How Fathers, As Male Parents, Matter for Healthy Child Development

Glenn T. Stanton
Fathers parent differently from mothers and that difference matters greatly for children.
Fatherhood is just as essential to healthy child development as motherhood. In some measures, father-love is more important. The professional journal, Review of General Psychology, finds “evidence suggests that the influence of father love on offspring’s development is as great as and occasionally greater than the influence of mother love.”1 Fathering expert Dr. Kyle Pruett explains in Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child, "fathers do not mother."2 Psychology Today explains, "fatherhood turns out to be a complex and unique phenomenon with huge consequences for the emotional and intellectual growth of children."3 Erik Erikson, a pioneer in the world of child psychology, explained that father love and mother love are qualitatively different kinds of love. Fathers "love more dangerously" because their love is more "expectant, more instrumental" than a mother’s love.4 A father, as a male biological parent, brings unique contributions to the job of parenting a child that no one else can replicate. Following are some of the most compelling ways father involvement makes a positive difference in a child’s life. The first benefit is the difference itself. Fathers Parent DifferentlyThis difference provides an important diversity of experiences for children. Dr. Pruett explains that fathers have a distinct style of communication and interaction with children. By eight weeks of age, infants can tell the difference between their mother or father interacting with them. This diversity, in itself, provides children with a broader, richer experience of contrasting relational interactions — more so than for children who are raised by only one .. . . .

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