What Are Traits of a Healthy Family: Know the Importance of Fathers

In my last post, I shared what I think is fascinating information about the nature of families and how that nature has evolved over time. Using the 1980s book Traits of a Healthy Family by Dolores Curran, I shared some of the differences in the purposes family serve today versus purposes in past centuries.

Now let’s talk specifically about fathers

The Father’s Day story on CBS’s Sunday Morning show featured Simon Isaacs, an up and coming entrepreneur who has developed a website called Fatherly.com. In the segment, Isaacs shared what is now becoming more commonplace: when it comes to traits of a healthy family, fathers are getting more and more recognition with regard to their importance.

I think it is important to emphasize embracing the value of other father-figures in the family: stepfathers, grandfathers, uncles, men who participate in the everyday lives of children —especially when the biological father is not available. While it obviously is not exactly the same, many of the same benefits can be experienced by children who need and deserve the special bond between them and significant men in their lives.

A HUFFPOST blog in 2014 shared the following:  

“Your child’s primary relationship with his/her father can affect all your child’s relationships from birth to death, including those with friends, lovers, and spouses. Those early patterns of interaction with father are the very patterns that will be projected forward into all relationships forever more. If affects not only your child’s intrinsic idea of who he/she is as he/she relates to others, but also, the range of what your child considers acceptable and loving.

“Girls will look for men who hold the patterns of good old dad, for after all, they know how ‘to do that.’ Therefore, if father was kind, loving, and gentle, they will reach for those characteristics in men. Girls will look for, in others, what they have experienced and become familiar with in childhood. Because they’ve gotten used to those familial and historic behavioral patterns, they think that they can handle them in relationships.

“Boys on the other hand, will model themselves after their fathers. They will look for their father’s approval in everything they do, and copy those behaviors that they recognize as both successful and familiar. Thus, if dad was abusive, controlling, and dominating, those will be the patterns that their sons will imitate and emulate. However, if father is loving, kind, supportive, and protective, boys will want to be that.”

Fathers are important in both the lives of their daughters and their sons in different and significant ways.

Children with involved fathers are not just happier, there are many other benefits in the short and long term.

According to a newsletter published in 2002 by the Fatherhood Involvement Initiative out of Ontario, Canada [http://www.ecdip.org/docs/pdf/IF%20Father%20Res%20Summary%20(KD).pdf]:

Infants of highly involved fathers are more cognitively competent at six months and score higher on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development. By one year, they continue to have higher cognitive functioning, are better problem solvers as toddlers, and have higher IQ’s by age three. School-aged children of involved fathers are also better academic achievers. They are more likely to get A’s, have better quantitative and verbal skills, have higher grade point averages, receive superior grades, or perform a year above their expected age level on academic tests.

Father involvement positively correlates with children experiencing overall life-satisfaction, less depression, emotional distress, and fewer expressions of negative emotionality, such as fear and guilt.

Among other positive effects, children of involved fathers are more likely to demonstrate a greater tolerance for stress and frustration, have superior problem solving and adaptive skills, be more playful, resourceful, skillful, and attentive when presented with a problem, and are better able to manage their emotions and impulses in an adaptive manner. These children are also more likely to demonstrate greater internal control, have a greater ability to take initiative, use self-direction and display less impulsivity.

It is important for dads (and those in the role of dad to a family) to appreciate just how important their contribution is when they are caring, nurturing and involved in their kids’ lives. No longer are dads just the financial providers who leave the child rearing duties up to mom.

I think this is important information for all men to hear and for all mothers to appreciate so they can be more encouraging about the importance of a father’s emotional and physical involvement in children’s lives. Oh, how the nature of the family is evolving!

Invitation for Reflection

  1. What do you recall about your own father’s involvement in your life as you were growing up? Were there other significant father-figures in your life? How did this or these relationships impact you then and possibly impact you today?
  2. If you have the opportunity, ask your father or grandfather or other father figure in your life what he saw his role to be as you were growing up.
  3. When you think about the father of your children or whoever is a significant father-figure to your children, what do you think is important for that person or those people to appreciate?

Diane Wagenhals, Director of Institute for Professional Education and Development, Lakeside Educational Network

Sources: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/daddys-home-millennial-fathers-amp-up-parenting/ , https://www.fatherly.com/, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-gail-gross/the-important-role-of-dad_b_5489093.html , and http://www.ecdip.org/docs/pdf/IF%20Father%20Res%20Summary%20(KD).pdf

Image sources: Comstock