Children with involved fathers are less likely to break the law and drop out of school. Guided by close relationships with their dads, these kids disproportionately grow up to avoid risky sex, pursue healthy relationships, and hold down high-paying jobs. They’re unlikely to become homeless or rely on welfare and more likely to have higher IQ scores than their peers by age three. Longer term, they suffer from fewer psychological problems and may be less prone to obesity.
“When fathers are actively involved with their children, children do better,” Paul Amato, a sociologist who studies parent-child relationships at Pennsylvania State University, told Fatherly. “All of this research suggests that fathers are important for a child’s development.”
If that sounds like a no-brainer, rest assured that it is not. Research on fatherhood and the downstream effects of engaged, thoughtful dad-ing is scant, relative to the extensive literature on motherhood. Strange as it may sound, fatherhood is an emerging field of study. But there’s a race underway to make up for lost time. Almost daily, scholars are now releasing new data that illustrates how men can both help and hurt their children. Some of these results — ugly divorces aren’t great for kids — are relatively logical. Others are not. One wouldn’t necessarily guess that the correlation between a fatherly presence and lack of aggression would be consistent across class. It is. One wouldn’t assume dad staying home would be negatively correlated to female delinquency. It is.
“The Father Effect” is the umbrella term for the benefits of a paternal presence. These effects can be numerous when fathers actively participate in family life. “There needs to be a minimum amount of time spent together, but the quality of time is more important than the quantity of time,” Amato says. “Just watching television together, for example, isn’t going to help much.”