The dad effect: Why dads are as important as mums

Fathers and kids

While the mother-child bond is indisputable, increasingly research is showing that dads, too, have a huge impact on their kids – and vice-versa.

Of course, it makes sense that today’s fathers should be found to be at least equally as influential as mothers, yet it’s tended to be mums who’ve got all the credit, or, just as often, copped all the blame for how smart, happy, fat or engaged kids are.

Here are some of the interesting results from recent global research into the importance of dads.

Dad’s love is at least equally important

Large-scale UK research involving 10,000 sons and daughters has revealed how a cold or distant father can damage a child’s life, sometimes for decades to come. Rejection by dads was strongly linked to feelings of anxiety and insecurity as well as hostile and aggressive behaviour.

Kids of involved dads do better at school

Another study found that the more dads are involved with their offspring, the better their exam results across the age groups. In fact, a father’s interest in his child’s education, particularly in late primary school, has been found to have more influence on education outcomes than family background, the child’s personality or socio-economic factors.

Harsh dads can raise aggressive kids

An authoritarian-style dad is more likely to raise children (especially boys) who display aggressive behaviour, than a mum who has a harsh parenting style, says US research.

Dads have a big impact from birth

The way fathers interact with babies as young as three months old can influence whether the children develop behavioural problems by their first birthday, says an article in a recent child psychology journal. Again, baby boys seemed more influenced by their dads’ level of involvement than their female counterparts. The kids who developed the most behavioural problems had fathers who “sat back and were distracted”, the report said.

Could dads influence kids’ eating habits more than mum?

Children whose fathers were more authoritarian were more likely to eat junk food, says 2007 US research. And dads who believed they didn’t have a lot of control at work and who also placed less value on family mealtime were also more likely to have kids who ate fast food more regularly.

Careful the kids are watching you, dads

Kids tend to pay more attention to what Dad does and says than Mum, and his actions could wield more influence as well, says UK research.

Fatherhood leads to testosterone drops

This male hormone takes a bit of a dive when men become dads, scientists have found. And the more Daddy is involved in child-raising, the lower his testosterone is. Rather than suggesting that engaged dads are less manly, the researchers say the hormonal changes show that men’s bodies evolved hormonal systems that helped them commit to their families once children were born.


This article was written by Fiona Baker for Kidspot, Australia’s best family health resource.