Studies show ways dads make a difference for kids

Two studies recently published in scientific journals say that when it comes to parenting, dads really do matter to kids — and in some ways, they may have even more influence than mothers.

According to a meta-analysis of several decades’ worth of parenting studies published in Personality and Social Psychology Review, kids who feel rejected by their fathers show higher rates of behavioral problems, delinquency, depression and substance abuse than those who feel rejected by their mothers.

Here are the details in a report from CitizenLink:

The analysis was conducted by Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D., a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut and director of the Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) published last week in the Journal of Early Adolescence suggests that children whose fathers use an authoritative parenting style show more persistence than others — regardless of the type of parenting style their mothers use. Persistence, in turn was linked to lower rates of delinquency and greater involvement in school.

“Behavioral problems of kids — substance abuse, depression and overall psychological adjustment of children — tends to be more linked to children’s perception of dad’s rejection than to mother’s,” Rohner said.

The study examined only male father figures — those who play an active role in a child’s life, regardless of whether they are the child’s biological father. So the results may not be extrapolated to kids who are being raised without father figures.

Nonetheless, it’s a telling detail.

If fathers are loving, Rohner said, “that love is going to have, we think, a greater impact developmentally on the children than the mom’s.”

After following 325 families for five years, researchers at BYU’s School of Family Life found that children who develop persistence are more likely to have fathers with authoritative parenting styles — showing love and warmth to kids, holding them accountable to rules but explaining why the rules exist, and giving them age-appropriate amounts of freedom.

Professors Laura Padilla-Walker and Randal Day focused on kids between the ages of 11 and 14 who live in two-parent homes. Approximately 52 percent of the fathers in the study had authoritative parenting styles, and their children appeared to develop more persistence than others.

“There are relatively few studies that highlight the unique role of fathers,” Padilla-Walker told LiveScience. “This research also helps to establish the traits such as persistence — which can be taught — are key to a child’s life success.”

The authors plan further research on how single parents can teach their children the same lesson.

Learn more about the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut. Learn more about the Flourishing Families Project at Brigham Young University.

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