A study which looked at 471 young adults found that those who were close to their father were happier, more satisfied with life, had less distress and had higher self-esteems (1). Other studies have been less flattering of fathers, particularly absent or nonresident fathers, whose only apparent positive influence came in the form of child support payments (2). However, one factor which influences children positively, whether their father lived with them or not, was how engaged their father was with them.
Highly engaged fathers positively influence their children’s social, behavioural and psychological outcomes. Social outcomes include increased social skills, problem-solving abilities and adaptive behaviour. Behavioural outcomes include a decrease in delinquency and trouble with police. Psychological outcomes include less negative feelings and more self-control (3).
In conclusion, fathers are most certainly important because they can positively impact on their children’s lives. They can do so by being involved and highly engaged with their children, whether they live with them or not. We suggest all fathers and prospective fathers digest this information. Try to play an active role in your children’s lives. If you are struggling with this, BayPsych are able to assist you.
The Transition to Fatherhood
In a study of over 300 Australian first time fathers, new fathers generally found that the most stressful time was during pregnancy. This is the time when most changes occur, as well as the fabled decrease in sexual activity. Most men expected sexual function to improve after birth, but were surprised that not much changed after pregnancy. New fathers tended to report higher psychological wellbeing, but other areas such as the amount of exercise and sleep decreased, as well as an increase in bodyweight (4).
Psychological changes during the transition to fatherhood were classified by one study as a mix of “detachment, surprise and confusion”, essentially new fathers can feel like an outsider, can be overwhelmed by their experiences, and can feel unsure about what to do next. In comparison to their own fathers, new fathers either wanted to be more like their own dad, or less like their own dad. Those who wanted to be less like their own dad expressed a desire to spend more time with their children, and be more approachable (5).
The same study found that relationships generally improved, but changed dramatically. Whilst there was less time together, less spontaneity, and decreased intimacy, such changes were offset by a relationship that became “calmer”, “deeper”, “stronger” and more “united”. As one new dad put it “we are a family, a wholeness, we belong together much more now”. Often new fathers feel that they are not ready for such changes. The team at BayPsych are available to discuss such issues with expectant fathers, call us on (07) 3809 3573.
Whoever does not have a good father should procure one.
(1) Amato, P.R. (1994). Father-Child Relations, Mother-Child Relations, and Offspring Psychological Well-Being in Early Adulthood. Journal of Marriage and Family, 56(4), 1031-1042.
(2) Amato, P.R, & Gilbreth, J.G. (1999). Nonresident Fathers and Children’s Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Marriage and Family, 61(3). 557-573.
(3) Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., Bremberg, S. (2007). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Acta Paediatrica, 97(2), 153-158.
(4) Condon, J.T., Boyce, P., Corkindale, C.J. (2004). The First-Time Fathers Study: a prospective study of the mental health and wellbeing of men during the transition to parenthood. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38(1-2), 56-64.
(5) Chin, R., Hall, P., Daiches, A. (2011). Fathers’ experiences of their transition to fatherhood: a metasynthesis. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology, 29(1), 4-18.