Let’s hear it for fathers!

The unique contributions that fathers make to the family can have significant impact on young children.

Fathers impact the lives of their children.
Fathers impact the lives of their children.

As Father’s Day approaches, let’s take a few minutes to think about how fathers impact the lives of their young children. Of course, everyone has a mother and a father; that is a biological imperative. We also know that children whose fathers are involved in their lives are more likely to have stable financial support. But according to Michigan State University Extension, involved fathers also contribute to their child’s well-being in many other ways, just like mothers do.

How fathers interact with children is different than how mothers interact, but their interactions have many similarities. According to popular myth, fathers are less involved with their young children. Research now shows that, in fact, today’s fathers are not aloof but supportive, just like mothers. They are responsive to their children and their supportiveness helps children gain important emotional regulation skills. They also work to expand the child’s knowledge and experience, which help children develop cognitive and problem-solving skills. However, father’s physical interactions are different than mother’s typical interactions. Fathers engage in more “rough-play,” contributing to their child’s physical development. In all domains of development, dad’s involvement with children means better outcomes for their children.

Like mother’s interactions, the quality of interactions is more important than quantity. “Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms," said researcher Laura Padilla-Walker.

A recent survey of parents by the U.S. government shows many positive outcomes for children who have actively involved fathers. Their children:

  • Develop better problem-solving skills
  • Keep on trying when faced with a new challenge and cope better with everyday frustrations
  • Feel secure enough to actively explore the world around them
  • Have greater tolerance for stress and are better able to wait their turn for teachers’ and parents’ attention
  • Develop greater confidence in their own abilities and thoughts
  • Have a better chance to enter college or find stable employment after high school
  • Are less likely to have a teen birth, spend time in jail or experience depression

This Father’s Day, while you are expressing the love and devotion you feel for your father, thank him for the many benefits you have received because of him. And, if you share a parental role with a father, let him know that being involved is vitally important to your children.

Find more articles about how fathers impact the lives of young children though MSU Extension’s page.

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