The Importance of Father-Child Bonding
A generation ago, fathers were seen primarily as the bread winners, the disciplinarians, and the guy who barbecued out back on summer weekends. But in the past several decades, the role of the father has evolved into a much more nurturing, tender, involved one, and while this is great news for overworked moms, research is showing that an involved father is also crucial to the healthy development of the child. It is, admittedly, much easier for the baby and mother to form an early and deep bond; however, that only means that you need to dig a little deeper and try a little harder to find special ways and moments to show your baby that you love her and you’ll always be her daddy. And this Father’s Day is the perfect time to start!
James May, founder and Project Director of the National Father’s Network, attended a conference at Harvard University where the following question was debated: “Do men make a difference in the lives of children?” May laments, “After three days of intense discussion, the ‘results’ were inconclusive. Would we ever ask this question about mothers and children? Of course not!” But it is a question that is being asked with greater frequency – often within the framework of studying the social cost of fatherless children, a growing demographic as divorce rates increase and dead-beat dads abound.
Recent studies have suggested that children whose fathers are actively involved with them from birth are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in exploring their surroundings, have better social connections with peers as they grow older, are less likely to get in trouble at home and at school, and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Children with fathers who are nurturing, involved, and playful also turn out to have higher IQs and better linguistic and cognitive capacities.
The way that fathers play with their children can be important as well. Fathers tend to spend more time in playful, physical activities with their children, which researchers believe helps children learn to regulate their emotions and resist the urge to act on aggressive impulses. Fathers also tend to encourage independence and achievement, in contrast to the nurturing and protective nature of mothers, both of which play an important role in a child’s healthy development.
Father-child bonding is especially important to young girls. Dr. Obie Clayton, professor of sociology at Morehouse College, explains, “The effect that fathers have on daughters is extremely strong, even more so than for boys. When fathers interact with their daughters, those girls have higher self-esteem and go on to succeed in college.” In addition, girls learn from their fathers how they should expect to be treated by men and those with loving, attentive fathers are less likely to end up in violent or unhealthy relationships. According to Phame Camarena, a researcher at Purdue University, “…a good predictor of an adolescent girl’s mental health is her relationship with her father.”
So while Father’s Day is traditionally reserved for bestowing gifts on you, why not make Father’s Day a day to honour the important role you play in your child’s life by spending the day together. Now is the time, while your baby is new, to make the commitment to bond with him or her on a daily basis. It can make a profound difference in your child’s life.