Unexpected ways dads boost kids’ development

Dads have an important role to play – and it’s different from mum’s.

19 October 2017
3 minute read

father sitting on couch with son and tablet on his lap

Fascinating new scientific research is showing us that dads are so much more than just another pair of parenting hands. They add a whole extra dimension to child raising, benefiting kids in a host of surprising ways. We took a look at some of the top research into how fathers’ contributions to parenting make a difference in their children’s lives.

Dads help their daughters to be ambitious A study by the University of British Columbia published in Psychological Science showed that fathers who are equally involved in household chores are more likely to raise daughters who aspire to careers in legal, business or other professions.

Alyssa Croft, lead author of the study, said that the findings suggest that “girls grow up with broader career goals in households where domestic duties are shared more equitably by parents.”

So, there you go dads, if you want your daughters to be successful, do the dishes!

Dads help their sons to behave better The State of the World’s Fathers 2015 report gathered research from all around the world about the ways in which fathers influence their children. One of the key findings was that a father’s positive involvement in his sons’ lives protects them from developing risky behaviours and seeking out dangerous situations in adolescence and adulthood.

“Fathers’ involvement may also protect sons from delinquency, and, in poor families, from homelessness in adulthood,” the report said.

Dad’s involvement helps make kids smarter Boba.com brought together the findings of a range of studies that showed that a father’s involvement can have a powerful effect on a child’s cognitive development. One study showed that babies as young as five months old with more involved fathers scored higher on measures of cognitive development. The benefits increase from there - ultimately, children with more involved fathers perform better in school and value education more.

“One of the reasons for this may be the way fathers tend to talk to their children – asking more questions using the words who, what, where, when and why. These types of questions prompt children to communicate more, which can increase their vocabulary and improve their speaking skills,” the article stated.

Dads help kids to “live dangerously” While some mothers have to cover their eyes when dads toss their kids in the air, this more physical, less careful kind of love is actually good for children. According to Kyle D Pruett, of the Yale Child Study Centre and author of Fatherneed, this rougher play is likely to encourage risk taking. While embracing risk may not be every parent’s dream for their child, it is an essential skill later in life when being overly cautious tends to hold people back.

Pruett said that play with dads tends to activate (rather than soothe) children and encourage more novelty seeking. Fathers also tend to make use of bodies rather than toys for play, and to let kids experience a bit more frustration during play.

A strong mother-father relationship helps children A Dutch study by Hakvoort, Bos, Van Balen and Hermanns showed that the quality of the parents’ marriage and the level of support that the parents offer one another has a positive effect on the development of their children. When mothers reported positively on their level of marital satisfaction and on the strength of the relationship between their husbands and their children, the positive psychosocial outcomes for the children could be measured. A Harvard faculty paper stated, “When parents work as a well-functioning team, children learn how to work things out.”

It’s important to note that parents can argue within a positive relationship – that’s life – but that they also constructively resolve their differences.

What if dad’s not around? Remember, it takes a village to raise a child. If there is no father around, a lot of the benefits that children get from fathers can be replicated by other parental figures in their lives – grandfathers, uncles and even women role models that approach the world a little differently from mum.

Dads, do your best It’s great to hear that dads have such a positive contribution to make to their children’s lives. However, one thing stood out from all the research and that was that the dads who made a difference were the dads who made an effort. Just as it is with everything else in life, showing up is not enough – you have to commit to being the best dad you can be to achieve the best outcomes for your children.

Enter your name and contact number and one of our consultants will call you back:

Please type in your name
Please type in a valid SA number
Please select what your query relates to
Call me back