Q-ball loves her Daddy! She is blessed with a wonderful Daddy (and I’m blessed with a wonderful husband!) But, it seems that dads often get a bad rap in the media and certainly are less likely than moms to be the primary care providers for children. In the past, I have focused on maternal attachment. But, in recognition of Father’s Day, I wanted to look at some of the current research regarding paternal attachment and the influence of fathers on their children. I know that I have heard a lot about the negative affect that dads can have on children, so for today’s Science Friday (although it's a day late...) I tried to find studies that focused on the positive effects that fathers can have on children or just facts about paternal attachment in general.
- Fathers who are present at the birth of their child are more likely to demonstrate more attachment behaviors (holding, verbalizing, touching, etc.) with their newborn than fathers who were not present.
- While attachment studies tend to focus on the infant’s attachment to the primary caregiver (typically the mother), studies have also shown that a strong, positive relationship in the concordance of attachment patterns. That is, infants who are securely attached to their mothers are very likely to be securely attached to their fathers. Likewise, infants who are insecurely attached to one parent are very likely to be insecurely attached to the other. While many theories exist to explain this relationship, the two I that liked are 1) mother and father learn together how to respond to their children and 2) one parent may serve as a model for the other parent. I like the idea of mothers and fathers being a team!
- Fathers are more likely than mothers to interact with their children through physical play and to generate more excitement in children.
- Paternal sensitivity is related to the pattern of attachment that a father will have with his children. Increased sensitivity is linked with a more secure attachment pattern.
- A father’s appropriate response to a young child’s emotions predicts positive social and emotional models of behavior in adolescence.
- One study revealed the that the most significant predictor of empathy in children is paternal involvement in childcare as fathers establish clear boundaries for children, thus demonstrating how to respect other peoples’ boundaries.
- More and more fathers are providing child care as more mothers are working. Research has revealed that these children, when compared to children with mothers, another relative, or a non-relative as the care provider, are “no better or no worse.” (This is still a positive note! Many of the researchers hypothesized that paternal care would be worse for the children than maternal care!)
Some researchers consider the father essential for the holistic development of the child. I know this is true in our family! It is obvious that Q-ball interacts with her father completely differently than she interacts with me. While I am occasionally jealous of the fun they have, I am more often relieved to have a short break and am thankful for Q-ball’s opportunity to practice different interactions.
Thank you for all the fun, Daddy! Happy Father’s Day!
Does your child interact differently with his father than with his mother? What role does the father play in your house?
Averett, S.L. Gennetian, L.A., & Peters, H.E. (2005). Paternal child care and children's development. Journal of Population Economics, 18, 391-414.
Fox, N.A, Kimmerly, N.L., & Schafer, W.D. (1991). Attachment to mother/attachment to father: A meta-analysis. Child Development, 6(1), 210-225.
van IJzendoorn, M. & de Wolff, M. (1997). In search of the absent father-meta-analyses of infant-father attachment: A rejoinder to our discussants. Child Development, 68(4), 604-609.
Millar, D. (9 October 2006). The impact of a father on a child’s socio-economic development. Retrieved from http://fathersmatter.wordpress.com/tag/attachment-theory/
Miller, B.C. & Bowen, S. (1982). Father-to-newborn attachment behavior in relation to prenatal classes and presence at delivery. Family Relations, 31(1), 71-78.