It’s commonly observed that Father’s Day celebrations tend to be quieter and simpler than for Mother’s Day. At times, fathers are even thought of as being helpful, but not critically necessary.
On the contrary, fathers should be given more recognition, at least for the following reasons:
- The cost of father absence to the community is estimated to be over AUD$12 billion per year in Australia, while the U.S. government spent at least US$99.8 billion providing assistance to father-absent families in 2006.
- Close to 90 studies published in the last decade highlight the importance of father involvement, based on the 2013 review by The Fathering Project at the University of Western Australia.
- In a review of 36 studies from around the world (beyond the Western context), it has been concluded that a father’s love is at least as important, if not more, to youngsters as their mother’s.
Taken together, recent research about fatherhood has provided new insights about the critical and distinctive roles played by fathers, and the significant long-term impact they have on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical well-being of children.
Research suggests that fathers’ impact on kids’ behaviour begins as early as infancy. Mothers tend to keep their babies calm, gazing at them, babbling together and affectionately touching them. Fathers tend to get the babies more excited and laughing, often playing physical games that arouse or startle them. Fathers contribute most to providing play exploration which helps to develop emotional and behavioural self-regulation, while mothers tend to be the providers of comfort in times of distress.
Father involvement has been linked to fewer behavioural problems among school-age children, less delinquency among teenage boys and fewer psychological problems in young women.
Fathers play an integral role in children’s socialization. The time that teenagers spent with fathers in the presence of others was linked to increased social competence; the same effect was not observed with mothers. Paternal support tends to be associated with social competence in the school setting while maternal support is associated with academic competence.
Fathers also make unique contributions to teen development. From measures of 60 potential links between parental factors and teen outcomes in a longitudinal study, 20% were unique to fathers. Fathers’ influence on alcohol and illicit drug use in youths may be stronger than that of mothers. Father absence is a critical contributor to adolescent sexual risk behaviour in both sons and daughters. A study of Thai youth found that youth who have a close relationship with their father are less likely to initiate premarital sex during adolescence.
In summary, there is compelling evidence that fathers are irreplaceable and their distinctive parenting style complements mothers in significant ways for the healthy development of children.
What fathers do with their children on a day-to-day basis makes a great difference not only to their children, but also to society and for the generations to follow. This Father’s Day, let’s make special effort to affirm and honour fathers among our midst!
Dads for Life. (n.d.) Where Do Fathers Stand in Shaping Healthy Teen Sexuality. Retrieved from http://pruitttad461.typepad.com/blog/2012/02/where-do-fathers-stand-in-shaping-healthy-teen-sexuality.html
Macrae, F. (2012, 13 June). How Absence of a Loving Father Can Wreck a Child’s Life: New Study Shows Relationship with Both Parents Is Crucial. Daily Mail. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2158671/Love-father-contributes-childs-development-mother-study-claims.html
Mitchell, P.J., (2013, August 21). The Unique Benefits of Fatherhood. [A review of Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Perspectives] eReview Vol. 13, No. 16. Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Retrieved from http://www.imfcanada.org/issues/unique-benefits-fatherhood
Nock, S.L. & Einolf, C.J. (2008). The One Hundred Billion Dollar Man: The Annual Public Costs of Father Absence. National Fatherhood Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.ct.gov/dcf/lib/dcf/fatherhood/pdf/fatherabsencecost.pdf
Shellenbarger, S.(2011, June 14). The Secret of Dads’ Success: How Fathers’ Teasing, Tickling, Wrestling Teach Kids to Whine Less and Be More Independent. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved fromhttp://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304665904576383464255980534?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304665904576383464255980534.html
The Fathering Project (n.d.). About the Fathering Project. Retrieved from http://thefatheringproject.org/about-the-fathering-project
Wood, L. & Lambin, E. (2013). How Fathers and Father Figures Can Shape Child Health and Wellbeing. The University of Western Australia. Retrieved fromhttp://thefatheringproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/How-fathers-and-father-figures-can-shape-child-health-and-wellbeing-Wood-Lambin-UWA-2013.pdf