Rather than looking to label fathers as either “good” or “bad” this newsletter will look to psychological science for answers about the role of fatherhood. Fathers often tout fatherhood as a wonderful and challenging experience, but what does science have to say about this? Firstly, there are some common misconceptions that we’d like to dispel.
Fatherhood Fact and Fiction
#1. “Daddy Issues”
In the absence of fatherly involvement in childhood, early psychologist Sigmund Freud thought that adults over-compensated and sought male attention in adolescence and adulthood. You might have heard of this being euphemistically described as someone with “daddy issues”. There is some evidence to support this notion. Modern researchers tracked several hundred females from the age of 5 till they turned 18 and found that those who had absent fathers typically became sexually active at a younger age, and had higher rates of teenage pregnancies.
#2. Men Want Children Just as Much as Women
A recent study found that the desire for children is equal in both males and females. Furthermore, men who did not have children were more likely to experience negative emotions such as sadness, anger, and jealousy of those with children. Essentially males deal with being childless worse than females!
#3. Postnatal Depression in Fathers
Unfortunately, males are not impervious to postnatal depression. Despite this being commonly associated with mothers who have recently given birth, there is a small chance that either parent could develop postnatal depression. Males are less likely to report mental health issues, and unfortunately in the case of postnatal depression this can have enduring effects on their children’s emotional and behavioural development. It is therefore important that fathers who are feeling low or flat take proactive measures to tackle their issues by seeking professional help.
It is easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father.
-John Paul XXIII
#1: Ellis, B.J., Bates, J.E., Dodge, K.A., Fergusson, D.M., Horwood, L.J., Pettit, G.S., & Woodward, L. (2003). Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy? Child Development, 74(3), 801-821.
#2: Nauert, R. (2013). Do Men Yearn for Children More than Women? Psych Central. Retrieved on June 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/04/04/do-men-yearn-for-children-more-than-women/53416.html
#3: Ramchandani, P., Stein, A., Evans, J., & O’Connor, T.G. (2005). Paternal depression in the postnatal period and child development: a prospective population study. Lancet, 365(9478), 2201-2205