Importance of Father Involvement in Children
An extensive amount of research has emphasized the pivotal role that mothers play in the lives of childhood development. Many studies highlight the valuable influence that mothers have on the cognitive, emotional and social development of the child. However, until recent years, there has been little research that highlights the benefits of father involvement on the well-being of the child. There has been an increasing body of research that emphasizes the differential outcomes between children that actively engage with fathers versus those that do not. According to a study published in Acta Pediatrica, active involvement of fathers has decreased oppositional behavioral, reduced psychological problems and enhances cognitive development. Additionally, active engagement of fathers can improve the overall efficacy of the family system. Consistent engagement of fathers reduces the responsibility and workload of mothers and decreases the likelihood of mothers burning out. When mothers burn out there is an increased risk of dysfunctional interactions with the family. These effects include tension, outburst of anger and unintended neglect. Unfortunately, mothers on average spend more time engaging with children than the fathers. Additionally, if parents are at work, often nannies end up spending a significant amount of time with children. Nannies serve as a buffer in the family unit and provide support during times parents are not present. Unfortunately, male nannies are less likely to be hired and are commonly discriminated against in the “nanny sector”. This is largely due to the underestimated value of the role that males and father figures play in the lives of children. Father’s and male figures play a crucial role in facilitating emotional and psychological well-being in children. In this article we will highlight some of the most valuable contributions fathers and male figures can make in children.
Historically, fathers have maintained the impression of the dominant figure in the home. Additionally, they have been viewed as the firm figure that maintains the rules. Although, women actively take on a dominant parental role in the family dynamic, studies have shown the mere presence of fathers in the home can reduce the frequency of defiant behavior. At various stages in development, it is typical for children to test the limits and boundaries of their parents. At each stage defiance can come in different forms ranging from refusal to do school work to staying out after curfew. Although “children will be children”, it is essential that children are provided with flexible boundaries and firm expectations to safely navigate these phases of their lives. Father’s can help play an important role in safeguarding children through those phases of “testing the limits”.
Growing up in a competitive culture can be difficult for children. Many children lack motivation and confidence in their abilities at each stage of their development. Girls typically struggle with self-esteem issues more than boys. Several studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents. Fathers typically take on a coaching and solution-focused approach to helping their children build confidence and attain their personal goals. During early childhood through late adolescence, children are faced with more competitive situations through sports, arts, and education. These experiences may have a negative impact on a child’s self-esteem. Fathers play an important role in encouraging and motivating children to try their best and continue to strive for their goals.
Research has shown that father involvement is linked to better psychological adjustment. There is evidence that active and regular engagement of fathers reduced psychological problems in young women. Girls typically experience challenges with mental health at an earlier age. These mental health issues include; depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Although the experiences of mental health challenges are inevitable for some children, father involvement can provide children with reassurance and comfort throughout the process. Additionally, challenges with mental health can be debilitating and hinder functioning in school and extracurricular activities. Active involvement of fathers can help children maintain optimal functioning through challenges with mental health.
Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta paediatrica, 97(2), 153-158.