On this Father’s Day in the United States according to the US Census Bureau, 19.7 million children, more than 1 in 4, will go to sleep tonight in homes in which their fathers do not live. Male absence from family life is a major social consequence of our era. Never before have so many children grown up without a father’s presence and provision.
Fatherhood and manhood continue to be under siege in our society. Fathers are often viewed as superfluous to family life. Our society is not only losing fathers, our society is facing a cultural loss which has been affecting every home without a father. Public scrutiny has been on the roles of women and the plight of children as if the male role was somehow irrelevant.
Involved fathers are essential and play a central role in the family and in the development of healthy happy children. Research findings are very clear. Children who grow up with their fathers do far better emotionally, educationally and physically. And in every way that is measurable, than children who do not . The truth is that fathers are central in shaping the moral character and competencies of their children. And to the extent that fathers are positively involved, the children’s and the mothers’ lives are better.
Fathers bring a unique contribution to parenting. Studies continue to show that fathers who are involved in the lives of their children positively impact their social development. The children of affectionate and supportive fathers have higher self esteem, better self-image and are better able to handle stress. A father’s relationship with his children shapes their relationships with others. This father effect begins during infancy. Children whose dad has regularly changed their diapers, burped them and rocked them to sleep have a special reserve of strength in dealing with stress and the frustrations of everyday life. They are less rigid in their gender stereotyping of their peers , more empathetic in their response to other children and to society in general. All of these positive effects are even stronger and endure longer when they are complemented by a mother’s support of her partner’s active contribution of her child’s emotional, social and intellectual development.
In understanding the fruits of early father presence and engagement and the effect that men have on child development, it is not how the father feels about it, but how well his child does as a result of it. So whether your are a single-father, a stay-at-home dad, a step-father, adoptive father or the primary family provider, you matter. Fathers, you are are essential.
The National Fatherhood Initiative encourages responsible father involvement in families as protector, nurturer and comforter. Father as nurturer is the foundation of all the ways in which a dad serves as a role model. Paternal nurturing during early infancy builds trust and trust forms the basis of all subsequent relationships.
‘Comforter’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘to give their strength’ if which fathers are to be models of strength they also need to model comfort. This is important for sons and daughters. Sons need to grow up learning to be sensitive to their children’s needs and to balance assertiveness with tenderness. Daughters also relate to these qualities in their fathers and they are likely to seek out these qualities in their own Partners.
Fathers touching, holding, talking and gazing at their infant following birth and during infancy leads to affectionate behavior during childhood and adolescence. From a father’s nurturing example your children learn to connect with people with their eyes, hands and heart. No matter what occupation a child goes into, the ability to connect with people is a valuable asset.
Nurturing, comforting and protecting from the newborn period on, forms the basis of a child’s
emotional experience. The Professional journals and the internet are now filled with articles reporting results confirming the importance of the father’s nurturing presence. Involved responsible fathers are critical in the development of healthy, happy children.
The pediatric and social science research continue to confirm that responsible father involvement ‘being there’ from birth onward for caretaking, comforting and play is central to the development of happy healthy children. Absent father homes are a national crisis which number 25 million. Social science research continues to confirm that when fathers are not active participants in the family, children are at least twice as likely to drop out of school, live in poverty, end up in prison, use drugs and have health and behavioral problems. One out of three children in America and seven out of ten African American children live in fatherless homes. In 1990 the federal government launched a program which encourages fatherhood; father involvement in families which is responsible, nurturant, comforting and protective. The National Fatherhood Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing fatherhood in America and has thousands of chapters throughout the country. They offer fatherhood skill-building resources. However, more private and public funding that strengthens proactive work that connects fathers to their children is urgently needed.
Many years of research continue to provide evidence that fathers who give their children quality time; are warm and engaged, and listen to their children will have happy healthy children. School-aged children whose fathers were engaged in their caregiving as infants, show a positive self-image, are better learners and have a higher degree of empathy for others. Moms also play a vital role in helping the fathers of their children be good fathers. Research shows that when mothers are supportive, dads are more likely to be involved. Today’s generation of children need involved responsible fathers in their lives, from birth onward. The benefits are positive and far reaching.