Throughout the nation, stores stock up on ties for Father’s Day, but there’s one tie that money can’t buy: the bond that fathers establish with their children through their presence and involvement in their lives.
Decades of research show that fathers make a difference in a range of measures of children’s well-being, from academic success to psychological/emotional health, social relations, and decisions regarding high-risk behavior.
From their earliest years, children whose fathers are in the home tend to do better in school. Kindergartners from intact families tend to have higher reading scores than peers in other family structures, and this advantage continues on through middle school, where youths from two-parent families, on average, do better on math and science achievement tests. In terms of educational attainment, children from intact families tend to complete more years of schooling and are more likely to graduate from high school and earn a college degree.
In addition to their presence, fathers’ responsiveness and involvement is, likewise, linked to their children’s academic achievement. In fact, even by engaging in leisure activities with them, dads increase the likelihood that their children will succeed in school.
In terms of emotional and psychological well-being, fathers’ presence and investment makes a difference. Adolescents whose dads are in the home and who have a close relationship with their fathers are less likely to feel sad or lonely or to be hyperactive or depressed, and youths whose fathers are more involved and responsive to them tend to have higher levels of self-esteem and self control.
The “father factor” has significant influence on children’s behavior. Adolescents whose fathers are more involved in their lives exhibit fewer behavioral problems, and those who say they have a positive relationship with their dads are less likely to engage in delinquent behavior. A father’s presence in the home, likewise, reduces the likelihood that youths will engage in anti-social behavior, violent delinquency, or property crimes.
In addition, the likelihood of adolescents engaging in risk behavior, ranging from sexual activity to substance abuse, is significantly reduced by fathers’ presence, monitoring, and guidance and the quality of the relationship they have with their fathers.
The celebration of Father’s Day is just a small token of appreciation for the lifelong benefits that fathers’ presence and investment provide for their children. Sadly, more than one in five children in America live in homes without dads. To ensure that the next generation has the greatest opportunity to thrive and succeed, efforts should be made in both the cultural and policy arenas to promote marriage and intact, healthy families.