Tag

fathers

Browsing

Children who have an engaged father are 43% more likely to earn A’s in school and 33% less likely to repeat a grade.

In a series of studies in the 1980s on the effects of paternal involvement on child development, researchers discovered that children with highly involved fathers expressed increased cognitive competence, more internal locus of control, increased empathy and fewer sex-stereotyped beliefs.

These studies found that having two highly involved parents increases cognitive competence due to their interaction with different behavioural styles. Paternal involvement allows both parents to pursue rewarding and fulfilling personal interests and have a close relationship with their children, thus creating a family context in which both parents are satisfied.

Also, parents who adopt fewer sex-stereotyped roles result in their children having fewer sex-stereotyped attitudes – as they do not place an expectation on each gender.

Traditionally, the father has been regarded as the breadwinner and secondary parent within the family. Today, the role of the father in the upbringing of their children is more recognised and appreciated. Fathers play a significantly different role to mothers, as they offer new techniques and values, providing a male perspective and contributing to childhood experiences.

What is An Engaged Father?

An engaged and involved father is present in his child’s life, demonstrated through meaningful interction and spending quality time together, such as attending sports events or helping out with homework. This engagement has also been found to improve the psychological wellbeing of fathers, through a sense of generativity

Involvement can be measured by:

  1. Time spent with the child
  2. Warmth
  3. Monitoring and control (rules about activities, food, homework)
  4. Responsibility (tasks including changing nappies, buying clothes, disciplining children, playing)

A secure, supportive and sensitive relationship between an engaged parent and their child has benefits for all members of the family.

The Direct and Indirect Effect of the Father

Direct

Fathers have a direct effect on their children through the behaviour, attitudes and messages that they exhibit.

Fathers tend to spend less time with their children (due to work commitments, etc.) and are not as familiar with the language competencies of their children. Therefore, they are more likely to challenge their child’s pragmatic and linguistic abilities, by using more complex forms of speech. 

Indirect 

Fathers also have an indirect effect on their children in the following ways:

  • Financial support – Financial contributions to the family have been found to improve the psychological well-being of fathers, including improved self-esteem and self-efficacy with increase financial contributions. 
  • Emotional support – Providing support to the mother, who is also involved in the care of the children, can improve the quality of the relationship between mother and child.
  • Marital conflict – An unsupportive parental relationship can be damaging for children exposed to physical or emotional conflict.
  • Housework – Participating in housework eases the mother’s workload and demonstrates behaviour that can be emulated by children.

Dads and daughters

Daughters will model their future relationships based upon their dad’s character and their relationship with him. 

The father-daughter relationship will influence the expectations she places on men – the daughter will seek the same qualities from a man as her father exhibited.

Absent fathers have a negative impact on their daughters, affecting her ability to trust, appreciate and relate to men.

Daughters from father-absent homes are also prone to being either reluctant or sexually aggressive towards men due to their inability to form a meaningful relationship with their father.

Further, a lack of security and attention from the father negatively influences the daughter’s future sexual activity in the following ways, as she will:

  • Take more sexual risks
  • Participate in unrestricted sexual behaviour
  • Be four times more likely to fall pregnant as a teen
  • Partake in casual unprotected sex
  • Have riskier casual flings

There is some evidence on the effect of paternal nurturance on the daughter’s intellectual growth. It appears that strictness and emotional distance between father and daughter stimulates intellectual functioning. Moreover, it is proven that daughters raised by fathers who are challenging and have abrasive interaction are more independent and intrinsically motivated. These characteristics arise from fathers who are firm and demand mature behaviour yet reward independence and achievement.

A 1997 study found that daughters from father-absent homes either under- or over-achieved at college. The tendency to attain a high level of education was part of an effort to receive acceptance from their fathers, whereas the difficulties faced by underachievers were intensified by seperation anxiety, denial, feelings of loss and perceived vulnerability issues.

Dads and sons

The bond between father and son tends to be stronger than that with daughters because sons identify with and model their behaviour based on their father.

Contact between father and son stimulates intellectual development and cognitive growth in children.

A Journal of Genetic Psychology study on the impact of fathers on the social competence of their 5-month-old son found that they were:

  • Friendlier to strangers
  • Vocalised more
  • Show a greater readiness to be picked up
  • Enjoyed play more

Another study from the Journal of Social Issues on the effect of a high degree of paternal involvement on boys found that they:

  • Display fewer behavioural problems
  • Are better socially adjusted
  • Have stronger peer relationships
  • Have a higher degree of self-esteem
  • Are more mature and independent
But why is this the case?

The preference for a son exists before birth, with 3-4 times as many men preferring sons to daughters. This preference is evident in the early years – fathers more frequently communicate with and respond to their son’s vocalisations, play with their newborn sons for longer than their daughters, and are more willing to persist with overcoming challenging behaviour in sons than with daughters.

The reason for this could be that fathers see themselves in their sons and identify with them – viewing their achievements and failures as their own.

So how can I be a good dad?

From conception, fathers need to be making healthy decisions. The negative health outcomes of babies are often blamed on the mother. But the environmental exposure of the father also needs to be considered.

Habits such as binge drinking, poor dietary choices and stress can all have adverse effects on a baby’s health.

Throughout pregnancy, being a supportive and coaching partner helps to develop a bond at an early stage. Although infants may never remember interaction at such an early age, playtime with the child will strengthen that bond.

The difference between mothers and fathers

The difference in parenting style between mothers and fathers is evident in the different interaction style between parent and child.

Fathers are more physical in their interactions with children, as they tend to play rougher and engage in more exciting activities. Conversely, mothers are more verbal in their interactions and have a slow-paced parenting style. The approach from each parent complements and contrasts the other, meaning the child benefits from the diversity.

Other ways in which mothers and fathers differ include:

  • Fathers emphasise conceptual communication, which assists children in expanding their vocabulary and intellectual capacities.
  • Mothers express more sympathy and compassion towards their children, providing constant care to deal with their children’s needs.
  • Fathers tend to encourage risk-taking from their children and provide a broader range of experiences, whereas mothers have a higher focus on their child’s safety and wellbeing.
  • The strength, size and aggressive presence of fathers enable them to protect their children from negative influences and peers. This confrontational quality leads fathers to enforce discipline and encourage positive behaviour.

Warmth, nurturance and closeness are associated with positive outcomes in child development. The behaviour patterns acquired in childhood are caused by observing patterns demonstrated in parents and adopting similar behaviour. Fathers are crucial to the positive growth and development of children, and we should welcome the input and contribution that fathers make.

Is being a mum the hardest job in the world? Stay-at-home dads are starting to say no!

The stay-at-home dads are rising: statistics from the census data show a 38 per cent increase in the number of full-time fathers between 2006 and 2018, increasing from 57 000 to 80 000. This now accounts for 4.6% of couple families with children.

Institute Director Anne Hollonds tells the ABC, These stay-at-home fathers are a diverse group including dads with ill-health, a disability or who are out of work, as well as those choosing to stay home to care for children.” She adds, “Compared to mothers at home, stay-at-home dads tend to be older, with older children.”

But are these numbers enough to change traditional family roles?

Compared to the 80 000 unconventional fathers, there are still 298 900 stay-at-home mothers. Things are changing – but only at a snail’s pace.

Dr Jennifer Baxter, a senior research fellow at the Institute, notes that, “We still do have very strong gender stereotypes around caring that no doubt do make it difficult for some dads.” When considering the, “enjoyment and status and stimulation from work,” both women and males receive, she continues, “…we don’t necessarily expect to see massive increases in dads taking a really long time out of work to care for children.”

The stereotype of men being the main breadwinners is accompanied by financial obstacles such as the 23 per cent gender pay gap, as well as an increase in families where both parents work. 

Many just aren’t in a position to change the status quo.

Professor Rae Cooper, co-director of the Women, Work and Leadership Research Group, acknowledges in the same interview that, …unfortunately, things are still moving very, very slowly and are not catching up with our attitudes and our hopes and dreams about what we can access at work.”

Dr Baxter turns to the promotion of employment policies for long-term change. She explains these could reduce working hours for fathers and provide greater flexibility. Optimistically, these could one day see a shared role in caregiving and the true rise of the stay-at-home dads.

Did you know that parents have more of an influence on their children than we probably realise. From reading bedtime stories from a young age to sitting down to eat a family meal together it can further children’s development immensely.

It might be a scary thought for parents (including me) but there is a mountain of evidence indicating what parents do is the single biggest determinant of healthy child development and wellbeing. In a recent speech, Dr Lance Emerson, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Youth Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), suggested parenting was such a significant public health issue that it was the “modern day equivalent to safe drinking water.

The good news is that the evidence shows that parents can make a big difference through some simple things. Firstly, reading to children from a very early age is positively linked to future literacy and attachment. Just talking to your children is a critical part of developing their vocabulary. Long before they can talk children are learning words, the more words they hear the more they learn.

“No matter how wealthy the family background, children would still struggle if they did not get the basic positive home environment.”

Now you might think that is all very obvious and I must be talking about disadvantaged families. The facts are that whilst there is less reading and conversation in disadvantaged families, in our most advantaged families 15-20 per cent of children are not read to regularly.

Other evidence shows that simply having shared family mealtimes is linked to better school outcomes, better social skills and having more school motivation in young people.

Even better news was found in a long term study in the United Kingdom. The Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) study has been tracking large numbers of children since 1997. The research explored the sorts of environments that families provided by looking at things such as reading, songs, nursery rhymes, painting, drawing, teaching numbers, going to libraries and making play opportunities with other children. The results were clear. The amount of these activities present in the child’s home environment was the most significant factor in longer term outcomes for children. Whilst high quality early childhood care and education and high quality school helped children catch up, what happened at home was the biggest predictor of long term school performance.

“What parents do is more important than who they are.”

The really big finding was that these types of family behaviours could significantly make a difference even if children were economically disadvantaged. As the EPPE said ‘what parents do is more important than who they are”. The flipside was more sobering. No matter how wealthy the family background, children would still struggle if they did not get the basic positive home environment. The simple fact was that the sorts of positive things that parents did were not dependent on money or a parent’s level of education. They were about attitude and spending time with children.

I know we’ve all got a million other things to do and things to worry about but next time you make a choice about spending time with your children, about eating meals in front of the TV, about how long you really need to stay in the office (note to fathers in particular) try and remember that parents do matter.