Why it matters more than ever
While lot’s of dads want to be more involved, there are also an increasing number of children growing up fatherless.
In the latest US census bureau, an estimated 24 Million children (33%), live absent from their biological father, and in the UK, The Centre for Social Justice reported 1m children growing up without meaningful contact with their father, and 3m predominantly with their mothers only. There are clearly still issues here that need more attention, and in recent years the world of science has highlighted a range of ways where dad plays a vital role.
- The extent of fatherlessness in the US
- The Centre for Social Justice report on UK fatherlessness
- ‘A million children growing up without fathers in the UK’ (BBC)
Science that highlights dad’s impact
There is an increasing body of science that shows just how important the role of dad is. Recent findings from Michigan State University shows how fathers play a large role in their children’s development, from language and cognitive growth in toddlerhood, to social skills in primary and secondary schooling.
“There’s this whole idea that dads don’t have direct effects on their kids, that they just create the tone for the household and that moms are the ones who affect their children’s development,”
“But here we show that fathers really do have a direct effect on kids, both in the short term and long term.”
Claire Vallotton, associate professor, Michigan State University
According to a separate study carried out by researchers Amato and Rivera, children whose fathers are actively involved in their care are more likely to perform well at school, stay out of trouble and have greater self-esteem. The study revealed that the quality of the time is far more important than the number of hours a father and child spend together.
Dad also changes biologically!
In a major study, Scott Coltrane, a sociologist at the University of California, found that men who take care of their children on more than a casual basis undergo a transformation themselves. They develop maternal thinking, and become “sensitive and nurturing caregivers.”
This nurturing behaviour is also having an impact at a neurological level. A study led by Pilyoung Kim at the Universities of Denver and Yale showed structural changes in the brains of new fathers. This included areas previously identified as showing growth in new mothers, including the striatum (involved in reward processing, hypothalamus (hormonal control), amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (emotional processing), and the lateral pre-frontal cortex (memory and decision making).
A major meta-analysis of nearly 30,000 parents by psychologists Hugh Lytton and David Romney of the University of Calgary took this one step further. They found no significant differences between mothers and fathers in seven critical parenting areas: warmth, nurturance, responsiveness, encouragement of dependence, restrictiveness, low encouragement of independence, and disciplinary strictness. In other words, mothers and fathers aren’t on Venus and Mars when it comes to interacting with children. They’re very much on the same planet.
- The importance of dad in a child’s development by (Michigan State University)
- The role of fathers is changing for the better, Science Says (Boston Globe)
- How becoming a father changes your brain (Wired)
The DaddiLife Perspective
There’s an increasing body of science that shows just how ready, able, and vital dad is in the role of their child’s development, but too often we also hear stories of extreme fatherlessness. The science world has taken a tremendous leap forward and shown the way forward to other industries who also need to focus on just how important the role of dad can be.
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