Full disclosure – much of what follows has been blogged my me on numerous occasions. However, since Father’s Day is upon us I find it necessary and important to once again highlight the importance of a father beyond being a sperm provider.
I will start with a summary of the 10 facts of father engagement::
- Fathers and infants can be equally as attached as mothers and infants. When both parents are involved with the child, infants are attached to both parents from the beginning of life.
- Father involvement is related to positive child health outcomes in infants, such as improved weight gain in preterm infants and improved breastfeeding rates.
- Father involvement using authoritative parenting (loving and with clear boundaries and expectations) leads to better emotional, academic, social, and behavioral outcomes for children.
- Children who feel a closeness to their father are: twice as likely as those who do not to enter college or find stable employment after high school, 75% less likely to have a teen birth, 80% less likely to spend time in jail, and half as likely to experience multiple depression symptoms.
- Fathers occupy a critical role in child development. Father absence hinders development from early infancy through childhood and into adulthood. The psychological harm of father absence experienced during childhood persists throughout the life course.
- The quality of the father-child relationship matters more than the specific amount of hours spent together. Non-resident fathers who are involved with their children can have positive effects on children’s social and emotional well-being, as well as academic achievement and behavioral adjustment.
- High levels of father involvement are correlated with higher levels of sociability, confidence, and self-control in children. Children with involved fathers are less likely to act out in school or engage in risky behaviors in adolescence.
- Children with actively involved fathers are: 43% more likely to earn A’s in school and 33% less likely to repeat a grade than those without engaged dads.
- Father engagement reduces the frequency of behavioral problems in boys while also decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families. Father engagement reduces psychological problems and rates of depression in young women.
This one reminded me of the well documented story about teenage male elephants and the destruction they caused when separated from their families. South African authorities attempted to remove elephants from an overcrowded game reserve to a newly formed reserve. Mistakenly, they only moved adolescent elephants thereby removing them from their natural social networks. The result was that the male adolescents attacked and killed young rhinos and destroyed nearby farmland in the newly formed preserve. The female adolescents did not exhibit this behavior. The explanation for the disparity in gender behavior was that the males were experiencing premature testosterone surges that accounted for their delinquency. Several adult male elephants were then brought to the new reserve and their presence and intervention quickly calmed the adolescents and restored order. The takeaway was male adolescents, whether elephant or human, benefit from having an adult male in their lives. The adult male helps the adolescents better cope with the heightened aggression and risk taking that is characteristic of the adolescent male.
10. Overall, the impact that fathers and father figures can make is substantial. Just as there are many positive aspects to father involvement, the effects of father absence can be detrimental as well.
As more and more children are raised without fathers present, either by choice or circumstance, the loss of father engagement will further exacerbate the difficulties for children growing up without fathers. Somehow we need to get the message out to our teens and Millennials that as they grow into full adulthood that bringing babies into this world without a father present creates the potential for the negative effects of a lack of father engagement.