The power of fatherhood

By Tom Quiner

Dads, you can change the world.

You can make it better, a lot better. Or you can make it worse.

On this Father’s Day, I pay tribute to all the Dads, living or dead, who loved their kids and sacrificed on their behalf to make their lives better.

Involved fathers make such a difference.

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…?

  • Fathers’ interaction with babies (engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, emotional warmth, physical care) reduced their infants’ chances of experiencing cognitive delay.
  • 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.
  • Children whose fathers are involved in rearing them (“sensitive and responsive fathering”) fare better on cognitive tests and in language ability than those with less responsive or involved 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, and perhaps go to vocational school, or even to college.
  • A fathers’ involvement in children’s school activities protects at-risk children from failing or dropping out.
  • Positive father involvement decreased boys’ problem behaviors (especially boys with more challenging temperaments) and better mental health for girls.
  • Fathers who are more involved with their children tend to raise children who experience more success in their career.
  • Fathers being involved in their children’s lives protects against risk factors that pose harm for children (such as problematic behavior, maternal depression and family economic hardship).
  • Father involvement is associated with promoting children’s social and language skills.
  • Involved fathering is related to lower rates of child problem behaviors, including hyperactivity, as well as reduced teen violence, delinquency, and other problems with the law.
  • Father involvement is associated with positive child characteristics such as increased: empathy, self-esteem, self-control, feelings of ability to achieve, psychological well-being, social competence, life skills, and less sex-stereotyped beliefs.
  • Children in foster care who have involved fathers are more likely to be reunited with their families and experience shorter stays in foster homes.
  • 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 are more involved in the lives of their infants and more supportive to their wives.
  • Both men and women who remember having loving, supportive fathers had high life satisfaction and self-esteem.
  • Educational programs that successfully increased father involvement produced positive changes in children’s behavior.

(Facts gathered from: Bronte-Tinkew et al., 2008; Chang et al., 2008; Flouri, 2008; Lamb & Lewis, 2004; Lamb & Tamis-Lemonda, 2004; Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004; Sarkadi et al., 2008; study compiled by Kate Fogarty and Garret D. Evans, University of Florida IFAS Extension.)

Happy Father’s Day!