With Father’s Day approaching, new research suggests that just being a good parent may not be good enough; some researchers believe fathers must reach out and query their kids on how they are doing.
Dr. Jeff Cookston, professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, believes, “There’s a need for fathers to sometimes say to their kids, ‘How am I doing? Am I the dad you need me to be?’”
“Kids are actively trying to make sense of the parenting they receive,” he said, “and the meaning that children take from the parenting may be as important, or more important, than the behavior of the parents.”
“I don’t think a lot of parents give these ideas about meaning much thought,” Cookston said.
“You may think that you’re being a good parent by not being harsh on your kid, for instance, but your child may view that as ‘you’re not invested in me, you’re not trying.’”
The way in which adolescents view their fathers’ behavior can vary depending on the child’s gender, ethnicity, and the presence of a stepfather in the child’s life, said Cookston.
Cookston and colleagues report their findings in a new study published in the Journal of Family Issues. The study included children from California and Arizona.
For the study, investigators examined how adolescents view their fathers’ actions; specifically, whether the teens attribute these actions to a dad’s overall character or to his reaction in a particular situation.
For instance, a daughter might believe her dad took her to the baseball game because he is a good father, or she might believe that he took her to the game because he likes to go to the game.
The study suggests that girls tend to believe that a father’s “enduring aspects” are responsible for a dad’s good deeds, while boys are more likely to think that dads do good depending on the situation.
Mexican-American children are more likely than their European-American peers to think that good times with dad depend on the situation.
Experts say the reasons for these differences are not clear, although in the case of boys and girls, it may be that girls are socialized to interpret other people’s behavior in a more positive light.
In Mexican-American families, the process of adapting to U.S. culture may increase family conflict, leading children to have a less optimistic view of their fathers’ good deeds.
Cookston says his research has shown that the relationship between father and child can have a significant impact on the child’s tendencies toward depression and behavior problems.
Father’s Day can be a good time for dads to rethink their relationship with their children, with a few tips that Cookston has gleaned from these studies:
Source: San Francisco State University