The Father Effect
Sun, April 11, 2021

The Father Effect

Children with active fathers are able to hold high-paying jobs, have superior IQ (by the age of 3), and are less likely to break the law or drop out of school / Photo by: Mladen Zivkovic via Shutterstock

 

There have been a lot of studies that prove that motherhood dominates parenting, and that’s expected since from birth, children stay with their mothers the most. But, there are newer research that show that fathers leave huge impressions on the lives of their kids as well. A father's presence matters more than many people would realize. Above all, being an involved dad comes out more worth it for the children. According to sociologist Paul Amato from Pennsylvania State University, “When fathers are actively involved with their children, children do better.” The relationship between the father and child creates a domino effect, which may last throughout the lifetime of the child.

Children with active fathers are able to hold high-paying jobs, have superior IQ (by the age of 3), and are less likely to break the law or drop out of school. Kids with close relationships with their fathers are found to avoid high-risk behaviors and endure fewer psychological problems. 

“The Father Effect” is an umbrella term for the benefits (and indirect benefits) of paternal presence as explained by Joshua A. Krisch from Fatherly.com, a digital lifestyle company that provides news, advice, and recommendations for parents. According to Amato, there needs to be a minimum amount of time spent together, but more than this, it’s the quantity of time. These days, fathers seek more involvement, but society expects more from them too.

 

It’s in the Genes

Naturally, as a biological parent, fathers pass down genetic traits to their kids. While commonly mothers are the first to be blamed for genetic diseases that are passed to a child due to substance abuse and many more during pregnancy, a father’s vices also impact their sperm. The study of epigenetics looks into the changes in DNA caused by lifestyle choices. In related studies, poor dietary choices in males can lead to negative pregnancy outcomes. Men who are stressed before a child is conceived may affect the predisposition of their future child. Joanna Kiltlinska of Georgetown University, who ran a study in 2016 on epigenetics, shared, “We know nutritional, hormonal, and psychological environments provided by the mother permanently alter organ structure, cellular response, and gene expression in her offspring.” But, the same is true with fathers. Their age, lifestyle, and molecules are reflected in the control gene function of children. 

Naturally, as a biological parent, fathers pass down genetic traits to their kids. While commonly mothers are the first to be blamed for genetic diseases that are passed to a child due to substance abuse and many more during pregnancy, a father’s vices also impact their sperm / Photo by: Evgeny Atamanenko via Shutterstock

 

Information by the Numbers

Infants and toddlers with supportive parents, according to Krisch, eventually have better cognitive outcomes than other children. In 1991, a study on a similar topic by Kevin Nuget titled, “Cultural and Psychological Influences on the Father’s Role in Infant Development,” explained that infants with involved dads showed higher cognitive scores by age 1 and continues through 36 months. Even if mothers were supportive, children still performed higher if their fathers were supportive too.

Relative to teens, the effects continue, as presented in a 1998 study by Kathleen Harris, Frank Furstenberg, and Jeremy Marmer, researchers who contributed to a journal article on poverty and parental involvement. They showed that high involvement protects children from low economic and educational attainment, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and psychological distress.

“Daddy issues” come to mind when a father fails to provide a certain interactive need of a child. With daughters in their teens, there is a link between low-quality fathering and sexual outcomes, including risky sexual behavior. Danielle DelPriore, a researcher on similar topics, shared that daughters may learn from disengaged fathers not to invest in meaningful long-term relationships and would eventually settle for casual flings. For every one standard deviation movement in the relationship metric, wherein fathers are more involved, risky behavior is lowered significantly.

“Daddy issues” come to mind when a father fails to provide a certain interactive need of a child / Photo by: VdZ via Shutterstock

 

What Happens When There is No Father Figure

Engaged fathers are those who take time for fatherly interactions with their kids, attending important events, even writing letters or making frequent phone calls for those who live miles apart. But, more importantly, it’s the quality of the relationship rather than just being within reach to communicate. Warmth also plays a key factor. Those fathers who spend time with children but are dismissive, cold, or insulting only carry a negative impact.

When a father is absent, this also means the absence of benefits. Looking at resident and non-resident dads, there is a difference in average involvement. For those with fathers who live far away, it seems that their involvement may not affect children in the same way as resident dads. Those living with kids are more involved, sharing stories, putting a child to sleep, and many more. If a child experiences a father’s death or even incarceration, these kids suffer more than those with just uninvolved fathers. A Princeton study following 5,000 children born in the United States between 1998 and 2000 found that these are harmful to children. From father being away, lack of involvement with the kids, there’s stigma and additional stress. Although kids that experience divorce go through far worse, according to the same study.

Take note that the relationship of fathers differs with sons and daughters. Fathers tend to be stricter with their daughters around adolescence, and they play a formative role in how a daughter will handle future romantic relationships, as mentioned in “The Role of Fathers in Childhood Development” by Dante Spetter, a lecturer from Harvard. With sons, the relationship can develop into that of a buddy relationship.

There’s a lot of variabilities that goes into having any relationship. But, as with all relationships, it’s a two-way involvement between father and kid. A child can also encourage the interaction by sharing a positive gift, note, or gesture that reflects the father’s interests and the child’s acknowledgment. Words are very important too.

Dads play an important role in a child’s life, and sometimes they’d need encouragement from their actions. But above all, even if there is minimal reciprocation from the child, it is the role of a dad, as a parent. Dads need to realize that their kids are always watching what they do and that it all matters.