The Hidden Benefits of Being an Involved Father
Most people can agree that having an involved father has obvious benefits to children. Many of us have read newspapers or seen TV programs that talk about the clear benefits of fathers being involved in raising a child by providing love, support, and comfort. We can probably also agree that fathers are important because they help to teach children values and lessons in solving the problems they may face. Fathers also serve as role models in their childern's lives that affect how well they relate to peers and adults outside the home.
Before you think--"wait a minute, what about mothers?"--tell yourself that it's not a question of who is more important: mothers or fathers. The point is that having both parents involved in rearing their child has some obvious, and some maybe not-so-obvious, benefits for the child, the family, and for fathers themselves.
Benefits for Children
When we talk about the benefits of being an involved father, we most often focus on the benefits that children receive from such a relationship. It makes a lot of sense to focus on children. After all, being an involved father means being actively involved in nearly every aspect of your child's life (Marsiglio et al., 2000), from direct interaction (play) and responsibility for childcare to making oneself available to his child (Palkovitz, 2002).
Also, the benefits of having a father involved in raising his children are pretty clear. Researchers have been studying this issue for decades. For instance, did you know that ...?
- babies as young as three months old can tell the difference between their mother and father. They can tell by the way each speaks to them, holds them, and by their different smells.
- research has shown that children whose fathers are involved in rearing them score higher on cognitive tests (they seem smarter) than those with relatively uninvolved fathers.
- improved cognitive abilities are associated with higher educational achievement. In fact, fathers who are involved in their children's schools and academic achievement, regardless of their own educational level, are increasing the chances their child will graduate from high school, perhaps go to vocational school, or even to college.
- a father's involvement in children's school activities protects at-risk children from failing or dropping out
- research shows that fathers who are more involved with their children tend to raise children who experience more success in their career. Career success can lead to greater income and greater financial stability.
- involved fathering is related to lower rates of teen violence, delinquency, and other problems with the law.
- father involvement is associated with positive child characteristics such as empathy, self-esteem, self-control, psychological well-being, social competence, and life skills.
- children who grow up in homes with involved fathers are more likely to take an active and positive role in raising their own families. For example, fathers who recall a secure, loving relationship with both parents were more involved in the lives of their infants and more supportive to their wives. It is thought that having an involved father provides a role model for positive parenting, healthy caregiving, and a commitment to the family.
Reprinted with the permission of the University of Florida. © 2008 University of Florida.