For many decades, conventional wisdom told us that when it came to child development, mothers were the most important parent. Fathers, apparently, weren’t good for much more than piggybacks, reading an occasional bedtime story, and, of course, discipline. Researchers who studied child development bought into that conventional wisdom and rarely bothered to investigate whether dads might actually play a more important role.
Fortunately, a steady flow of more open-minded, intellectually honest research has discovered (and continues to discover) what fathers and children have always known: Dads play a role in their children’s life that is at least as important as the mom’s. Dads aren’t merely nice to have around; their presence is essential to their children in almost every area of their life: physically, psychologically, socially, developmentally, and even economically.
The Dad effect shows up in two different ways: good things happen when he’s involved, and not-so-good things happen when he’s not. At the same time, we’re learning that supporting dads in their parenting role and giving them plenty of help and encouragement increases their involvement. Thanks to relatively new research, we now know that dads who are actively involved with their kids are happier, less depressed, healthier, less likely to commit crimes or abuse drugs or alcohol, and tend to be more satisfied in their jobs and have more successful careers.
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