The modern day father comes in various forms. Today’s father is no longer always the traditional married breadwinner and disciplinarian in the family.
He can be single or married; externally employed or stay-at home; gay or straight; an adoptive or step-parent; and a more than capable caregiver to children facing physical or psychological challenges. Psychological research across families from all ethnic backgrounds suggests that fathers’ affection and increased family involvement help promote children’s social and emotional development.
Historically, research on child development has focused more on the sensitivity of mothers to fulfilling their children’s needs. However, in the last 20 to 30 years, research has increasingly focused on fathers.
This is due to the growing role modern day fathers play in caregiving. A study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found that fathers tended to be more involved in caregiving when:
- they worked fewer hours than other fathers;
- they had positive psychological adjustment characteristics (e.g., high self- esteem, lower
levels of depression and hostility, and coping well with the major tasks of adulthood);
- mothers worked more hours than other mothers;
- mothers reported greater marital intimacy; and
- when children were boys.
Other research on the role of fathers suggests that the influence of father love on children’s development is as great as the influence of a mother’s love. Fatherly love helps children develop a sense of their place in the world, which helps their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning. Moreover, children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle with behavioural or substance abuse problems.
In cases of divorce, it is often difficult if not impossible for fathers to maintain the same types of parenting roles with their biological children. Indeed, children of divorce — and later, remarriage — are twice as likely to academically, behaviourally and socially struggle as children of first-marriage families.
Most divorced fathers do not receive full custody of their children. As a result, maintaining their roles as parents can be difficult due to the reduction in time spent with their children. Fortunately, visitation of fathers post-divorce has increased over the past two decades. However, it is not the frequency of contact between father and child, but rather the quality of the visits that contribute to the child’s well-being. Research has found that the key factors that contribute to healthy adjustment for children post-divorce include:
- appropriate parenting (i.e., providing emotional support, monitoring children’s activities, disciplining authoritatively and maintaining age appropriate expectations),
- enough access to the non-residential parent,
- suitable custody arrangements, (joint legal custody often results in shared decision making, more father-child visits, regular child support payments and more satisfied and better adjusted children)
- low parental conflict, and
- parents who are psychologically healthy.
It is estimated that one in three Americans is part of a step-family. Step-fathers can encounter many difficulties in their new parenting roles. They must strike a balance between maintaining healthy relationships with their ex-spouses in order to benefit their biological children without alienating their new partners.
In addition, it may take years before they are accepted as “real” parents by their step-children. Research has found that the type of step-family with best outcomes for children consists of parents who form a solid, committed partnership so they can not only nurture their marriage, but also effectively raise their children. These parents don’t follow unrealistic expectations of what the family should be like.
Source: Ghana/todaygh.com/Women in Society with Thelma Asantewaa