by Doug Gertner

Fathers matter, we are aware of that, but we may not know exactly what a male presence brings to children and families. Stop for just a moment and ask yourself “what’s most important about being (or having) an active dad in the picture?” You can probably come up with several good reasons why fathers should be integrally involved with their kids and partners.

Adding to your top reasons are several research findings summarized by Dr. Kyle D. Pruett in his book Fatherneed: Why Father Care Is As Essential As Mother Care for Your Child (2001, Broadway Books), including the following:

  • Infants who have time alone with their dad show richer social and exploratory behavior than children not exposed to such experiences.
  • One of the most critical roles that a dad plays in the life of his child is during the toddler years, age 1 ½ – 3 ½, is helping the child safely and securely separate from the intense maternal dependency of infancy.
  • Fathers help children individuate – he is typically more willing to let a child out of his sight than mom will. A father will let the child crawl twice as far as mom will before retrieving the infant.
  • Young people who have fathers actively participating in their lives are less likely to engage in criminal activities or abuse of drugs and alcohol.
  • Father involvement is the strongest parent-related predictor in the development of empathy; it’s also associated with development of problem-solving behavior and reduced sibling conflict and aggression
  • Even when fathers do not live at home, children whose fathers are actively involved in their lives tend to have fewer behavioral problems.
  • Kids with involved, responsive dads are much more successful academically, and have a higher likelihood of going to college. Then all we have to do is figure out how to pay for it…
  • Involved dads reduce the parenting burden that more often falls on mothers.
  • Children with two loving, involved parents benefit from the wealth of each parent’s life experiences, different styles, and approaches to dealing with life.

Whether you are looking at the research, or simply seeing the joy on a child’s face when dad is there and engaged, the facts cannot escape us: dads make a difference. Mothers, fathers, and children need to work together to be sure that, as the current saying goes “ no one gets left behind” in the family.