Involvement of fathers improves childhood stability

Involvement of fathers improves childhood stability

By William Smith

In an ideal world all children would be raised by both of their loving parents.  It is, however a fact of life in the 21st century, that many children are raised by just one.  A new study looks at the implications for the children of a broken marriage.

Active participation by a father in child-raising activities improves academic performance and behaviour in children according to a new study. 

Fathers can positively influence the development of their children through consistent, hands-on parenting according to Concordia University researchers.

‘Fathers make important contributions in the development of their children’s behaviour and intelligence,’ said Erin Pougnet, Ph.D., a candidate in the Concordia University Department of Psychology.

‘Compared with other children with absentee dads, kids whose fathers were active parents in early and middle childhood had fewer  behaviour problems and  higher intellectual abilities as they grew older, even among socioeconomically at-risk families,’

‘Regardless of whether fathers lived with their children, their ability to set appropriate limits and structure their children’s behaviour positively influenced problem-solving and decreased emotional problems, such as sadness, social withdrawal and anxiety,’ Pougnet said.

The study researchers performed three evaluations on 138 children and their parents.  Children were assessed between the ages of 3-5 years old and then again from 9-13 years of age.

The children completed intelligence tests while their mothers completed questionnaires on the home environment, which included couple conflict.  The larger Concordia Longitudinal Risk Research Project, an intergenerational study launched in l976, was the source of recruitment for these children.  School teachers were also used as observers of child behaviour outside the home.

‘Teachers were a somewhat more independent source of information than mothers, fathers or children themselves, because a father’s absence can result in home conflict, maternal distress and child distress,’ Pougnet said.

Girls were discovered to be most affected by absentee dads.  Researchers caution that paternal absence can foster other problems such as lack of support and discipline.  

‘Girls whose fathers were absent during their middle childhood had significantly higher levels of emotional problems at school than girls whose fathers were present,’ said Pougnet.

‘While our study examined the important role dads play in the development of their children, kids don’t necessarily do poorly without their fathers,’ said Lisa. A. Serbin, co-author.

‘Mothers and other caregivers are also important.  No doubt fathers have a major impact, but there are definitely many alternative ways to raise a healthy child.  Some kids with no contact with fathers, or with distant dads, do well intellectually and emotionally,’ Serbin added.

‘Initiatives such as parental leave for men and parenting classes that emphasise the role of fathers could help to maximise children’s development from early childhood to pre-adolescence,’ Serbin concluded.

Source: Concordia


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