Dads Involvement Improves Child Outcomes A new study suggests active participation by the father in child-raising activities improves academic performance and behavior in the kids.

Concordia University researchers have studied how fathers can positively influence the development of their kids through hands-on parenting over many years.

“Fathers make important contributions in the development of their children’s behavior and intelligence,” said Erin Pougnet, a Ph.D. candidate in the Concordia University Department of Psychology.

“Compared with other children with absentee dads, kids whose fathers were active parents in early and middle childhood had fewer behavior problems and higher intellectual abilities as they grew older — even among socioeconomically at-risk families.”

“Regardless of whether fathers lived with their children, their ability to set appropriate limits and structure their children’s behavior positively influenced problem-solving and decreased emotional problems, such as sadness, social withdrawal and anxiety,” said Pougnet.

In the study, researchers performed three assessments on 138 children and their parents. Kids were evaluated between the ages of three to five years old and again from nine to 13.

They completed intelligence tests, while their mothers completed questionnaires on home environment and couple conflict. All children were recruited as part of the larger Concordia Longitudinal Risk Research Project, an intergenerational study launched in 1976.

School teachers were also recruited as observers of child behaviors outside homes.

“Teachers were a somewhat more independent source of information than mothers, fathers or children themselves,” said Pougnet, “because a father’s absence can result in home conflict, maternal distress and child distress.”

Researchers discovered girls to be most affected by absentee dads, although the researchers caution that paternal absence can foster other problems such as lack of support or discipline.

“Girls whose fathers were absent during their middle childhood had significantly higher levels of emotional problems at school than girls whose fathers were present,” said Pougnet.

The number of single parents continue to grow in Canada and in the U.S. In 2007, 13 per cent of Canadian families and 22 per cent of Quebec families were households with absent biological fathers.

“While our study examined the important role dads play in the development of their children, kids don’t necessarily do poorly without their fathers,” said co-author Lisa A. Serbin.

“Mothers and other caregivers are also important. No doubt fathers have a major impact, but there are definitely many alternative ways to raise a healthy child. Some kids with no contact with fathers, or with distant dads, do well intellectually and emotionally.”

The findings, however, should encourage governments to formulate policies that encourage increased and positive forms of contact between children and their fathers.

“Initiatives such as parental leave for men and parenting classes that emphasize the role of fathers could help to maximize children’s development from early childhood to preadolescence,” said Serbin.

Results from the long-term study have been in the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science.

Source: Concordia