Fathers are role models

While the role of mothers in the healthy development of children garners a lot of our attention, the role of fathers is often seen as simply that of the provider. Lately, even that perception has become unpopular as women spend more time in the workplace and become more financially independent. So, what does science actually tell us about the role that fathers play in child development?

Over the past twenty years, “fathering” has become a hot topic. And none too soon, because it turns out that dads are critically important to the healthy and well-rounded development of both boys and girls. National Fatherhood Initiative  research clearly shows that many of our most pressing social problems can be directly related to the absence of fathers. That alone should be enough to convince us that children are best served by having fathers who are actively engaged in their lives.

[callout title=Fathers & behavior]The messages that fathers send through their words and, more importantly, their behavior set the tone for much of their children’s future in terms of interpersonal relationships.[/callout]







But, the role of dad goes even deeper than that and it begins at conception. We know from research that when the father is emotionally and financially supportive of mother during the pregnancy, the outcome is better. During pregnancy, mother’s biochemistry will change significantly depending on her emotional state, which is largely determined by how secure she feels. Men who work hard to ensure that the mother of their child feels safe and cared for, both emotionally and financially, make a significant contribution to the health and well being of their unborn child.

Early in life, the primary role of physiological regulation of the infant will fall to mother. But sleep studies show that father can also play a role in physiological regulation, and in rare cases where mother is absent his presence is critical to the baby’s health and development. As the baby develops, this interplay of interaction between baby and both mother and father will remain very important.

Each parent brings unique gifts and strengths to the developmental process, especially with regard to behavior. Responsible fathers become crucial role models through their behavior towards both the children and their mother. This becomes especially important during the adolescent years as teens begin to negotiate their way through ever more complex relationships with their peers. Responsible fathers teach their daughters how a woman should expect to be treated by a man. They teach their sons how to regulate their behavior towards other boys and how to treat girls with the respect they deserve. The messages that fathers send through their words and, more importantly, their behavior set the tone for much of their children’s future in terms of interpersonal relationships. That is a huge responsibility.

I am the father of a daughter and I think I am not alone in saying that one of a father’s greatest fears is that his daughter will one day be swept off her feet by someone who doesn’t deserve her. My daughter married a wonderful guy two years ago. When I walked her down the aisle it was one of the best moments of my life. First, because she was so happy and like all dads when my little girl is happy, I’m happy. Second, because I knew she had chosen well. I like to think at least part of the reason for my joy was that deep down inside I knew I had done my job well. My baby girl grew up to become a woman who knew that she was worthy of only the best that a man could offer her, not in the material sense but in the far more important sense of respect and dignity. Mission accomplished!

So, let’s celebrate the dads in our lives this Sunday. Together with mom, they form what I call the “anthropological reality” of the family bond. The family bond is not a social construct but rather a critical element in the very nature of what it is to be human. Children need an involved mother and an involved father if they are to have the very best chance to develop into well functioning, capable adults. Happy Father’s Day!

9 Responses to Fathers are role models

  1. Thanks for being the amazing Father that you are, Dad. I know you made very intentional life decisions to have such a presence in my life and I want you to know how much I appreciate it. You certainly gave me a shining example of what I should look for in a husband and in the man I wanted to be the father of my own children someday. Thanks for always being there as a guide and as an inspiration to dream great dreams even if it means taking the (sometimes bumpier!) road less traveled.

    • Juliana – I appreciate your sweet thoughts. Nothing in my life has ever compared with being your father and I’ve been fortunate enough to do some amazing things and have some fantastic experiences. You top the list! I hope the way I live my life, with all my imperfections and faults, serves as an inspiration. I can see no better gift to leave for the next generation than that. Now if someone could even out some of the bumps in that road less traveled!

  2. GREAT article! It was apparent to me very quickly after meeting you that you were a good father and husband…you have two very adoring and happy women in your life. I would take advice from you on this topic any day. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!!! oh, and that picture is pretty great too 😉

    • Thanks so much Christi. You are right, I am luckier and more blessed than I deserve. I hope that I can be helpful to parents by sharing my knowledge and experience as a child development specialist and father. So I am pleased that you see the benefit of that. And I can’t remember who took that picture but she is one amazing photographer! 🙂

    • Three cheers to Christi for capturing these precious father/daughter moments on our wedding day. Best wedding photographer around! Hurray for Rawsii. 🙂

    • Chris – Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m happy that you recognize how your dad influenced you. So often we take those lessons for granted and don’t appreciate their significance. Good to keep in mind when you do become a father one day.

  3. Nice article!!!this article depicts ur love and affection for ur daughter and which also made me to think about my dad who just passed away. As a daughter i miss him alot…We have also written article about importance of father’s participation in child rearing in our blog…kindly give ur views about the same..


    • Thanks so much Anitha. I am so sorry for your loss. I hope that all of the wonderful memories you have of your father help you to heal from the pain. I will definitely read your article and am happy to share my thoughts. Hope to see you here again. Charlie

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