The Importance of Dads in the Life of the Family

Father’s Day provided a wonderful respite for dads, a chance to do whatever they wanted and enjoy a day of being honored for their contributions. They deserve it, despite what the world would have us think.

Watch a TV show, listen to popular music, or even follow the laws being churned out by our justice system and you may quickly draw the conclusion that dads are secondary parents, at best “babysitters” who step in when moms aren’t around to do the heavy lifting.

Often portrayed as fun, reckless, even bumbling, dads are great to have around but rarely seen as necessary, let alone crucial to a happy home.

The data, however, couldn’t contradict this portrayal more. As it turns out, the presence and active involvement of a full-time dad within the family structure is a game-changer. Research from the University of Pennsylvania showed that kids who are close to their father are twice as likely to enter college, 75 percent less likely to have a child in their teen years, 80 percent less likely to be incarcerated and half as likely to show various signs of depression.

Those numbers speak for themselves, but you may be asking why this is so. How could dad, the jokester and “fun parent,” have such an enormous influence on his children? The results come from a number of causes that, while not entirely unique to male partners, are commonly associated with them. Good dads are parenting partners and regular participants in their children’s lives. Specifically, they offer the following:

  1. Dads tend to have a very different parenting style from moms. They love more dangerously, engage in rough housing, enjoy creating adventures, encourage outdoor activities, and seek out opportunities for competition. According to child psychiatrist Kyle Pruett, fathers tend to have a more active play style, coupled with slower responses to a frustrated toddler or infant. While exacerbating to moms, this tendency to avoid stepping in actually promotes problem-solving competencies in children.
  2. Dads are all-important male role models. They have the opportunity to demonstrate respect, especially toward women. They teach their sons howto treat a woman and teach their daughters what to expect from a man.
  3. Dads offer protection. They trap the mouse, kill the bug, walk on the street side of the sidewalk. Dad can scare the boogeyman out of the closet, hook up a string of lights (because boogeymen never appear in a lit room), and tell a bedtime story that makes kids feel invincible, sending them off into peaceful slumber.
  4. Dads provide economic support. While fewer might be the main breadwinners in the home, they work just as hard in order to pay the bills and make kids feels secure in their homes. They demonstrate to their kids that hard work brings rewards and everyone needs to pull their own weight.
  5. Dads have a broad view of the world, probably because they’ve been out in a lot longer than moms. This affects the way they talk to their children and prepare them for the future. “Dads tend to see their child in relation to the rest of the world. Moms tend to see the rest of the world in relation to their child,” said Dr. David Popenoe, Professor of Sociology at Rutgers University and Co-Director of the National Marriage Project. Dads have a different perspective, so children are more likely to open their minds to varied possibilities.

Not all fathers are true Dads, but those who are are necessary to the fabric of the Christian home. Can we make it without them? Maybe. Do we want to? Absolutely not.

Dr. Rebecca Deurlein
Dr. Rebecca Deurlein

Rebecca Deurlein is the author of Teenagers 101: What a top teacher wishes you knew about helping your kid succeed, and President of Teenager Success 101, a one-on-one academic coaching company dedicated to helping kids find success. She blogs and writes internationally, speaks to parents across the nation, and loves every minute of living in Sugar Land, TX. Find her on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Huffington Post, or through her own blog A Teacher’s Guide to Understanding Teenagers. All can be accessed at www.TeenagerSuccess101.com.