When it comes to parenting, fathers are sometimes viewed as second best. In popular culture, dads are depicted as emotionally disconnected, incompetent, absent, and secondary parents who are not as important to their children as their mothers. As a result, fathers are pressured to take a backseat (or perhaps felt that it’s okay) when it comes to being involved with raising their children. Yes, a mother’s love is precious and special, but having an active and involved father plays an equally important role in a child’s development.
According to a 2011 New York Times report, only 20 percent of American households consist of a traditional married couple with children. Family structures of all kinds fill the gap, and dads are now stepping up to the plate and taking on different kinds of roles. When a father is engaged in a child’s life, they can really make a difference. He may be traditionally married and living with kids, single dad, divorced, widowed, adoptive, step-father, gay, stay-at-home father or primary family provider – the most important thing about fatherhood is involvement.
Here are some of the ways fathers impact child’s development:
1. Fathers help in the cognitive and intellectual development of their children
Dads may be a bit of a goofball, but their involvement leads to better cognitive and intellectual development for their children. Studies have shown that children with fathers who were actively involved throughout the first year of a child’s life perform better on cognitive development and are more expressive of their desire to explore and ask questions.
Children with actively involved fathers are more likely to earn A’s in school and are less likely to repeat a grade than those with no engaged dads. Numerous studies have also found that an active and nurturing fathering is linked to better verbal skills, academic achievements and intellectual functioning for adolescent children. Authoritative parenting of a father also leads to a better academic, emotional, social and behavioral outcomes for children.
A 1960s study by a psychologist Ellen Bing found that children who had fathers that read them regularly are more likely to do better in many cognitive skill categories than children who did not have fathers who read to them. Ten years later, another study found that both well-fathered boys and girls had increased verbal skills compared with kids who have absent or overbearing fathers.
2. Dad’s presence help in a child’s verbal development
A father’s interactions with a child at an early age is strongly related to the development of their language skills. It becomes more evident with young daughters. A study published in Developmental Psychology finds that both well-fathered pre-school boys and girls had increased verbal skills compared with kids with absent or non-involved father.
3. Kids with present fathers become more ready for school
If you become involved in the life of your children in the years they show up for school, your kids become more patient, confident and curious. They are better able to remain in their seats, wait patiently for their children and maintain interest and focus on their work. When fathers are involved in a child’s education, children do not only do better at school and graduate, but they are also more likely to achieve higher levels of career and economic success.
A major scientific study linked positive fatherhood involvement with lowered levels of disruptive behavior, higher likelihood of obedience and being responsible, and fewer behavioral problems in school and at home.
4. Fathers play an important role in the emotional and social development of their kids
When a child’s father is loving, supportive, affectionate and involved, a child is more likely to become emotionally secure, and have better social connections. When you play with your child, your child will have a positive social-emotional involvement with others. From their interactions with a father, children learn better how to regulate their feelings and behavior. As they age, they grow to have better social connections.
5. Dads can help boost confidence
An emotionally supportive father is a priceless gift to a child. If you help your kids understand how much you value and love them, your kids are more likely to be happier, more confident and have higher self-esteem. Kids of involved fathers are less hesitant to try new things and involve themselves in unfamiliar activities that can enhance them. They are also less likely to act out in school to get attention, have greater tolerance to stress and increased ability to resist peer pressure.
6. Their babies and partners become healthier
When the dads are around before, during and after the birth of a child, it has been shown that a father’s presence has lasting benefits on the health of their partner and the newborn child. When fathers are around, the mother can have more frequent prenatal and postnatal health-care visits, more successful breastfeeding, higher likelihoods of seeking out immunizations, and care for childhood illnesses.
7. Fathers play a role in developing empathy
Fathers who provide a positive male role model to their kids can raise up children who will be empathetic later in adulthood. Empathy in children to young adults are associated with warm father involvement in the early stages of a child’s life. A 26-year-long study found that the main factor for developing empathy in a person was father involvement. If you spend more time alone with your children, it will translate to them becoming compassionate and generous adults, with increased awareness of the needs and rights of other people.
8. The presence of the father means less behavioral problems for the children
Children who have a close relationship with their fathers tend to have less behavioral problems. When fathers are loving their child and are well-bonded with them, the children become less of a headache for the parents. When fathers are less engaged, children are more likely to drop out of school earlier, do not enter college or find it difficult to find stable employment after high school. Children with present fathers are also less likely to spend time in jail when they grow up, and are half as likely to experience depression symptoms.
Sons of involved fathers are less likely to be involved in trouble. Delinquency and behavioral problems in boys are linked to absent fathers. If you want your kid to avoid trouble later in life, be involved in their lives and show them that you care. Research do indicate that fathers are also as important as mothers in their roles as caregivers, protectors and models for emotional and social behavior.
9. Fathers can help their child make wise life choices
Another research show that children who have a closeness and warm relationship with their father are twice as likely to enter college, less likely to be incarcerated, and are less likely to be pregnant or have a child in their teen years.
A teenage girl who grew up in a single-mother household is more likely to become a teen mother than if she grew up in a household with both biological parents. A teenage boy or a young man is more likely to engage in a criminal activity if he is raised without a father, and that likelihood triples if he lives in a neighborhood composed of fatherless families. It’s clear that the person most capable of curbing the anti-social aggression of a boy or young man is his biological father.
10. Children have a more positive self-image
Having an active father who makes a child feel loved builds up their self-image. Young women with engaged fathers generally had higher opinions of themselves and have higher levels of self-esteem. Daughters also become more ambitious in their careers. Having a steady source of love, care and encouragement makes your daughters less likely to find love and acceptance in the wrong places and wrong people.
11. Fathers influence relationships of their children
Your relationship with your child can affect all of your child’s relationships from birth to death. The early patterns of interaction of a child with his/her father will be projected forward into all relationships, not only your child’s idea of who he/she is as he/she relates to other people, but also the range of what your child considers loving and acceptable.
Boys will unintentionally model themselves after their fathers. They look for their dad’s approval, and copy those behaviors they recognize as familiar and okay. Have you ever known someone (or perhaps you in your own family) who acts like his dad? If the dad was always angry, controlling and abusive, the son would most likely imitate it – unless the son becomes intentional about avoiding this behavior so that it won’t become a part of his new family dynamics. On the other hand, if the father is loving, supportive, kind and protective, the sons will want to be like that.
On the other hand, girls will look for men who have the characteristics of a good dad. If their father is loving, gentle and kind to them, they will reach for those characteristics in men. They will be less likely to settle with a man that treats them less. For other girls who have father issues, they are also more likely to develop commitment issues, or they may develop patterns of dating problematic men. For some, they will look for something they have experienced and have become familiar with in childhood. Since they have gotten used to familial behavioral patterns, they think they can handle those in relationships.
Guide created by Natera