There are so many benefits to having a father around. Studies have shown that children with involved fathers grow up to have less promiscuous sex, have higher-paying jobs, and healthier relationships.1 They are less likely to become homeless, depend on welfare, and are less prone to obesity. They also have been found to have higher IQs than their classmates by age three. But it doesn’t really take important studies to tell us that boys need their dads in their lives.
Fathers are Important from the Beginning
Many people believe that once the father’s sperm fertilized the egg, his job is done until the baby was here. Since fathers still cannot carry the fetus, this belief is not necessarily untrue. However, science finds how the father’s behaviors and health before conception relate to the baby’s health and wellness in later years. For example, a recent study suggests that fathers who drink right before conception may have sons who abuse alcohol.2 Another study has found that men who have bad dietary health can lead to negative pregnancy outcomes. This study also supported research that men who are stressed before conception can predispose their babies to have high blood sugar.3
This obviously doesn’t mean that every child conceived while a dad was stressed out will have high blood sugar. However, just like moms shouldn’t smoke or do drugs while pregnant, dads are also not exempt from taking care of themselves to better their children.
If a father is going to be involved in his child’s life, the earlier he can start the attachment process, the better. This includes being an active partner during pregnancy and labor. Another study also suggests that if a father cannot be present at the birth, the mother and baby should return home to the father as soon as possible to start the attachment process.4
Sons and Fathers
Sons especially need their dads. In Paul Raeburn’s book “Do Fathers Matter?,” he describes how scientists observed that U.S. boys whose fathers were off fighting in World War II during their childhoods later had trouble creating relationships with others as they matured. Similar studies cited in the book show that sons who grow up without fathers (or with disengaged fathers) tend to be less popular in preschool.
The research is overwhelming in how much fathers affect their children, specifically sons, mental health development, physical health development, and emotional development. Dads have such a specific role in a child’s life, and when he is absent, it comes with a cost.
Fostering the Father/Son Connection
Here are some quick tips for fostering a great father-son relationship:
1. Many dads spend their time providing financially, investing, sports teams, projects, and plans. It is important that a father can set that all aside to show his son that his best and most important investment is in his son and/or children.
2. Many dads can struggle with physical touch with their children, especially dads of boys. They don’t want to appear “weird” or “creepy.” But hugging and even kissing your son is key in letting your son know you love him no matter what.
3. A son needs to know that his personal interests are pleasing to his father. Showing interest in his son’s interests is a great way to show him that his interests matter.
4. Telling his son that he is proud of him is a way to make sure he can confidently enter the world. Knowing his dad believes in him gives a son a sort of armor around him. Some boys just need their father’s affirming words. Others might need some one-on-one time over breakfast. Taking the time to find this out is not time wasted.
Fathers are important, but mothers cannot control what a child’s father does or doesn’t do with his fatherly role. However, we can gently encourage them to take some of these tips into consideration. If a father isn’t present, look around at the other men in your life. Thoughtfully consider what kind of male role models we have for our sons. There are great men all around us, like coaches, teachers, family friends, and extended family members. Having a strong male role model in our son’s lives is vital to their success and future.