Bindy Cummings and Dr Tessa Grigg
With Father’s Day is just around the corner, what better way to celebrate and to thank dad, than to let him know some of the advantages, according to science, of him being involved his children’s lives: Dadvantages! With many Dad’s spending more time working from home and therefore connecting more with their children, this may be chalked up as one of the positives about COVID-19 lockdowns.
It is impossible to over-estimate the importance of dad. A substantial body of research demonstrates that a father’s involvement has enormous implications for his child in terms of social, emotional, behavioural, physical and cognitive development – the more involved the father, the better! A current analysis of over one hundred studies on parent-child relationships was completed by Allen and Daly1 found that having a loving, nurturing and involved father was as important for a child’s overall development as having a loving and nurturing mother. Happily, recent studies indicate that dads are now more engaged in child rearing than ever before. We have been thrilled at the increasing number of dads that are able to make it to GymbaROO-KIndyROO classes!
A father is defined as an ‘involved father’ if his relationship with his child can be described as; sensitive, warm, friendly, supportive, nurturing, affectionate, encouraging, comforting and accepting 1. Being ‘involved’ is also defined by the amount of time spent doing things together including, but not limited to; performing routine physical child care, (changing nappies, dressing, bathing, preparing meals); shared relaxation time, (reading together, telling stories, singing nursery rhymes) and the amount of playtime and how effective, mutual and reciprocal the play is. In addition, fathers are classified as being ‘involved’ if their child has developed a strong, secure attachment to him.
Experts agree that a biological live-in father isn’t a requirement to pass down the benefits of involved fathering and that children can receive the same positive benefits from a dedicated and loving step dad or a father figure, for example; an uncle, grandfather or a close male friend.
The Dadvantages of being a highly-involved father to:
- Cognitive Development
- Infants are more cognitively competent at six months. By one year, they continue to have higher cognitive functioning, are better problem solvers as toddlers and have higher IQ’s by age three. School aged children are better equipped for learning, are more likely to have better quantitative and verbal skills and are overall better academic achievers.
- Children are less likely to have behavioural issues and are more likely to enjoy school, have better attitudes toward school, participate in extracurricular activities and graduate.
- Children are more likely to become educationally mobile young adults with higher levels of economic and educational achievement, career success and psychological well-being.
- Physical Development
- Children tend to develop better posture, balance, vision and coordination. Dads are inclined to be a lot more vigorous and active in their play than mums. Active play provides stimulation to important parts of the brain, stimulates the balance organs and enables the developing brain to organise itself so that the body can appropriately respond to gravity and sensory information. (GymbaROO-KindyROO parents know that this is also important for cognitive and emotional development!)
- Emotional Development and Well-Being
- Infants are more likely to be securely attached to their dads, be more resilient in the face of stressful situations, be more curious and eager to explore the environment. They are better able to handle strange situations and relate more maturely to strangers.
- Children are more likely to demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress and frustration, and have superior problem solving and adaptive skills. They tend to be more playful, resourceful, skillful and attentive when presented with a problem and are better able to manage their emotions and impulses in an adaptive manner.
- Children tend to experience better overall life satisfaction with more optimism and less depression, emotional distress and fewer expressions of negative emotions such as fear and guilt.
- Children are more likely to demonstrate a greater internal control, have a better ability to take initiative, use self-direction and display less impulsivity.
- Young adults are more likely to score highly on measures of self-acceptance, see themselves as dependable, trusting, practical and friendly, are more likely to succeed in their work and be mentally healthy.
- Social Development
- Children are more likely to have positive sibling and peer relationships and be popular and well liked. They display less negativity, aggression and conflict and more reciprocity, generosity and positive friendship qualities. They tend to display overall social competence, maturity and capacity to relate to others.
- Children are more likely to grow up to be tolerant, understanding and empathetic. They are more likely to be well socialised and successful adults who have long term, successful marriages and supportive social networks consisting of long-term close friendships.
- Children tend to score higher on measures of moral maturity – internal moral judgment, moral values and conformity to rules.
- Young adults appear to have less behavioral problems, seem to be somewhat inoculated against alcohol and drug abuse and delay sexual activity. According to recent research in the United States, children without attentive fathers are three times more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system before the age of eighteen compared to those with involved fathers.2
The impact of an involved father and his love and nurturance is worth so much to his children’s well-being, their life and their learning. Thanks Dad! Come September, we would like to wish all dads everywhere a very happy Father’s Day.
- Allen S, Daly K. The effects of father involvement: A summary of the research evidence. The Fll-O News. 2002.
- Yoder JR, Brisson D, Lopez A. Moving Beyond Fatherhood Involvement: The Association Between Father-Child Relationship Quality and Youth Delinquency Trajectories. Family Relations. 2016;65(3):462-76.