The Importance of Fatherhood
The Field of Fatherhood
Fatherhood is a state of being that occurs when a man becomes a dad. Fatherlessness significantly increases a child’s risk of poverty, mental illness, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy and crime.
Being a dad is hard work. It requires courage to be the one who checks under the bed for monsters and takes your kid to the ER for a broken arm.
1. Establishing a Secure Attachment
Since the 1990s, the field of fatherhood has grown in scope and reach. The field has shifted away from its initial dichotomy of father absence and presence and toward examining the diverse ways men enact their roles as fathers. Advocacy organizations and researchers now focus on the need to understand how different types of fathers enact their roles, (re)negotiate gendered expectations, and engage with their children and families over time.
Bowlby added fathers to the list of significant attachment figures because they serve a unique, separate function from mothers in children’s developmental needs. Specifically, they foster exploration and give children the confidence to follow their curiosity and master new skills without fear of failure. This is a key to secure attachment. As adults, securely attached people tend to be more trusting and forge better relationships with others.
2. Providing Love and Support
A father’s presence helps a child feel loved and safe. Whether it is setting boundaries and providing discipline or just being there to love them, a father’s role is vital in the development of a child.
Being a father means adjusting your priorities. Going out with friends and buying that new muscle car may need to be put on hold for a while, but the priority shift will make you happier in the long run.
Despite the advances in gender equality, much of the work on fathers focuses on the negative effects of father absence. However, a growing body of research points to the positive impacts of an involved father in children’s lives.
3. Becoming a Disciplinarian
Fathering a child requires more than just conceiving a baby. The responsibilities of being a father require the ability to discipline a child. This can be difficult because it involves teaching a child how to control their impulses. It also involves establishing boundaries.
Most cultures see this as one of a father’s primary roles. Men can use physical rough and tumble play to teach children self-control. However, this is not an excuse to abuse children. Discipline should be done in a way that does not hurt them or others.
The field of family studies has become increasingly interested in understanding how fatherhood is undergoing significant changes. Research is being done on how fatherhood is impacted by the process of reflexive modernization (after Giddens). This means that the concept of fatherhood is becoming progressively individualized.
4. Providing Financial Support
Fathers have a fundamental responsibility to provide financial support for their children. Nevertheless, this responsibility is not always met. This study examines patterns of father involvement in a low income Black community, using a longitudinal sample that permits modelling of father involvement as a trajectory, from the birth of the index child through age 18.
In line with expectations, education, treated as a proxy for employment potential, had a strong positive effect on the probability of receiving paternal support. However, kin gatekeeping was also important and needs further exploration.
Learn more about the impact of father absence and what you can do to help. Also watch the DADication Documentary. The trailer features fathers who appear in our Fatherhood PSAs and additional testimony from family advocates.
5. Teaching Life Skills
The suffix -hood indicates a state of being, and fatherhood is a state that encompasses many different aspects. Fathers can help their children develop important life skills by teaching them about the world around them and encouraging them to be empathetic towards people from diverse backgrounds.
Teach your children about diversity by exposing them to different cultures and encouraging friendships with people from different backgrounds. This will help them develop a more inclusive mindset and will serve them well in their lives as adults.
The 2021 film Fatherhood stars Kevin Hart as Matt Logelin, a man who loses his wife to a pulmonary embolism after the birth of their daughter Maddy. The film is based on the 2011 memoir Two Kisses for Maddy: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Matthew Logelin.