The importance of baby-father relationships

As we celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, many of us reflect on our relationships with our fathers and father figures. For many years, it was long assumed that the mother-child relationship was the most important one in a child’s development, but research proves how crucial a father is in early life.

Just like women, fathers’ bodies respond to parenthood, and their parenting style affects their kids just as much, and sometimes more, than mom’s. “We’re now finding that not only are fathers influential, sometimes they have more influence on kids’ development than moms,” said Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut. [Live Science]

The presence (or lack thereof) of both a mother and father in a child’s life, can have profound effects on their development, behaviour and personality. When kids feel rejected or unloved by either a mother or father, they are more likely to become aggressive, hostile, emotional, develop low self-esteem and have feelings of “not good enough”. However, research now suggests that behaviour issues, delinquency, depression or substance abuse are more closely linked to rejection from a father figure.

There is a natural attachment in biology for fathers, and dads show an increased level of oxytocin (the love hormone) during the first weeks of their babies’ life. Simply by playing with their babies, both dad and baby will form an increased level of bonding. But this research didn’t just take into account biological father relationships, the same benefits could be seen for kids with a male father figure too.

The most effective father relationships in this study were reflective of dads who emit warmth and love, accountability to the rules and age-appropriate autonomy for kids.

“Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms,” study researcher Laura Padilla-Walker told us. [Live Science]

Kim Barthel recommends a great book on this topic, ‘Do Fathers Matter? What Science is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked‘. This book emphasizes how significant a role dads play in the language development of their children and how tremendously they impact social development.

So this Sunday, be sure to give gratitude to the fathers, biological or not, in your life. The presence of these male figures has had a more profound impact on you than you think.

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