Father’s Day approaches, with its gaudy ties, new golf balls and little jars of orange fish bait. Yet while Father’s Day doesn’t make nearly the ripples that Mother’s Day does, it honors some extremely important people. A father’s presence — or lack thereof — can make all the difference in the lives of his children. Fathers need to know how vital their role is, and we all need to celebrate those devoted fathers among us.
As millions of America’s children sleep in homes without dads, we grow to see the very significant place that fatherhood has in the lives of our children. Children from fatherless homes are 20 times more likely to end up serving prison times than those who grow up with both parents. Daughters whose fathers are missing are far more likely to have difficulty developing healthy relationships with men as they grow up, and are more likely to become pregnant as teenagers. Nearly 24 million children live away from their biological fathers, and a large number of these see their fathers only on weekends, holidays… or never.
Boys have been found to engage in higher levels of aggressive behavior and to show less empathy when there is no supportive father in the home, while girls without dad engage in higher risk sexual behaviors early on.
Richard Koestner, a psychologist at McGill University, compared the empathy of 75 men and women who had been children when they were involved in a 1950s Yale study. Affection from their parents was not a significant factor in showing empathy for other people, but how much time their fathers spent with them was significant. Koestner said, “[W]e were astounded at how strong the father’s influence was.”
In 2008, psychologist Bruce J. Ellis compared hundreds of older and younger sisters from the same families, particularly noting the length of time the girls had spent with their fathers in the home before their parents split up. He published his results in Developmental Psychology saying, “Girls who grew up with a high-quality father — who spent more time as a high-investing father — showed the lowest level of risky sexual behavior. Their younger sisters, who had less time with him, tended to show the highest level of risky sexual behavior.” Younger sisters did not demonstrate a higher level of other risky behavior – not wearing bicycle helmets, for instance. The higher risk was associated primarily with early sexual activity in homes where dad left early in the girls’ lives.
According to the non-profit Center for Children’s Justice, children from fatherless homes are:
- 5 times more likely to commit suicide
- 32 times more likely to run away
- 14 times more likely to commit rape
- 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
- 20 times more likely to end up in prison
In light of the father’s absence in our communities, we would like to take some time to praise the role of fathers in the lives of families, and to encourage all you dads out there. You are very important people!
There is more information today than ever before on the differences between men and women, and the biological reasons for the basic strengths that each have for creating complementary relationships and complementary parenting styles. It is highly difficult for any single parent to play both Mom and Dad — simply because we were designed to be partners and to fill each other’s weaknesses with our strengths. It’s easy to see how greatly children need their mothers, but fathers are also extremely important to children. Below are some of the areas in which a father is very difficult to replace.
This applies to both boys and girls. From their father, boys gain their understanding of how to be a man. By watching their fathers, sons learn about male responsibility and the proper ways to assert themselves. They learn how men should treat women. Fathers provide an authority and sense of discipline, particularly for teen boys, that woman have an extremely hard time duplicating. Boys need a man they can respect and after whom they can model their own lives.
For daughters, fathers provide the model of the man they should seek as adults. A father’s love and care helps young girls develop a sense of their own self-worth and expectations of how other men should treat them. Daughters gain an ability to trust from trustworthy fathers, and learn to find value in healthy femininity from the man who truly values them for who they are and not just how they look.
Rather than being in conflict, fathers and mothers balance each other’s parenting styles — helping each other raise well-rounded children. Each is important, and without one or the other, it is easy for children to miss out on important social development.
Fathers tend to emphasize rough and tumble play more than mothers do. Fathers’ play is likely to be both physically stimulating and mentally exciting. This form of play helps children learn about physical self-control and what is appropriate playful behavior, and what is dangerous. Through this type of play, Fathers help children learn to control their wild emotions and have fun in the midst of competition. Fathers tend to encourage competition, challenge, initiative, risk-taking, and independence.
In conversations, fathers tend to be more direct and specific — teaching children not to ‘beat around the bush’. They stress fairness and justice while mothers tend to focus more on sympathy and care. Fathers focus more on independence while mothers tend to stress community and relationships.
Together, mothers and fathers show children the values and strengths of both of the genders. The social revolution of the last fifty years has greatly degraded men. Fathers help girls to appreciate and value men, and show boys their value as men.
Children with involved fathers have been found to have enhanced academic achievement, problem solving ability, and quantitative and verbal skills. According to several studies, Father involvement in their sons’ lives has been shown to have a huge effect on boys’ mathematical and verbal skills. Father presence is reflected in their daughters’ improved mathematical skills and reading ability.
An astonishing finding is that the development of empathy and compassion in children’s characters is correlated with their father’s involvement in their early childhood. Young people who have been raised by warm and affectionate fathers are far more likely to have happy marriages and healthy relationships as adults.
Most importantly, fathers provide a concept of the Heavenly Father for their children. Harsh, abusive, or unpredictable fathers make it more difficult for children to understand God’s love or to trust Him. On the other hand, trustworthy, loving, steady fathers model for their children the character of God.
Thanks, dads, for being there for your children. You mean more than you may know.
How Dads Influence Teen Happiness — Scientific American
Roots of Uncertainty — Annals of Psychotherapy
NRFC Quick Statistics — Fatherhood.gov
Fathers Time — Psychology Today
The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children — ChildWelfare.gov