Some dads doubt the significance of their role in their children’s lives. Kids often reach for mom when something goes wrong — when they’re injured, when they need an ear, a shoulder, a pat on the back.
But a growing body of research offers strong evidence that dads are needed more than they know — and it seems many are taking notice.
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A new report this week from the American Academy of Pediatrics says that U.S. dads are more involved in child care than ever. At the same time, additional studies show that fathers who are more involved in their children’s development have important, positive effects on their kids’ health and well-being.
A father’s role today is much more varied than it was in the past — dads are no longer just the breadwinner and disciplinarian, Dana Galante told LifeZette. Galante is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Collaborative Marriage and Family Therapy in New York City.
“It is much more common today to see a father more involved with the inner experience of the child, not just the external achievements. It’s a critical part of becoming a father, to examine within himself and with his co-parent what ‘type’ of father he wants to be and what roles he will take on,” said Galante. “We are seeing the stereotypical image of a father shift into a broader one.”
Children with strong secure attachments to their fathers also have lower occurrences of anxiety and depression.
A strong bond with dad can really affect a child, she added. When a father is involved in child care, a secure attachment between the two is established — this improves a child’s self esteem and self-reliance. Children with strong secure attachments to their fathers also have lower occurrences of anxiety and depression, Galante told LifeZette.
Getting fathers involved in child care right away is important, said Dr. Michael Yogman, who co-authored the new report, because it “sends the message that they matter.”
Bari Perlmutter, 23, of Silver Spring, Maryland, is very close with her father.
“My father played the loving and protective father role as I was growing up. The phrase ‘you’re my baby’ was — and still is — frequently heard throughout the house in the most endearing tone of voice. It’s so cute,” Perlmutter told LifeZette.
Perlmutter looks to her dad as a role model, frequently going to him for advice, love and comfort, “and of course a lot of laughs.” One of her favorite memories of her and her dad came from an incident she’d otherwise prefer to forget.
“When I had lice in fifth grade, my mother read up on a remedy for lice, which was putting mayonnaise in your hair and leaving it there for a few hours. I really didn’t want to do it, so my father put mayonnaise in his hair, too. It’s little things like that show me how much he loves me,” Perlmutter told LifeZette.
Involvement like this is very important in a child’s life, and dads are stepping up. More and more want to play a bigger role and early involvement is crucial.
“From everyone’s standpoint, the more we can do to encourage fathers’ involvement, the better,” Yogman said. “It’s beneficial for kids.”