The Importance of Fathers
There are millions of children in the United States living away from their fathers. And while some argue that there is no evidence to support the importance of fathers, there have been past studies showing that children without a father figure are more likely to be economically disadvantaged, drop out of school, commit crimes or to behave antisocially, suffer from drug abuse, and have emotional problems.
What the Research Says
Research has shown that fathers appear to play a crucial role in 3 important areas of their children’s lives:
- Cognitive abilities
- General health and well-being
Children who have a father or a father figure who is actively involved in their lives do better in school, have lower levels of delinquency, and attain higher levels of education and economic self-sufficiency.Children who come from stable homes with involved fathers at very young ages have better emotional security, math, and verbal skills. One study found that highly engaged fathers were predictive of a higher IQ score when their premature infant reached age 3.
In support of the theory quality over quantity, one study in Sweden found that a father’s behavior had a significant impact on his child’s behavior. In this study, the less time fathers lived with their children, the more behavioral problems their children displayed. However, this was only true if the fathers engaged in low levels of antisocial behavior (illegal activities, irritable and aggressive behavior, and fiscal and emotional impulsivity and irresponsibility). Children whose fathers engaged in high levels of antisocial behavior had greater behavioral problems the more time they lived with their fathers.
Health and Well-Being
During the child's school-age years, fathers are important to both boys and girls in terms of sex-role identity, especially boys, who identify more with their fathers than their mothers. And although many children say they consider their fathers to be stricter than their mothers, they also appear to respond more readily to the system of rewards and punishments that fathers tend to use.