Last month, I wrote a literature review on father's involvement and its effects on the socio-emotional development of children. With the alarming cases of divorce and absent father involvement we hear and see around, I would like to share some informations I gathered.
Negative Effects of an Absent Father Involvement
According to Wayne Matthews, father’s absence, whether physical and or emotional, is a critical problem. (Mathews, 1998) He stated that father’s absence has a great impact on the general behavioral adjustment and aggression in male children. He added that boys are more likely to be involved in crime and violence. In his research, Popenoe has detailed his findings by stating that boys who grew up without father involvement had developed “hyper masculine behavior”. They try to disengage themselves from the dominance of their mothers and gain a male identity. They became angry and fearful and hostile towards women in general. ( Popenoe, 1996)
With regards to the negative effects on girls, earlier studies stated that girls are more likely to get pregnant as teens. (McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994; Sampson, 1987) This finding was also agreed upon by La Crosse. He stated that girls with absent fathers use their bodies to relate to men (LaCrosse, 1997) which were also highlighted by Brott (2003) in his book. He added that fathers can help daughters know that love and sex are not synonymous (LaCrosse, 1997). And so with an absent father, girls tend to find difficulty in distinguishing love from sex. Hetherington suggested in his findings that girls are more likely to blame themselves for the problems that arise from an absent father especially if it is caused by divorce. Hetherington also suggested that those girls are more likely to engage in child sex (1999).
In the general context, research by Byrne, 1997, Horn, 1997, Levine, 1997. Murphy, & Wilson, (1997 ) indicates that children without fathers fail in school three times more often than those in two parent families. They are apt to have more emotional problems which also affect their academic skills. Matthews has proven this earlier by stating that children with no or little contact with their fathers are more likely to drop out of school. (Matthews, 1998)
How it is when an absent father is in conflict with the child’s mother? Does it affect the child’s well-being the more?I believe that the child will be affected especially in his social and emotional skills. He will tend to have behavioral difficulties that will affect his social dealings with his peers as he will tend to be withdrawn. My belief was supported by the findings of Amato and & Keith when they earlier noted that numerous social adjustment difficulties among children may occur, (Amato & Keith, 1991) and by Bowen (1976) who suggested that since the child derive meaning from a significant mother and father and often establish role identification, a child may become confused and disillusioned especially when there is conflict with an absent father.
Positive Effects of Quality Father Involvement
Lamb stated that evidence is mounting that father’s involvement enhances children’s socio-emotional health and well being (Lamb, 1997) and based on my personal experience with my own father, I agree that quality father involvement is effective and has long lasting effects on my own socio-emotional development. Mostly, I believe thatmy father’s involvement benefited me in each stages of development, which I carry within me as I passed through from childhood to our present stage of adulthood. My belief is influenced more recently by the works of Palkovitz (1997), Amato (1998), Marsiglio, Amato, Day and Lamb (2000), and Lamb (2004) who show through their own work or reviewed studies of others, the progress in understanding the contributions fathers make to children’s lives. Pickard quoted the same ideas when he stated that the father has an important potential role at each developmental stage that his children pass through, (Pickard, 1998) which is also supported by Brott (2003) by stating that father involvement has positive effects on young children, adolescents , and children who become young adults. According to Le Menestrel, (1999) Amato (1998) viewed that fathers provide both economic and social capital to children that affects school related behavior and academic achievement, career development, peer relationships, self-esteem and adult outcomes such as achievement, marital happiness and strength of social networks.
With all these related findings, I would like to present the benefits of quality father involvement in each stage. Since positive effects of any kinds bring more encouragement in every one’s lives, I decided to present the positive benefits of quality father’s involvement in details for each stage of human development. Recognizing these positive effects would then encourage further researches for optimal benefits of the children in particular and the whole mankind in general.
· Better friendships. Three year olds who have positive relationships with their fathers have better friendships when they’re five.
· More cooperation and self-reliance. Children whose fathers regularly looked after them during their infancy and preschool years are more self disciplined and have better social skills, according to Kay Margetts, a researcher at Melbourne University in Australia.
· Smoother separation from Mom. During the time that their children are eighteen months to three year old, father plays one of the most critical roles they will ever play in the role of their child: helping the child safely and securely separate from the intense maternal dependency of infancy, says psychiatrist Kyle Pruett. He believes that as healthy as it is for young children to be depending on their mothers, they’ll never develop their own confidence if they don’t ever establish their physical and emotional autonomy.
· Better problem –solving skills and less frustration. Kids who have involved fathers have a higher tolerance for stress and frustration. As Henry Biller has written, kids are better able to wait their turn for the teacher’s attention, more confident to work on their own, more confident, more willing to try new things.
· More compassion for others. According to researcher Susan Bernadette Shapiro, kindergarten children whose father took more responsibility for limit setting, discipline, and helping children with personal problems and school work had significantly higher empathy scores.
(I presented here the effects on pre-school children only)
As living testament to the positive effects of father’s involvement on the child’s socio-emotional development that encompasses from childhood to adulthood, and which are supported by relevant researches as reviewed and analyzed in this paper, I recognize the fact that a father plays an important role in children’s lives. Being emotionally present in his child’s life, a father enhances his child’s self-esteem and well-being which remain with him till adulthood. With this recognition and understanding, comes the realization that we as early childhood educators should pave the way for the fathers in the centre to be more involved positively with their children. We should as much as possible avoid the devastating negative effects of an absent father involvement in children. Though we could not do anything on a physically absent father, we could help by informing them of how to be an emotionally present father. Therefore, we as teachers in school or centers can respond by including men in our work. We can plan the kind of activities which will involve fathers positively. The next step is to put our plans into actions as soon as possible. With our plans in action, we can then influence the community and the government in implementing actions and reforms that may support positive father involvement.
In short, for those who are contemplating on separation and or divorce, please do consider your decision. Please make decisions with your children's interest in mind.