Fatherhood: The Underestimated Influence in Your Baby’s Life
The idea of this article didn’t just come to me because we’ve just celebrated Father’s Day. There are several things that prompted me to look into this. One was because of the effect of fathers on church attendance brought up in a recent sermon I listened to, and the other was because of a scene from the Disney classic, Bambi.
In the first case, it was pointed out that research had shown that if a father attends church regularly – regardless of the church-going habits of the mother, between 45 and 75% of their children will attend church either regularly or irregularly. By contrast, a mother who attends regularly and a father who does not go at all, only 1 child in 50 will attend regularly.
So what? Okay. There are probably a good percentage of those reading this article who could care less about church-going statistics. Obviously, these numbers would be important to churches and religious organizations who are looking in to church attendance factors. Still, the numbers of the involved fathers clearly show how much influence they have on their children’s behaviors.
That got me to wondering what else fathers have an influence on.
In the second case, I’m sure we all remember the scene where Bambi’s mother takes him to the meadow and after a while the bucks show up. And, as they’re prancing and leaping around, we see little Bambi imitating them, essentially, learning how to be a buck—things only a “father” deer can teach and show him.
In the last several decades, much societal emphasis has been in demeaning fathers and portraying fathers as part of the biological equation only and really not engaging in the needs and wants of their children, and not appearing to care whether they do or not. While there are certainly dads who fall into this category, perhaps many more fall into this category because we as a society have devalued the role of a father and shut dads out from being more involved.
More and more studies are beginning to show, however, that kids need their dads just as much as they need their mothers. We’re not talking about a sperm donor, but of a meaningful, engaged, involved father-son or father-daughter relationship. If a strong, positive father influence is enough to get kids to go to church, imagine what other things fathers can impact? Of course, the influence can go both ways. Let’s look at what some studies have said about how living without a father or a significant father figure can affect the lives of children.
- Approximately 24 million children (34 percent) do not live with their biological father. (Fatherhood.gov)
- Of the nearly 14,000 women in prison, over half of them grew up without a father.
- “Children in a two-parent household with a poor relationship with their father are 68 percent more likely to smoke, or use drugs compared to all teens in two-parent households.” (Brian Braiker)
- Childhood obesity rates are higher in homes where there is no father
- Kids who have no contact with their father (or significant father figure) are more likely to become high school drop outs.
- Children without a father in the home are five times more at risk of living in poverty. (Fatherhood.gov)
Kids Need Fathers Too
Like Bambi in the deer-prancing meadow scene, children learn from observing their fathers, or the father figures in their lives. Children with healthy and strong father relationships have:
1) Better psychological and emotional health. They are emotionally secure, confident and explore their surroundings. They have better social relations with peers. Good father relationships help an infant and toddler deal with separation anxiety. Furthermore, rough-housing and wrestling with dad, particularly for boys, teaches them how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions. (Childwelfare.gov)
2) Stronger mother relationships. When a mother feels affirmed and has a happy relationship with her husband is a better mother and, together, they can weather the terrible twos and become better teenage confidants.
3) Respect for mothers and female authority figures. Boys learned from their fathers and father figures what being a husband is about and, consequently, how to act like a father and a man. (Again, picture prancing male deer and Bambi imitating them.)
4) Understanding about how men should treat them, in the case of girls.
5) Increased intelligence scores and school performance. “[A] 2001 U.S. Department of Education study found that highly involved biological fathers and children who were 43 percent more likely than other children to earn mostly A’s and 33 percent less likely than other children to repeat a grade.” (Childwelfare.gov)
6) Better language and cognitive capacities
7) Better preparedness for school
“One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior…had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self-esteem.” (Childwelfare.gov)
Fathers play a great role in our society. We’ve gone through a generation or two where the value of fathers has been downplayed and, in some instances, eliminated. With more and more evidence coming to light about the importance of a healthy father relationship, we can’t ignore dads anymore. Interestingly, the studies don’t show any significant difference between biological father influences or adopted or father-figure influences.
One thing is certain, though—the world needs more fathers who are willing and wanting to be fathers and not just sit on the sidelines. There is more to fatherhood than “bringing home the bacon.”
So, come on, dads! Your children need you.
Darlene Oakley is a freelance writer for EmpowHER.com.
Be There, Be Yourself. Hartwell-Walker, Marie. Fathers for Good. Web. June 19, 2012.
The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children. Child Welfare Information Gateway. Web. June 19, 2012.
The Benefits of Being a More Involved Father. Braiker, Brian. iVillage.com. Web. June 19, 2012.
Dad Stats. National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse. Web. June 19, 2012.
Church attendance: Influence of men on church attendance. Wikipedia. Web. June 19, 2012.
Father’s Day for Dads Who’ve Lost A Child: This Day is Still Ours. Kluger, Barry.
Fatherless Father’s Day. Kelby, MC.
Daddy: Where have our Fathers gone? Miscortes.