The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dads Matter
#1 June 18, 6:00 am
The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dads MatterFor 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, mom often got the credit — or blame.
Within the last several decades, though, scientists are increasingly realizing just how much dads matter. Just like women, fathers' bodies respond to parenthood, and their parenting style affects their kids just as much, and sometimes more, than mom's.
"We're now finding that not only are fathers influential, sometimes they have more influence on kids' development than moms," said Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut.
Feeling dad's love
Rohner and his colleagues recently reviewed decades of studies on parental acceptance and rejection across the globe. Unsurprisingly, parents have a major effect on their kids. When kids feel rejected or unloved by mom 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, Rohner told LiveScience. But in some cases, dad is a more important factor than mom. [History's 12 Most Doting Dads]
Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to dad's rejection than mom's, Rohner said.
By the same token, dad's love is sometimes a stronger influence for children than mom's, the researchers found.
"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," Rohner said. He and his colleagues detailed their findings in May in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.
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