The Importance Of Dads…. (Father’s Day 2013)

I saw this video today and it brought amusement at the long-suffering Dad who would do anything to make sure his daughter was not distressed, and the way the daughter was making sure her Dad wasn’t going anywhere!

 It also made me consider how often this ‘father/child’ bond is forgotten about.

I unexpectedly gained a larger readership for my last post on attachment. In some ways, this post is a follow-up to some of what I spoke about in that blog.

For decades, psychologists and researchers have focused on the mother-child bond as the most important one in a child’s life. Mountains of research has gone into studying those relationships, and how their early experiences with mother impacted the rest of their lives.

Within the last several decades, though, scientists are increasingly realizing just how much dads or their father figure matter. While mothers tend to provide more emotional warmth for their children, fathers provide a strong sense of security. While children usually can depend on their mothers for unconditional love, they often must earn their father’s approval. While mothers soothe their children more often, fathers often provide more stimulation. All parents – both mothers and fathers – have important roles in rearing their children.

According to a report in “Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being”:

“Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections. The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a higher percentage of their one-to-one interactions with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behaviour. Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes. The influence of a father’s involvement extends into adolescence and young adulthood. Numerous studies find that an active and nurturing style of fathering is associated with better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, and academic achievement among adolescents.”

Babies need predictability and security, which they get when their mother and father respond consistently, promptly, and appropriately to their cries, smiles and other signals. As a baby develops a relationship with their mother and father, they build what we know as attachment. Mothers tend to be relied upon more than fathers for the comfort and security components of attachment, primarily because they are usually the infant’s main caregiver.  But, babies also form attachments to their fathers, who tend to be just as responsive to their babies’ bids for attention as mothers. When fathers spend more time with their babies, they get to know exactly what each of their baby’s signals mean.

We know that babies with secure attachments to their parents have better chances to develop into happy, successful, and well-adjusted children and adults. The effects of attachment on children are broad and long-lasting. Our experiences of attachment as a baby have an influence on our ability to cope with the world we are faced with in the future and how we will react to our new experiences.

Fathers spend a larger proportion of their time playing with their young children than mothers do, and they tend to be more boisterous and active in their play.When fathers play with their toddlers, they are not just entertaining them. They are providing a safe, yet challenging arena for toddlers to learn how to interact with the world and with others. Playing with fathers also helps children develop emotional knowledge, so that they can identify their own emotions, acknowledge the emotional experiences of others, and describe the causes of emotions. When children have fathers who are emotionally involved-that is, they acknowledge their children’s emotions and help them deal with bad emotions-they score higher on tests of ’emotional intelligence’. Moreover, they tend to have better relationships with other children and behave less aggressively.

I was blessed to have been brought up in a stable, loving home – with both parents present and involved in my life from the start.

Unfortunately, this is not true across the board, and many children are brought up without their father figure in their lives. Alternatively, the opposite can be true with the father figure being the only person in a child’s life. These family situations present a different set of challenges – all of which can be overcome through commitment and awareness of the importance of the role the adults in a child’s life can play. I would need to dedicate a whole other blog to speaking about this – which I will.

However, on this Father’s Day, I think it is important to recognise the great Dad’s (be they biological, superhero, single parent, co-parent, foster parent or adopter) across the world and to celebrate their influence on children’s lives and the impact they are having on this generation.

Dads – you are amazing! Thank you for all that you do.

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