Hundreds of studies have solidified the fact that a father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes more so…
Research has proven emphatically that, overall, the love — or rejection — of mothers and fathers affects kids’ behavior, self-esteem, emotional stability, and mental health. According to Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, in some cases, the withdrawal of a father’s love, acceptance and presence seems to play a bigger role in their children’s problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse.
And of course, the transverse is also true. The presence of a father’s love boosts children’s sense of well-being and improves their emotional and physical health. …But this is common knowledge. Most people are aware and do recognize the impacts a father has on his children.
Dad’s mental state directly impacts the kids
Scholars from Michigan State University (MSU) conducted a study and their findings not only underscore the importance of a father’s role in the lives of his children, but it went on to prove that dad’s overall mental state and moods have short and long term, direct effects on his children.
In the study, MSU researchers collected data from about 730 families that participated in a survey of Early Head Start programs at sites across the nation. The researchers focused their attention on discovering effects of parents’ stress and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety on their children. They found that parents stress levels and mental health issues affected how they interact with their children and, subsequently, their child’s development.
One of the most surprising findings derived from this study is that a father’s mental health has long-lasting implications that directly correlate to differences in children’s social skills (such as self-control and cooperation) by the time children reached fifth grade. In fact, a father’s depression during the toddler years is more influential on the development of a child’s social skills later in life, than is a mother’s depression or anxiety.
The study also highlighted the fact that a father’s parenting-related stress levels have a particularly harmful effect on his children’s cognitive and language development when the children are 2 to 3 years old—even in the presence of a mother’s’ positive influences. As might be expected, the father’s’ influence appears to have a stronger effect on boys’ language than girls’ language.
These empirical, evidence-based findings are a poignant reminder that every father has a responsibility to take care of his own psychological well-being in order to nurture and foster the well-being of his children.
One uplifting and positive thing that comes from this study is that we now have solid, scientific proof that dads do play as significant a role in raising children as mothers do, and that their piece of the family puzzle is crucial in helping a child learn and grow properly.
Defeating the “Dad Funk”
Parenting is a daunting and stressful undertaking–no two ways about it. Especially for new parents. Below are some ways for dad to minimize the negative impacts his foul mood can have on his kids:
Accept the fact that you will feel stressed
Understanding and accepting that stress is a part of child rearing is key to helping reduce its impact on your mood. If you expect it and prepare for it–you can proactively minimize its effects on your mood and it can reduce the number of outwardly negative reactions you display.
Learn your triggers and work to destress as quickly as possible
Learning and becoming in tune with yourself is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Find out what situations, thoughts or moments cause you the most stress. Can they be avoided? What can you do to avoid or minimize these moments? Take some “dad time” and engage in activities that lower your stress levels–engage in a sport or hobby, take quiet time away or take a walk on the beach.
If you are feeling overwhelmed or have a history of depression, anxiety or mental illness be sure to seek professional help. It is imperative for you and for your children. Consider the “airplane safety model.’ During the flight attendant’s safety speech, you are instructed to put your own oxygen mask on first and then help those around you don theirs. The message here is that you can’t help others breathe if you are suffocating.