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Is there any real evidence that dads really have a uniquely important impact in the lives of their children? Our culture seems to place little value on the role of fathers. I see evidence of this everywhere, from pop culture and media to government policy. My own experience and belief system tell me that fatherhood is important, but I'd like to be able to explain exactly why this is the case.
“Positive father care is associated with more pro-social and positive moral behavior in boys and girls. Children who feel a closeness and warmth with their father are twice as likely to enter college, 75 percent less likely to have a child in their teen years, 80 percent less likely to be incarcerated and half as likely to show various signs of depression.”
Here is how I see it:
Fathers are far more than just “second adults” in the home. Involved fathers – especially biological fathers – bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. They provide protection and economic support and male role models. They have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother and that difference is important in healthy child development.
One of the most vital aspects of a dad’s contribution to the lives of his kids lies precisely in his “significantly different parenting style.” Men and women are different. As a result, mothers, and fathers’ parent their children differently. Dads, for instance, love their children “more dangerously.” That is because they play “rougher” and are more likely to encourage
risk-taking. They provide kids with a broader diversity of social experiences. They also
introduce them to a wider variety of methods of dealing with life. They tend to stress rules,
justice, fairness, and duty in discipline. In this way, they teach children the objectivity and consequences of right and wrong. They give kids insight into the world of men. They prepare them for the challenges of life and demonstrate by example the meaning of respect between the sexes. In connection with this last point, research indicates that a married father is substantially less likely to abuse his wife or children than men in any other category.
Fathers encourage competition, engendering independence. Mothers promote equity, creating a sense of security. Dads emphasize conceptual communication, which helps
kids expand their vocabulary and intellectual capacities. Moms major in sympathy, care,
and help, thus demonstrating the importance of relationships. Dads tend to see their child
in relation to the rest of the world. Moms tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their
child. Neither style of parenting is adequate in nor of itself. Taken together, they balance
each other out and equip the up-and-coming generation with a healthy, well-rounded
approach to life.
Where is the evidence for these assertions? Obviously, we cannot go into detail here. This
is a vast field of study. But we can offer a few examples of some of the relevant research:
82% of studies on father involvement and child well-being published since 1980 found
“significant associations between positive father involvement and offspring wellbeing…
In an analysis of over 100 studies on parent child relationships, it was found that having a
loving and nurturing father was as important for a child’s happiness, well-being, and
social and academic success as having a loving and nurturing mother. Some studies even indicated father-love was a stronger contributor to some important positive child well-being outcomes.
A father’s more active play style and comparatively slower response to a toddler or infant experiencing frustration serve to promote problem-solving competencies and independence in the child. “Positive father care is associated with more pro-social and positive moral behavior in boys and girls. Children who feel a closeness and warmth with their father are twice as likely to enter college, 75 percent less likely to have a child in their teen years, 80 percent less likely to be incarcerated and half as likely to show various signs of depression. “When and Why Fathers Matter: Impacts of Father Involvement on Children of Adolescent Mothers,” in Young Unwed Fathers: The number one factor in developing empathy in children was father involvement. Fathers spending regular time alone with their children translated into children who became compassionate adults.
The Family Origins of Empathic... We have only scratched the surface, of course, but you can see where the evidence is taking us. The best studies demonstrate beyond a shadow of a doubt that fathers play an important and irreplaceable role in healthy child development. This means that your hunches are right and the messages we are receiving from the media, the culture, and government policy are wrong.
The implication is clear. Those of us who are “in the know” need to do everything we can to
get this information out to the public as quickly as possible. If it is true that father involvement has so many positive effects on kids’ lives, then, “The fact that this benefit is here should raise concerns for those who do not have these resources...
- Moses Magerman