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An appreciation for fathers

Father’s Day is a time to celebrate the important role that dads play in their children’s lives. For a long time, fathers were seen as “secondary” parents, while mothers stereotypically handled most nurturing and parenting duties. But parenting research and shifted gender expectations have led to a growing appreciation for fathers who are involved in their children’s lives. 

Here are just a few of the many ways involved fathers and father figures can positively impact their children:

Cognitive development

A child’s cognitive development clearly benefits from a parent who is highly involved in play and caregiving activities. Infants as young as 5 months old score higher on tests of cognitive development if they have a highly-involved father figure. As they get older, these children also get better grades and are more successful in school (Cummings & O’Reilly). These children are also more curious and more engaged with their education.

Boost confidence

By showing their children love and attention, parents help raise children who feel valued and loved. Children with supportive father figures are happier and have greater self-esteem. These children have less anxiety and learn to create more positive relationships with others (Cabrera).

Positive male role model

Father figures can be a great role model for children, promoting good behavior and relationship practices. Children with more involved father figures learn to be compassionate and sociable, and demonstrate greater impulse control (Newton, Easterbrooks & Goldberg). Fathers who share parenting duties and household chores with mothers also show their children positive gender-role characteristics.

Modern families are complex! Sometimes, dads aren’t present in a child’s life for a variety of reasons. Some children are raised by single mothers, two moms, grandparents, relatives, or any other combination of parental figures. But that doesn’t mean kids from these households necessarily miss out on the benefits of having an involved caregiver who fills the roles dads may play.

Decades of research assure us that loving caregivers within any family structure can raise their children to develop into healthy, happy people. This is good news, of course. But, reserving a day a year to honor fathers is good for everyone! It reminds us to counter the stereotypes of fathers—the financial provider, the “fun” parent, the absent parent, the disciplinarian–which erroneously constricts fathers and unfairly places mothers in the position of having to meet all of the opposite stereotypes. 

Father’s Day reminds us that the continuous presence of a loving, supportive, attentive, and actively involved father or father figure contributes immensely to children’s health and well-being. 


All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care. Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article. You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance. Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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