Benefits of Involving Fathers in Schools and Schooling
We believe there are several reasons for attempting to increase and support the involvement of fathers in schools and schooling and many means or strategies for doing so. While direct involvement in the school is highly desirable, fathers can also be involved in the schooling of their children in other ways, such as encouraging academic achievement, engraining a strong work ethic, supervising home work, and offering intellectual and cultural activities and experiences. Included among the reasons and means are:
- Fathers deserve, and some need, involvement support and services. Many men are interested in and open to this type of involvement, and others can be. The new father image has created a cultural expectation for more involvement in parenting, schooling, and schools. This expectation requires buttressing with new strategies by schools and other institutions to invite and engage fathers (Cook, 2004; Gadsden & Ray, 2002; Levine, 2004; Shedlin, 2004). An example would be the security dads at Arlington High in Indianapolis. Fathers, instead of security guards, ride buses on field trips and to sporting events (Louv, 1994).
- There are many positive effects on children related to father involvement. Roberts (1996), Lamb (2004), and Tamis-LeMonda and Cabrera (2002) among others reviewed the many strengths that fathers confer on children's development and how these differ from the important contributions of mothers. Fathers can assist in a variety of ways with their school-age children's intellectual and social development. Empathy development is one area. Children who have fathers spending time doing routine child care at least twice weekly are more likely to grow up to be compassionate. Fathers also play an important role in the development of prosocial behavior, especially for boys (Dudley & Stone, 2001). A study among Ojibwa families in Michigan showed that children, boys especially, had higher academic achievement when their fathers spend a greater amount of time as their primary caregiver (Williams, Radin, & Coggins, 1996). Other research indicates the important role fathers play in their children's academic success and how early involvement has longlasting effects (Gadsden & Ray, 2002; Lopez, 2001). Examples include the development of a strong work ethic, the importance of money and its association with education and good jobs, intellectual skills, preparedness for school, mathematics readiness, engagement with books, early learning (especially in low-income families), literacy development, academic competency, and boys' mastery motivation.
Fathers can send both subtle and more direct messages to their children about the value of literacy, schooling, and knowledge acquisition. Fathers are generally less engaged than mothers with their children's school, and fathers with less than a high school education are less likely to be involved than fathers with higher levels of education. Fathers from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds are less likely than others to be involved with their children's schooling. They might not want to be involved or simply because have no experience or understanding of how they can help or be involved. Low-income fathers often have high hopes for their children and want help in ensuring that the children will become "someone" with high achievement. Even when fathers have low academic achievement, their involvement in the schools of their children is related to higher academic achievement for their children. Ethnic minority fathers might be less engaged with school in terms of visiting the school or belonging to the PTA, but they nonetheless can encourage and assist their children in other ways. Nonresident fathers are less involved than fathers who reside with their children, but involvement by nonresident fathers is not trivial. Fathers of all types can encourage early literacy and phonemic awareness through reading to their children, telling stories and nursery rhymes, and singing songs and reciting poetry. A father can also explain what he is doing while performing home-related chores and ask his young children to predict what he is going to do next. These are just a few examples; fathers can encourage and support intellectual development and academic achievement in a multitude of ways. It can be concluded from a variety of research that children with a positive father influence benefit, being better able to deal with the many challenges presented by schools, peers, and other adults (Brotherson et al., 2005; Dudley & Stone, 2001).
- Families benefit by increased participation of fathers in their children's schooling. Such attention and interest can strengthen and reinforce family interactions and ties in many important areas, including marriage and transgenerational relationships. A greater involvement by fathers also reinforces the importance placed on education by the family. (Brotherson et al., 2005; Doherty et al., 1998; Eggebeen & Knoester, 2001; Gottman, 1998; Lamb, 2004; Marsiglio et al., 2000; Parke, 2004).
- Schools benefit from more father involvement. This involvement enriches the resources to draw on. That is, fathers' knowledge and skills can be tapped. Teachers' reports of children having few problems at school, such as poor attendance or failing a grade, are associated with children's reports of positive paternal behavior (Marsiglio et al., 2000).
- Increased involvement in schools by fathers would also have positive influences on society. The style of male parenting in U.S. culture offers a number of important strengths that support school success. These include encouragement to be independent, fostering of competition that raises levels of achievement, and high expectations that fathers often hold for their children that fosters competence. Social life can be more stable, with less violence, addictions, crime, and other pathologies. A more informed and involved citizen strengthens society. Father involvement can also strengthen society through strengthening the labor force and helping the economy remain productive and growing (Briar-Lawson, Lawson, Hennon, & Jones, 2001; Hennon, in press; Hennon, Jones, Hooper-Briar, & Kopcanova, 1996).
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