I specialize in working with mothers. I also happen to be a mother. But I’ve always held a deep respect for fathers. I am, of course, the daughter of a father, the daughter-in-law of a father-in-law (who died three years ago and I deeply loved), and the wife of a father—the father of my children. I’ve also worked with countless fathers—fathers supporting mothers, fathers doing it on their own, fathers who want the best for their children, who work tirelessly for their families, who nurture and love and inspire.
Fathers Are Important
We all know that kids need their dads—that we don’t want a society of fatherless children, that we don’t want kids to grow up feeling unloved, abandoned, and unwanted. But, most of us probably do not realize just how important a loving father is to a child’s development, choices, and overall life experience. Studies show that, without a father, children are:
- 5 times more likely to be poor
- At an increased risk for sexual abuse[i]
- 2 to 3 times more likely to use drugs
- Twice as likely to drop out of school
- 2 to 3 times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems
- More than twice as likely to be incarcerated[ii][iii]
Statistics like these remind us that fathers who are present and love their children make a noticeable difference in a child’s life.
10 Research-Based Ways Dads Impact Kids for the Better
We need strong fathers. And strong fathers deserve our attention, encouragement, and praise. The following ten facts will show you just what I mean. According to research:
1) A loving father is the best predictor of the level of compassion a child will develop.
It feels counterintuitive because mothers tend to teach compassion more directly than fathers. But, in fact, it’s dad who makes the difference. Kids who interact regularly with a loving father—a father who may seem “tough” on the outside yet is able to soften and show love and compassion to the child—show greater levels of compassion than children without a father.
2) Having a stable father is associated with greater confidence in children.
Mothers and fathers actually compliment each other in the characteristics they teach their children. Fathers are more likely to let children branch out on their own, while mothers are the stable place for children. Fathers encourage exploration of the world, trying new things, and “getting out there,” all of which lead to greater confidence in their children. It has been said “A mother gives her child roots; a father gives his child wings.”
3) Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes.
Kids with involved, nurturing fathers show better cognitive and linguistic skills and tend to have higher IQ’s too. They also seem to be more able to manage the stress of education than kids without a father.
Children with an involved father have half the rates of depression than those with no father. They’re more likely to feel secure exploring their surroundings, get in less trouble overall, and seem to be more socially skilled and comfortable.
5) A loving father is associated with lower levels of violence and greater respect for women, in boys.
Boys without a loving male role model show increasing levels of violence and tend to act with greater hostility toward females.
6) A loving father is associated with self-worth and virtue that leads to less sexualization of young girls.
Girls without a non-sexual male in the home tend toward early sexualization and promiscuity. Fathers who show true love to their daughters help protect them from seeking approval and love in sexual ways. In fact, kids with a loving father have 75% lower rates of teen pregnancy than those without.
7) Fathers are associated with increased relationship success levels in children as they mature into adulthood.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether or not the child’s mother and father are together, children who have invested fathers tend to have higher success rates in their own relationships as adults.
8) One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is the quality of their relationship with the child’s mother.
Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have: a) boys who understand how to treat women and are less likely to act aggressively toward females, and b) girls who see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.
9) Fathers are associated with greater success in children.
One study that spanned four decades found that, dads who developed an emotionally close relationship and encouraged their kids to excel had daughters who were more successful in college/careers and sons who achieved greater career status later in life.
10) Kids need healthy interaction with their fathers, and Mothers tend to determine how much interaction fathers have.
Mothers are the gatekeepers to how much interaction a father may have with his children. This means we mothers need to be aware of all incredible benefits of fathers and let them be fathers! It can be tough as a mother to watch dad let your little girl go out with tangled hair and mismatched clothes, to let your little boy ride his bigwheel down a steep incline and spin in a circle at the bottom or dangle precariously from the top of the slide before speeding down (all of which my husband has done on numerous occasions). But I can tell you moms from experience: When you stand back and let dads “do their thing” you can see your children learn in a whole new way, and you just might feel in your heart how good it is for them to be pushed in a way only a father can do.
In Praise of Fathers
The point is: We need wonderful fathers. And there are many wonderful fathers out there. There are fathers who, at this moment, are rocking a sick child, reading, playing, and teaching them. There are fathers who are doing homework, exercising patience, and coming home a little early just to be there. There are fathers wrestling, disciplining, and doing yardwork with their children.
We need all of these fathers. Our children need them. We mothers need them. And the men who are stepping up as fathers need their fathering role too. For, fatherhood doesn’t just create better children—it creates better men.
Thank you, Fathers. For everything you do. You truly deserve praise for who you are and what you do for our children, for we women, and for the world. Happy Father’s Day!
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://www.drchristinahibbert.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/square-head-shot1.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Clinical Psychologist, Mom of 6, Postpartum Couples DVD Producer, Non-Profit Founder, and expert on Parenting, Women’s Emotions, Pregnancy & Postpartum, and Grief & Loss, Dr. Christina Hibbert loves songwriting, learning, and teaching what she learns. She loves great fathers, especially her husband, OJ, whom she considers to be one of the greatest fathers of all.[/author_info] [/author]
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[i] Anderson, Lili, Ph.D. & Christian, Ph.D. Understanding the Impact of Gender Differences in Parenting. AMCAP Conference Address, October 1, 2010.