The duties of a dad are changing, and involvement is vital every step of the way.
Text: Lyndsay Jensen
A father's role in the family significantly impacts a child's psychological and physical well-being. When a child has a healthy relationship with a father figure, they tend to have improved psychological health and better quality relationships throughout their life. I want to break down the father role and how it has changed recently.
Father family role
Father figures can play many roles within the family structure. Remember that the term father does not apply solely to biological or husband and wife relationships.
Same-sex couples, transgender men who are parents, and single fathers provide just as meaningful parent-child relationships as families with a husband and wife. There is no one type of family where a child receives the healthiest father-child relationship.
How has it changed?
Unlike in the past, many fathers today are equally involved in parenting the children and the upkeep of the household. This not only sets a solid example for the children, but it also improves the partner relationship.
A study of married men and women who had just had their first child showed that when a father took the time to contribute to these tasks, there was an overall decrease in aggravation for both partners, even when their baby was fussy.
The importance of father
A father figure can significantly influence the life and well-being of a child. In families where the father figure is present, the father serves as one of the first role models and relationships the child will encounter. Children are compassionate and observant beings and internalise relational experiences.
These early interactions with their father serve as a blueprint for what a relationship looks like and impacts both the father-son and father-daughter relationships. This means that unhealthy relationships with a father figure can significantly impact the child's psychological well-being and unconscious relational choices when they become adults.
If a child has a healthy relationship with their father, they tend to have higher self-esteem and confidence and develop more stable relationships with other men in adulthood.
On the other hand, if a child has an unhealthy relationship with their father, they may experience more psychological distress and struggle with forming healthy relationships as they become adults.
Remember that it is challenging to alter the internalised relational blueprint that forms when children are pretty young. While it is possible to change this foundation, it often takes high levels of insight and significant psychotherapeutic interventions to shift these deep-rooted and often unconscious mental pathways.
Today's modern father
The "involved father" idea has taken shape in the past several decades. While historically, men's identities were heavily tied to their careers, and dads have continued to take a more active parenting role in recent years.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, we were all forced to retreat to the safety of home. During this time of solitude, fathers had the unique opportunity to spend more quality time with their kids while working from home.
Researchers at Harvard University have found that almost 70% of fathers in the United States, across race, class, educational level, and political affiliation felt closer to their children during the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic also brought more flexible work conditions. While most businesses have returned to the status quo, many fathers have changed their views of their old roles.
This restructuring of how fathers think about their careers and the value they see in achieving a work-life balance is a big step in helping families maintain healthy relationships.
Fathers play a significant role in moulding their children and promoting good mental and physical health. Regardless of how the father figure is connected to the child, the essential aspect of the parent-child relationship is the connection's quality, not whether the child and father are blood relatives. The most crucial father's role is to be present positively – and to remain that rock for years to come. Thank you to all the dads who show up actively and positively regardless of the shape or form you are present in your children's lives.