Teen boys are more likely to engage in risk-taking and deviant behavior if they do not have a father figure in their lives, according to a University of Melbourne study.
On the other hand, teen girls appear unaffected by the presence or absence of fathers in the household.
Although active involvement and interaction between fathers and children was found to be beneficial, it was not responsible for the most positive effects. Instead, just the mere presence of a father figure during adolescence seems to have a preventive effect on whether male youths engage in risky behavior.
“The sense of security generated by the presence of a male role model in a youth’s life has protective effects for a child, regardless of the degree of interaction between the child and father,” Professor Deborah Cobb-Clark, Director of the Melbourne Institute said.
“Fathers provide children with male role models and can influence children’s preferences, values and attitudes, while giving them a sense of security and boosting their self-esteem. They also increase the degree of adult supervision at home, which may lead to a direct reduction of delinquent behavior.”
Based on American data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, researchers studied three separate ‘father roles’ and whether they had an influence on teen delinquency: parental involvement and interaction, contribution to household income and engagement with a father figure by simply being present at home.
Fathers and Youths’ Delinquent Behaviour, which was co-authored by Professor Erdal Tekin from Georgia State University, examinedthe full range of father figure roles and modern family structures, said Cobb-Clark.
“Our study included residential and non-residential, biological fathers and residential stepfathers and their influence on adolescent behaviors,” Cobb-Clark said.
“We find that adolescent boys engage in more delinquency without a father figure in their lives. Adolescent girls’ behaviors are less closely linked to this, which may be attributed to the inherent levels of risk-taking that vary between males and females.”
Higher family incomes were also found to have little effect on solving the problems associated with youth delinquency.
Source: University of Melbourne