The American Psychological Association released a report in the last few days which criticised ‘traditional masculinity’ saying it contributed to mental health problems among men. But the same report nonetheless had a fair amount to say about the value of fathers to their children, something rarely acknowledged here in this country.
The report said that father involvement in the lives of their children “has been consistently linked to positive child outcomes”. Why do we acknowledge this so rarely in Ireland? Is it because it might be deemed offensive to single mothers? But very few people deny the value of mothers. When the value of fathers is denied, it is fathers, and men more generally who should be insulted.
It says that long-term studies show fathers benefit their children psychologically, behaviuorally, cognitively and financially.
Here is an extended quote from the report:
“Father involvement for resident and nonresident fathers has been consistently linked to positive child outcomes (Marsiglio, Amato, Day, & Lamb, 2000). Longitudinal studies continue to support early findings of the positive influences father involvement has on children’s behavioral, psychological, cognitive, and financial stability (Sarkadi, Kristiansson, Oberklaid, & Brember, 2008). Father involvement with infants and young children has been associated with advanced language development, a lower likelihood of cognitive deficits on the Bayley Short Form—Research Edition, a facilitator of positive pre-feeding behavior, and fewer behavioral problems later in childhood (Bronte-Tinkew, Carrano, Horowitz, & Kinukawa, 2008; Erlandsson, Dsilna, Fagerberg, Christensson, 2007; Pancsofar & Vernon-Feagans, 2006; Trautmann-Villalba, Gschwendt, Schmidt, & Laucht, 2006). For school-aged children (approximately 4–12), father involvement has been associated with increased levels of academic achievement, more positive school attitudes, literacy development, academic competence, nonverbal cognitive functioning, fewer internalizing behavior problems, higher levels of emotion regulation and math and reading skills, and social adjustment (Cabrera, Cook, McFadden, & Bradley, 2012; Cook, Roggman, & Boyce, 2012; Pougnet, Serbin, Stack, & Schwartzman, 2011). For nonresident fathers, children’s well-being is tied less to fathers’ general behaviors (spending time or money) and more to being involved in activities with their children that nurture the father–child relationship (Adamsons & Johnson, 2013). For adolescents, father involvement has been associated with healthier eating patterns, lower internalizing problems especially for daughters, higher self-esteem, less delinquency, fewer depressive symptoms, less violent behavior, better grades, and less substance use (Booth, Scott, & King, 2010; Day & Padilla-Walker, 2009; Stamps Mitchell, Booth, & King, 2009; Stewart & Menning, 2009).”
That is quite a list of benefits. A growing number of children in Irish society lack the presence of a father in their lives. That should be a matter of great concern.