The Benefits of a Father's Presence in Children's Lives

Although there are many types of families today, a father's presence is still fundamental in your family. Learn more.
The Benefits of a Father's Presence in Children's Lives

Last update: 31 May, 2021

There’s no denying that a father’s presence in the lives of his children is beneficial. However, before we delve into the subject, it’s worth emphasizing that this doesn’t always have to be the case. Children can be very happy regardless of the gender of the parents raising them.

In addition, both single mothers and single fathers strive to ensure that their children are raised well and that parental absence doesn’t prevent their little ones from leading healthy and happy lives. All types of families are important.

A father’s presence

In your childhood, you probably heard how, back in the day, fathers weren’t even allowed in the delivery room when you were born!

It’s true that this has changed quite a bit from then to now. However, in many instances, popular culture still tends to overlook the significance of a father figure or considers it less important when it comes to child-rearing. No one’s surprised if a mother goes to talk to the school teacher. However, when a father does the same thing, we see it as a surprising exception.

A son with his arms around his dad's neck.

Jokes about disoriented fathers who can’t find their children’s clothes are still normal from time to time, but most of us realize the crucial role our children’s fathers play in their lives.

Only a few decades ago, the role of fathers in child development was largely ignored. Psychology scholars educated before the 1980s rarely heard any mention of fathers in their academic journals. Virtually all research focused on the roles of mothers in their children’s development.

We’ve since learned that a father’s presence plays an important role in a child’s development. Fathers are no longer considered “babysitters,” but active and equal partners in a child’s life. From birth to adulthood, the crucial role of fathers continues to be illustrated in study after study. And no wonder!

Dads and their babies

While most of us consider the father’s presence at the time of our baby’s birth to be common and necessary, this wasn’t the case merely a generation ago. Much of this change is due to the clear benefits we see for both mother and baby in having the father in the room.

From the earliest days of a baby’s life, the presence of a partner or an engaged and attentive father can have a very positive impact. Some studies have shown that babies who experience skin-to-skin contact with their fathers in the first few hours after birth tend to cry less, calm down faster, and fall asleep sooner than babies left in a crib alone.

A little girl touching her dad's nose.

Fostering secure attachment

Parental attention and the care of their infants in the early months is one way to foster secure attachment. Previous research on attachment development seemed to imply that infants only attach to one caregiver (usually the mother). But we now know that this isn’t the case.

Infants securely attach to multiple caregivers. Especially, if the other caregiver, for example, a partner, is responsive and attentive to the baby’s physical and emotional needs. Also, forming a secure attachment isn’t just about the time that caregivers spend with infants.

Even couples who are unable to spend long periods of time with their babies can establish a secure attachment. One study found that caregiver responsiveness mattered more than spending a large amount of time together. Ultimately, attachment is about being attuned to the baby’s needs and cues.

So, secure attachment, of course, promotes all kinds of good outcomes for children in the years to come. Including better emotional regulation, fewer behavioral problems, and even better academic performance in adolescence.

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