The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dads Matter

For decades, psychologists and other researchers assumed that the mother-child bond was the most important one in a kid’s life. They focused on studying those relationships, and however a child turned out, mum often got the credit — or blame.

Within the last several decades, though, scientists are increasingly realizing just how much dads matter.

Unsurprisingly, parents have a major effect on their kids. When kids feel rejected or unloved by mum and dad, they’re more likely to become hostile, aggressive and emotionally unstable. Parental rejection also can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and negative worldviews.

This is true for both parents. But in some cases, dad is a more important factor than mum.

Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to dad’s rejection than mum’s.

Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers.

The magic fathering style is called authoritative parenting, a style characterized by warmth and love, accountability to the rules (but explanations of why those rules exist), and age-appropriate autonomy for kids. Learn more here.

“When I was a young man, I thought life was all about me. But then the two of you came into my world with all your curiosity and mischief and those smiles that never fail to fill my heart and light up my day. And suddenly, all my big plans for myself didn’t seem so important anymore. I soon found that the greatest joy in my life was the joy I saw in yours.”

Barack Obama

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