The importance of a father’s role in the life of a child

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A father’s love and acceptance is just as important to a child as a mother’s, suggests a recent review published in the journal Pediatrics, entitled Fathers’ Roles In The Care And Development Of Their Children.

In fact, in today’s modern times, parenting roles have become much more flexible. This is because many couples share equal responsibilities when it comes to raising children. It’s also not uncommon for mothers to be the primary breadwinners. But the good news is, fathers are more than equipped to take the lead at home, too.

Studies have found that soon after childbirth, fathers experience a similar hormonal boost of oxytocin (the love and bonding hormone) when caring for their children. And when fathers become the main caregivers, their brains adapt, and they can love and nurture their children in a similar way to mothers.

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A father’s involvement is key to a child’s wellbeing

Whether a child is raised in a single parent or co-parent household, researchers have noted that the love or rejection of a mother or father figure in a child’s life affects them equally from an emotional, mental and behavioural point of view. Regardless of where the father lives, it’s his involvement and interest in his child’s life that counts.

In the study, Fathers’ Roles In The Care And Development Of Their Children, researchers note that father involvement in a child’s early years is linked to advanced language skills. “Mothers tailor word choice to the child’s known vocabulary, whereas fathers are more likely to introduce new words,” explains study co-author, Michael Yogman.

And in another study, researchers found that when fathers were more involved in caring, playing and communicating with their children from infancy, the children experienced less behavioural, emotional and mental problems such as anxiety and depression later.

What fathers (or partners) bring to the table

While a child’s primary caregiver plays a critical role in her upbringing, as well as feelings of safety and stability, “Partners play an equally important role in a child’s life because they bring balance and new perspectives,” explains lecturer and education expert, Simone Tonkin.

Simone, who is also a mother to twin girls says her husband, Ronnie, taught her children to “fly” in life, take more risks and be less afraid to fall or to fail, whereas it was her natural tendency as the mother, to want to protect them and shield them from failure. “This is not to say that all mothers and fathers are like this, it was just our experience,” says Simone.

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Fathers have also been shown to:

  • Play more physically with their children, with rough and tumble games, which helps to develop body awareness and gross motor skills in children.
  • Bring a sense of logic and rational thinking to the family. Studies show that men are largely solution-focused and can be less emotive than women in some cases.
  • Help to teach children about perseverance and teamwork, while encouraging that competitive edge.
  • Encourage the development of social skills – boys and girls tend to look at their fathers for when they need support in this area.
  • Play a key role in their daughter’s self-esteem – warm, engaging fathers can help their daughters choose the right partner later in life and reduce the risk of promiscuity.

A couple’s dynamic

The truth is, people are wired differently – even those in same-sex marriages who co-parent a child will differ in how they approach parenting. What motivates one partner, might not motivate the other, and the way one partner plays and interacts with a child, will be different to how the other partner does. So long as the interactions are positive and there’s harmony in the home, this will benefit a child as they’re exposed to different experiences and ways of perceiving things.

 

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