jackpot’. Or that this man or that man will prove true to her and support the entire family. Such instances are as rare as winning the lotto, but that has never deterred women from trying again and again and again. Some women are beguiled by disingenuous, sweet-mouthed charlatans. The way that I see it is this, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. Incredibly, many women get ‘fooled’three, four, five or even six times!

Families lose out in this futile quest, but the major loser is our entire society. Dysfunctional and/or unstable families drive indiscipline and criminality. Our court system needs to be much harder on deadbeat dads. And, women need to avoid ‘waste men’; those men who are users and mean them no good. Those are the men who become deadbeat dads and cause no ends of grief. Women must equip themselves for life and don’t chase after the ‘wuckless’ men. If they invite trouble into their lives, they will be the only ones left holding the dirty end of the stick.

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and