Advice Column, Parenting

Why Fathers Are Important To Young Children

  • Barbara Harvey
  • Category Advice Column, Parenting

On May 15, 2013 Bristol University published in Psychological Medicine in the United Kingdom a report on a study done to look at the impact of absent fathers in the timing of a young child’s (younger than age 5) life and adolescent mental health.  The study shows as do others that young children develop depression because of fewer coping skills  and an undeveloped circle of support. The study shows that girls may be more susceptible to depression because of the tendency for girls to be more affected by family dynamics.

Over the last year I have been looking at the effects of fathers on young children. Primarily how Erickson’s stages of Psychosocial Development and fatherhood and are related.The first three stages of the scale are Trust vs.Mistrust, Autonomy vs Shame and Doubt, and Initiative vs. Guilt.

In the research I have been reading fathers are key to children developing in all three areas.  This leads me to suspect that the researchers findings that children whose fathers become absent during their early years are less able to cope with issues. Children’s whose fathers either stayed in the family or remained an important part of their children’s early lives have fewer problems adjusting to life’s changes.

Traditional thought about father’s states that they are the providers of home and physical provisions not really necessary in the early years as are mothers.  However, studies are showing the relationships between fathers and young children are necessary to the development of these stages.  An article on the Zero to Three Website“ How Men and Children Affect Each Others Development” shows that fathers’ can spend hours holding and staring at their new born children. One might speculate that it is this interaction of being securely held and face to face interaction may strongly contribute to a new born’s sense of security and trust .

Some research also shows that fathers tend to wait longer to help children when they are struggling, giving tips and encouragement but not reaching in to help until the child has given it a good effort. This tendency in my opinion shows children that their father’s think of them as capable and that belief fosters a stronger belief in themselves and their abilities.

These two paragraphs show how fathers help to build trust, autonomy, and initiative in children. It is these tendencies in men that allow children to develop coping skills, resiliency, and self-esteem leading to a belief in themselves and their ability to cope in the world. Young Children need constant and interpersonal relationships with their fathers to develop these skills.

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