Fathers are Irreplacable

A nice recent (2006) study on the importance of fathers in the lives of their children, and especially the father-daughter relationship.

From section 2.3 of the study (footnotes not referenced here):

Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood.13 Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.18

The way fathers play with their children also has an important impact on a child’s emotional and social development. Fathers spend a much higher percentage of their one-on-one interaction with infants and preschoolers in stimulating, playful activity than do mothers. From these interactions, children learn how to regulate their feelings and behavior. Rough-housing with dad, for example, can teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions.19 Generally speaking, fathers also tend to promote independence and an orientation to the outside world. Fathers often push achievement while mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self-control and pro-social behavior.20

One study of school-aged children found that children with good relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience depression, to exhibit disruptive behavior, or to lie and were more likely to exhibit pro-social behavior.21 This same study found that boys with involved fathers had fewer school behavior problems and that girls had stronger self-esteem.22 In addition, numerous studies have found that children who live with their fathers are more likely to have good physical and emotional health, to achieve academically, and to avoid drugs, violence, and delinquent behavior.23

In short, fathers have a powerful and positive impact upon the development and health of children. A caseworker who understands the important contributions fathers make to their children’s development and how to effectively involve fathers in the case planning process will find additional and valuable allies in the mission to create a permanent and safe environment for children.

A shocking finding from section 3.2 which goes against the stereotype:

In 2003, an estimated 906,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect. Neglect was the most common form of maltreatment, with 60.9 percent of child victims suffering from neglect in 2003. Neglect was followed by physical abuse (18.9 percent of child victims), sexual abuse (9.9 percent of child victims), and psychological maltreatment (4.9 percent of child victims). In 2003, approximately 1,500 children died because of abuse or neglect.29

The largest percentage of perpetrators (83.9 percent) was parents, including birth parents, adoptive parents, and stepparents.30 How do fathers compare to mothers in the perpetration of child maltreatment? As discussed earlier, Federal data derived from CPS reports in 2003 indicate that in 18.8 percent of the substantiated cases, fathers were the sole perpetrators of maltreatment; in 16.9 percent of the cases, the fathers and the mothers were perpetrators; and in 1.1 percent of the cases, the father acted with someone else to abuse or neglect his child. Mothers were the sole perpetrators in 40.8 percent of the cases and acted with someone besides the father in 6.3 percent of the cases.31 This means that fathers were involved in 36.8 percent of child maltreatment cases and that mothers were involved in 64 percent of child maltreatment cases. Additionally, more than one-half of the male perpetrators were biological fathers, and, although recidivism rates were low, biological fathers were more likely to be perpetrators of maltreatment again than were most other male perpetrators. This may be due in part to the lack of permanence between a mother and her boyfriend or that the perpetrator may be excluded from the household before recidivism can occur.32

Mothers are almost twice as likely to be directly involved in child maltreatment as fathers. Mothers are more likely to abuse or neglect their children than fathers because they bear a larger share of parenting responsibilities in two-parent families and because a large percentage of families today are headed by mothers. In some communities, they are the majority.33 Perpetrator patterns differ, however, by type of maltreatment. Mothers are not more likely to be the perpetrator when it comes to sexual abuse; fathers are more likely to be reported for this crime.34

By the same token, fathers offer a protective role against child maltreatment.

This is a very important and helpful study.

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