Children do better with involved dads

7 June 2001

Father involvement can be vital to children, improving educational achievement, social skills and cutting criminality, according to major research commissioned by four British charities working with fathers and part-funded by the Home Office.

Dads share with mothers the same level of emotional response to new-born babies and are just as sensitive and affectionate when looking after their babies, finds the report by Britain’s leading academics in the field, Charlie Lewis, Professor of Psychology and Dr Jo Warin, Lecturer in Educational Studies at Lancaster University.

Fathers are now the main carers for children when mothers are working. In 36 per cent of dual earner families, it is now the father, more than any other individual, who cares for children when the mother is at work, finds the report, entitled What Good Are Dads?

The team examined British and international research over 20 years – 700 papers are published annually – for the project commissioned by Fathers Direct, the National Family and Parenting Institute, Newpin Fathers Support Centre and Working With Men.

Launching the report in the run-up to Fathers’ Day (June 17), Professor Lewis said:

“We now know how positive fathering can be right from the start, providing crucial support to new mothers and contributing to many aspects of child development. Our report also demonstrates that the old picture of most fathers simply being breadwinners is inaccurate, as dads step in more and more to take over the tasks left by mothers at work. However, our research also shows the problems dads have in fulfilling their caring role, working the longest hours in Europe and often lacking self-confidence. “

David Bartlett of Fathers Direct said:

“After this research, no-one can now take refuge in discredited stereotypes suggesting fathers are insignificant. If we want children to thrive emotionally, educationally, socially and physically, we must make the most of dads.”

Mary MacLeod, Chief Executive, NFPI said:

“With family life undergoing such fundamental and complex change, this paper is timely, looking at what good fathering gives to children and what we know about the importance of fathers.”

Celestine Chakravarty-Agbo of NEWPIN Fathers Support Centre, said:

“This research gives a huge boost to the fathers we work with. Dads in our groups are saying that, for the first time, they feel the contribution they make to their children’s lives is being recognised.”

Trefor Lloyd, of Working With Men, said:

“Before Charlie Lewis’s and Jo Warin’s review, writers were too often over-optimistic about fathers or over-pessimistic about them. While this review will probably disappoint those in both these camps, it does identify very significant ways in which many fathers are enormously beneficial to their families and particularly their children”

Other key points include:

  • Involvement of dads with children aged 7-11 predicts success in exams at 16
  • Where dads are involved before the age of 11, children are less likely to have a criminal record by the age of 21
  • Pre-schoolers who spend more time playing with their dads are often more sociable when they enter nursery school
  • Nine out of ten dads attend the birth
  • Mothers say dads are their main support after the birth
  • A crying or smiling baby affects the heart rate and blood pressure of a father in the same way as a mother.

Fathers Direct, the national information centre for fatherhood, promotes positive relationships between men and their children. 020 7920 9491 www.fatherhoodinstitute.org

The National Family and Parenting Institute is an independent charity set up to enhance the value and quality of family life. 020 7424 3460 www.nfpi.org

Working With Men is a not-for-profit organisation supporting work with men. DIY Dads is one of its local projects in south London. 020 7732 9409. www.workingwithmen.org

Newpin is the national organisation established in 1980 to break the cycle of destructive family behaviour. Its fathers’ centre was established in 1997. 020 7740 8997 www.newpin.org.uk

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