06 Mar Do we Really Need Dads?
In the realm of family studies the role of mothers is often researched and discussed. After all, between the two parents mothers typically spend the most time with their children, and are therefore responsible for the majority of the teaching, comforting, disciplining, and nurturing.
So what do dads do? Do they serve a purpose in the lives of their children besides providing for their physical needs? Do children even need a father in their lives? Many women and men share this skeptical mentality toward fatherhood. It seems that the role of fatherhood has lost significance or has been undermined in importance in recent years.
Unbeknownst to many, fathers serve a very important role in the healthy development of children socially, intellectually and psychologically. “Dr. David Popenoe, one of the pioneers of the relatively young field of research into fatherhood stated ‘Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home… Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring’” (Rosenberg).
Loving relationship with child’s mother
One of the most significant ways that a father influences his child’s life is through his relationship with the child’s mother. If the mother and father share a loving relationship both parent’s parenting behavior is likely to improve. For instance, “a father who has a good relationship with the mother of their children is more likely to be involved and to spend time with their children and to have children who are psychologically and emotionally healthier.
Similarly, a mother who feels affirmed by her children’s father and who enjoys the benefits of a happy relationship is more likely to be a better mother” (Rosenberg). But the benefits don’t stop there.
Research has shown that wives perceptions of the father-child relationship and father involvement with the children was one of the strongest predictors of wives’ marital quality (Galovan). Though each of these will positively affect the child, the greatest advantage that is gained by a child from the healthy relationship between parents is the behavior it models for children. Both boys and girls benefit from this behavioral modeling.
From observing the healthy relationship between father and mother, boys learn how they are to treat women and to resolve conflict without acting aggressively toward them. “Girls with involved, respectful fathers see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships” (Rosenberg). This is a significant contribution in children’s lives because in many cases it could eradicate relationship violence, postpone premarital sex, and prevent teenage pregnancies.
Cognitive ability and Academic success
Father involvement also directly affects a child’s cognitive ability and academic success. There have been numerous studies conducted showing that fathers influence their child’s cognitive capacities throughout their life starting from infancy. The U.S. Children’s Bureau says that “fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities” (Rosenberg). “The influence of a father’s involvement on academic achievement extends into adolescence and young adulthood” (Rosenberg). Adolescents with involved fathers are more likely to stay in school, are 43 percent more likely to make mostly A’s, and “are 33 percent less likely to repeat a grade”(Rosenberg). This is important because children who take their education seriously are more likely to gain a college education, pursue a career, and be able to support themselves.
Socially and Psychologically
Children also benefit from father involvement socially and psychologically. “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers… and more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior ” (Rosenberg).
How does a father provide all that? Well, infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers are more securely attached and are therefore much more willing to explore their environment. In addition, fathers generally spend more of their one-on-one time with their infants and toddlers “in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior” (Rosenberg). This is actually much more significant than it might seem. These types of skills keep children from getting into trouble at home, at school, and in the neighborhood. Involved fathers’ children are much less likely to get into fights or participate in delinquent behavior.
Don’t discount the role that a father plays in a child’s life. Children need fathers, as role models, as playmates, as caregivers. Their presence in a child’s life or lack thereof will have lasting effects for generations to come. The key to being a positive influence is being involved.
Galovan, Adam M., Erin Kramer Holmes, David G. Schramm, and Thomas R. Lee. “Father Involvement, Father–Child Relationship Quality, and Satisfaction With Family Work: Actor and Partner Influences on Marital Quality.” Journal of Family Issues 35.13 (2013): 1846-867. SAGE. Web. 5 Jan. 2015. <jfi.sagepub.com>.
Rosenberg, Jeffrey, and W. Bradford Wilcox. “Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being.” Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Children’s Bureau , n.d. Web. 30 June 2012. <http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/chaptertwo.cfm>.