PARENTING & Research Uncovers the Distinct, Positive Impact of a Good Dad

by Bradford Wilcox, The Atlantic Monthly, 11/30/15.

How fathers contribute to their kids’ lives. Are dads dispensable? A lot of scholars and writers weighing in on fatherhood these days have come to the conclusion that they are.… There is a growing body of research suggesting that man bring much more to the parenting enterprise than money… (read their unique contributions in this The Atlantic Monthly article):

…There are at least four ways, spelled out in my new book, Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives (co-edited with Kathleen Kovner Kline), that today’s dads tend to make distinctive contributions to their children’s lives:

The Power of Play: “In infants and toddlers, fathers’ hallmark style of interaction is physical play that is characterized by arousal, excitement, and unpredictability,” writes psychologist Ross Parke

Encouraging risk: In their approach to childrearing, fathers are more likely to encourage their children to take risks, embrace challenges, and be independent, whereas mothers are more likely to focus on their children’s safety and emotional well-being. “[F]athers play a particularly important role in the development of children’s openness to the world,” writes psychologist Daniel Paquette. “[T]hey also tend to encourage children to take risks, while at the same time ensuring the latter’s safety and security, thus permitting children to learn to be braver in unfamiliar situations, as well as to stand up for themselves.”

Protecting his own: Fathers play an important role in protecting their children from threats in the larger environment. For instance, fathers who are engaged in their children’s lives can better monitor their children’s comings and goings, as well as the peers and adults in their children’s lives, compared to disengaged or absent fathers. Of course, mothers can do this, to an extent. But fathers, by dint of their size, strength, or aggressive public presence, appear to be more successful in keeping predators and bad peer influences away from their sons and daughters. As psychologist Rob Palkovitz notes in our book, “paternal absence has been cited by multiple scholars as the single greatest risk factor in teen pregnancy for girls.”

Dad’s discipline: Although mothers typically discipline their children more often than do fathers, dads’ disciplinary style is distinctive. In surveying the research on gender and parenthood for our book, Palkovitz observes that fathers tend to be firmer with their children, compared to mothers. Based on their extensive clinical experience, and a longitudinal study of 17 stay-at-home fathers, Kyle Pruett and psychologist Marsha Kline Pruett agree. In Partnership Parenting they write, “Fathers tend to be more willing than mothers to confront their children and enforce discipline, leaving their children with the impression that they in fact have more authority.” By contrast, mothers are more likely to reason with their children, to be flexible in disciplinary situations, and to rely on their emotional ties to a child to encourage her to behave. In their view, mothers and fathers working together as co-parents offer a diverse yet balanced approach to discipline…”

Read it on theatlantic.com