On this Father’s Day we celebrate that fathers are critical to the foundation of every family. They are mentors and role models. They are teachers and coaches. They are responsible and committed. They provide nurturance, protection, and comforting. They are examples of success. Children who grow up with their fathers do far better - emotionally, physically and educationally. In every way that we can measure, children who grow up with their fathers do better than children who do not. This holds true even when differences of race, class and income are taken into account. The truth is that fathers are critical in shaping the competence and character of their children.
The irony of this Father’s Day is that 17.4 million (about 27%) of US children live in absent father homes . Fatherlessness is the engine that drives our most pressing social problems. Fatherlessness is the most important predictor of juvenile crime - a greater predictor than race or income. Fatherlessness also impacts newborn health. Father absence increases the risk of infant mortality. The mortality rate for infants within the first 28 days of life is four times higher for those with absent fathers than those with involved fathers. Paternal absence also impacts premature birth. Many studies over several decades continue to cross-validate that paternal uninvolvement negatively impacts newborn health and the health status of the mother.
Fatherlessness has approached a rough parity with fatherhood. The New Father is slowly emerging. He is nurturing. He changes diapers. He expresses his emotions. He shares equally in the responsibilities of domestic life. He takes his children to their pediatric appointments. He changes his child’s band-aid on his or her ‘ouchie’. He helps his children with their homework. He has ‘heart-to-heart’ talks with his children. He is a favorite of the media. Fatherhood is very slowly becoming a defining feature of American childhood. Our Country needs the Good Family Man; the father who puts his family first. The central challenge of this generation is to continue to support fatherhood. If we do not, we should not be surprised by the continuing decline of fatherhood in our society. Families need fathers. Support Fatherhood.
Till Next Time,
Social Distancing: The Perfect Time for Digital Outreach about the Importance of early paternal Involvement.
I’m writing this post under the unusual circumstances we all find ourselves plunged into. People across the Country, sick or not, are doing the same - in an effort to stem the tide of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Normal life is suspended. We don’t know what is coming. (This is actually always true, we’re just not usually as aware of it). But given the dualistic nature of our existence, much good can come of our current situation. We can all appreciate the extra time it provides to spend with our family and do extra hand-washing.
When fathers are actively involved in the lives of their children, the children thrive in their development and in school. In fact they thrive in every measurable way. So it should not come as a surprise that fathers have a central and unique role in the health outcomes of baby and mother when their involvement begins during pregnancy. Many studies continue to tell us that when dads are involved in the pregnancy, attend prenatal visits, and ultrasounds , help moms with household chores and provide financial support, the father factor carries a buffer against complications during the pregnancy and predicts a healthy birth outcome for the baby and the mother. By contrast infants with absent fathers are more likely to be born with low birthweight, Involved fathers during pregnancy may also protect the baby against neurodevelopometntal delays when medical risk factors are present. Regardless of race or ethnicity, the newborn deaths-rate of father-absent infants has been found to be nearly four times that of their counterparts with involved dads.
A father’s presence during the birth is a powerful predictor leading to a healthier baby and a healthier mom. In a study comparing father skin-to-skin care with conventional care during the first two hours after birth, newborn infants in the fathers skin-to skin group cried less and became drowsy sooner. Simple interventions such as bathing in the newborn period has been shown to have a long-lasting effect enhancing father involvement. Fathers can also play a critical role in supporting maternal breastfeeding. And conversely, if feeling excluded and competitive can undermine it. Many birthing hospitals now have programs designed for expectant fathers and offer resources for them as key partners in the start-up of the new family.
Fathers have been shown to be as nurturant and as competent and capable of reading their infant’s cues as are mothers. Father presence buffers against stressors. Paternity leave - especially longer leaves of several weeks the studies tell us, improves the outcome for marriage, encourages parent-child bonding, and the well-being of the family. National paid parental leave for fathers, as well as for mothers will provide a real advantage to working families. Empowering more dads with parental leave means they can achieve their professional goals and be supportive nurturing fathers and partners.
The fathers of our country are key to its survival. I don’t know about you but I’ve been very contemplative and reflective during these last trying weeks. The one thing this collective experience has provided for us all is a chance to realize what things are important. For me family and faith have become even more important. I also enjoy encouraging the ongoing renewal of fatherhood in our society.
Till next time,
Paid parental leave is most often framed as an issue that matters to working women. Parental leave is also critically important for fathers. Paternity leave and especially longer leaves of several weeks or months can promote parent-child bonding, improve outcomes for children and increase gender equity at home and at the workplace.
Longer paternity leaves are associated wth increased father engagement and bonding. Longer leaves mean more time to bond with his new child and more involvement in the care from the newborn period on. A father’s hands-on engagement can set a pattern that lasts long after the leave ends. One study of working dads in the U.S., those who took leaves of two weeks or greater, were more likely to be actively involved in their child’s care nine months after birth. This care included feeding, changing diapers, getting up in the night and taking the children to medical appointments.
There are several studies showing that increased paternal engagement leads to improved health and development for children. A young child’s earliest relationship with his parents impacts the developmental architecture of the developing brain. These relationships require care, consistency and above all, time. Better developmental outcomes means fewer behavioral problems and improved cognitive and mental health.
Fathers taking parental leave helps not just children, but mothers also. Paid paternity leave carries many benefits to the mother. A recent study from Sweden underscored that the father’s presence in the household following childbirth was associated with the reduction of stress and improved maternal mental and physical health. Studies continue to emerge showing that paternity leave benefits the relationships between parents and contributes to reducing the risk factors associated with divorce.
Fathers still face economic and social barriers that keep them from taking longer paternity leaves or taking them at all. In the United States where parental leaves are rare, cultural biases along with gaps in policy make fathers even less able to access time away from work with their children. An early study from 2004 suggests that even when fathers do gain access to parental leave they may be reluctant to take it. Some studies continue to show that taking paternity leave can damage a man’s professional reputation and affect his future earning potential.
Public policies that promote time for parents to care for and bond with their newborns and very young children without jeopardizing the ability to pay for basic necessities is sorely needed. National paid Family (and Paternity) leave will benefit the parents, their children, the entire family and the future of our country.