Has much of the parenting advice you’ve encountered focused on mothers? Traditionally, family psychologists and other experts have referred to the mother as the “primary caretaker,” suggesting that the father was “secondary” in some way. While mom’s role is clearly vital, current research is beginning to highlight the unique and important role of fathers in early childhood development. In fact, a strong relationship between a father and a child during the first years of life can positively influence every area of development.
8 Facts About Involved Fathers
Here are some key facts that emphasize the significant role dads play in their little ones’ lives.
- When a father is actively involved in daily care duties, an infant can become equally attached to him as to their mother. Dads who participate in bathing, feeding, and playtime can create a strong bond with their infants in the first few weeks of life. Bonus: Fathers participating in daily baby-care tasks is linked to happier marriages.
- Children with engaged fathers tend to be more confident and sociable, and display better self-regulation. All of these take center stage when a child starts school, and has the skills to not only thrive academically, but also form and sustain friendships with peers. What’s more, better self-regulation is correlated with fewer behavioral challenges in school.
- Children with healthy and secure attachments to their fathers in early childhood do better academically. Studies show that fathers who enjoy engaging in stimulating playtime activities often raise children who excel in math and reading skills.
- Involved fathers positively impact a child’s communication skills and language development. Fathers tend to ask a lot of questions and use a wide vocabulary with their little ones. This not only benefits language development, but also enhances conversational skills.
- Quality is key. It’s not always about the amount of time a father spends with his child. The quality of the relationship is what matters most. This is an important point for dads who work full time, or don’t live in the same home as their child. As long as father-child interactions are meaningful, children can still reap the benefits of that special bond.
- Children learn about risk-based play, setting boundaries, and controlling impulses when they play with their dads. Dads tend to play a bit rougher than moms! This type of rough-and-tumble (but still safe) play can teach children how to assess risky situations and display discipline when necessary.
- Children who feel close to their fathers in early childhood are less likely to struggle with depression later on in life. A secure and healthy attachment to dad can lead to stronger self-esteem and a more positive outlook.
- When fathers are involved and engaged, their children are more likely to be patient and have the ability to handle stressful situations. Fathers who express affection, compassion, and patience during early childhood instill a sense of security in their children. When a child feels secure, they also feel capable, assertive, and resilient.
All of these amazing father facts show there’s nothing “secondary” about their role! When it comes to early childhood development, the dad factor matters, a lot.