II. The Benefits of Father Engagement
There is a great deal of evidence indicating that fathers play an important role in healthy child
development and family stability. A father’s positive involvement in the life of his child, both by
direct engagement with the child and positive engagement with the mother, can lead to better
child outcomes in a number of areas.
a. Contribution to Early Childhood Development
Starting in early childhood, fathers can have a deep influence on the development of
children’s early learning skills and academic achievement. Positive early interactions, such as
father-infant play, may help improve a child’s social skills and stimulate cognitive
competence during this crucial time when children are just learning to interact with the world
around them (Roggman, Noyce, Cook, Christiansen, & Jones, 2004). A meta-analysis of
studies on father involvement and early learning notes that children with foundations in these
early learning and social skills may be better prepared to transition into academic settings
(McWayne, Downer, Campos, & Harris, 2013). Furthermore, findings suggested that both
the quantity and quality of father interactions matter, and that more frequent and positive
father involvement are related positively to areas such as a child’s self-regulation, prosocial
skills, and academic and cognitive skills between ages 3 and 8 (McWayne, Downer, Campos,
& Harris, 2013).
Father involvement may also affect behavioral issues in children. Here again, it is not only
the quantity but also the quality of involvement that is significant. Positive interactions and
stronger emotional ties between father and child may lead to a greater sense of emotional
security and lower levels of depression and anxiety in children (Amato & Gilbreth, 1999).
Authoritative parenting on the part of a father, e.g., helping with homework, setting limits
and offering emotional support, has been linked not only to better academic achievement, but
also to fewer externalized behaviors, e.g., aggression, delinquency, etc. (Amato & Gilbreth,
1999). Non-resident father involvement has also been associated with children’s social and
emotional well-being, academic achievement, and behavioral adjustment (Adamsons &
Johnson, 2013.) Children and adolescents that have close and positive relationships with their
fathers are less likely to engage in risky behaviors or substance and alcohol use (National
Fatherhood Initiative, 2015).
Research also suggests that father involvement may affect mother-infant attachment quality
(Hossain, Field, Gonzales, & Malphurs, 1994). Research also suggests that mothers who
have positive relationships with their children’s fathers may exhibit more positive parenting
behaviors, such as being more responsive and affectionate, self-controlled, and emotionally
supportive (Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, 2012).