A mother's deep bond with her child is almost always unquestionable; after all, it's an emotional connection that begins before the child is even born. With dads, however, the connection can take time. The traditional role of a father in our society -- breadwinner, macho man -- can often create a distance between him and his child (and it falls on mom to bridge that gap). The good news is dads today recognize the need to be actively involved in raising their child. But it's not just a question of how much quality time he spends with his kids, but how responsive he is to their non-physical needs.
A new study from Oxford University found that a dad's emotional attachment and strong bond with his child has the most significant effect on his child's behavior. Kids of emotionally-involved dads were almost 28 percent less likely to suffer from behavioral problems in their tweens. A father who met his child's emotional and mental needs had a greater impact than helping out with diaper duties and other child care tasks, or doing their share of household chores.
The results also showed that dads who constantly gave emotional support to the mothers of their children also influenced their children's positive behavior. The dads who felt more confident with their parenting skills also tend to have a stronger connection with their kids and their partner.
"It is the emotional connection and the emotional response to actually being a parent that matters enormously in relation to later outcomes for children," Maggie Redshaw, Ph.D., a developmental and health psychologist at the University of Oxford and co-author of the research, told The Guardian.
Researchers based their study’s data on almost 10,500 kids between 8 to 10 years old who were living with both their parents. The parents of these tweens were asked to complete a questionnaire about their and their child’s mental health, their attitudes to parenting, time spent on childcare, and child behavior and development.
"Positive parenting by fathers may contribute to good outcomes in children in a number of ways. Involved fathers may influence children indirectly by being a source of instrumental and emotional support to mothers who provide more of the direct care for children. The potential positive effect of this on mothers’ well-being and parenting strategies may then lead to better outcomes in children," according to Jane Kirby, press association health editor of The Huffington Post.
The researchers added, "Greater paternal involvement may also lead to or be a manifestation of a happy and cohesive family, and this may bring about better outcomes in children."
It makes sense: the odds that kids will grow up to be well-adjusted are always higher when BOTH parents are emotionally-invested in relationships and the family. After all, parents are the children’s first teachers especially when it comes to character development. Kids learn best from what they see and not what you tell them. They need to see and get to know a father who acts more than just a provider.
In this time of the year when we fuss about what gift to give to kids, this study is a reminder that what our kids really need is us -- our love, time, and undivided attention when we are with them.