Father’s Day Feature

Fathers play an important role in children’s development. The presence of a good father in a child’s life is a nurturing experience that is greatly beneficial to a child’s social, emotional and cognitive growth. Unlike mothers, who do more of explicit caregiving, fathers do more of practical nurturing such as taking children to the doctors, taking them out to play, doing drop-offs and pick-ups, or shopping for them. Therefore, the influence of the father upon children is different from that of the mother. While both of them want to empower and enrich their child, they contribute to the child’s well-being in their own respective way. While the mother encourages parity, security, and cooperation, the father stimulates independence, competition, and achievement.

The impact of a father’s involvement and parenting on the child begins in infancy and goes on to adolescence and young adulthood. Several studies have shown that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, academic achievement, intellectual functioning, and intellectual functioning among adolescents (www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/fatherhood.pdf). During the playful and stimulating activities with their fathers, children learn to better regulate their behaviour and emotions. In families in which the fathers are often present and highly involved, the children are also more likely to see parents in reassuring and cooperative roles. Such children see their parents making efforts to resolve conflicts, disagreements and clashes and thus, learn to do the same when encountered with similar situations in their own lives.

Parents unintentionally teach their children how to handle their lives and relationships and how to interpret and organize human interactions. A kind, caring, and involved father serves as a positive male role model for the children. While this helps the son develop positive gender-role attributes, a positive role model helps the daughter form positive opinions about men.

The impact of father and his role in the development of healthy offspring cannot be overstated. Most children love their parents or caregivers unconditionally and feel attached to them. Their first attachment patterns shape their expectations for future attachments. The quality of bond a child shares with his or her father will not only have a bearing on the child’s personality and value system but will also influence his or her future choices in terms of relationships. The son would emulate his father’s behaviour and act accordingly in his future relationships. The daughter, on the other hand, would use her father as an example, and often seek the same traits as or opposite traits to her father, in her mate.

Besides being an additional attachment figure (other than the mother) in a child’s life, the father also serves as an important figure in the separation process. In infancy, fathers function typically as the first safe “other” that an infant seeks. As early childhood progresses and the world of the child expands, the father, in comparison to the mother, tends to be more encouraging of exploration and trying out new things. While the mother tends to be cautious with her children, the father allows them to take healthy risks that will help in their growth and development. Hence children with involved fathers are likely to be more confident, emotionally secure, and form better social bonds.

While society often categorizes a father as the sole breadwinner and the mother as the sole caregiver for the children, the importance of a father in child’s development is undeniable. Just like the mother, a father is also able to provide distinctively for the child in a way that is enriching for both father and child and the society at large.

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