The father and the mother are the fundamental figures who, while bringing different and apparently conflicting elements into the relationship with their children, have the task of leading the child to a satisfactory psychological development in a process of collaboration and harmony.
What Kind of impacts does a father offer in the development of his child?
- The father influences the child in direct and indirect pattern
- The father influences by his secondary position
- In the absence, the father causes fragile relationships with the child resulting in toxic behavior
- The father offers the child lessons for survival
- The old and new roles of the father in child development
- The father imbues a sense of the family to the child
- The child understands the social interaction process through the father
In most psychological research and the collective imagination, the father figure is often relegated to the background of the mother figure. But in the development process, the father, just like the mother, has a significant impact on the child’s development.
How A Father Impacts Child Development
The father influences the child in direct and indirect pattern
The role that the father plays in the path of growth and development of each individual child represents a substantial contribution that unfolds in the lives of the children, from the phase of conception building to the time of adolescence, up to adulthood. It is framed in the effects that it produces on children and the family.
The effect of the positive influence
These effects concern not only the direct influence, such as the implications of the educational style on the emotional or social development of the child but also an indirect influence, through the marital relationship, which can allow better development of the mother-child relationship.
Worth mentioning here is the support that the father can give to the partner in the perinatal period.
- Internal and external effects of the father
The role of the father is part of a complex form of internal and external variables. That tends to configure it as an element of a system of interactions.
This makes the direct role of the father towards the child modified by the sexual identity of the child, by his temperament, the role of the mother, and many other variables.
The father influences by his secondary position
The acceptance of the baby in the mother’s womb and breastfeeding automatically place the father in a secondary role. The literature is full of references, studies, and theoretical insights on the mother-child tie, observed from different points of view and all possible angles.
However, it is essential to ascertain how the child suffers from psychological distress, in childhood and adulthood, due to imbalances and fragility of the relationship with the father.
In the absence, the father causes fragile relationships with the child resulting in toxic behavior.
A father’s absence not only physically but also symbolically distresses the child. Fathers, who do not find support from the partner either to assert this symbolic paternity or to safeguard this sacred space, become fragile and hollow fathers, authoritarian or violent, insecure and overprotective, often not recognized and devalued in their role, unable to communicate, positioned near the exit, ready to run away.
- Divisive effects of the father over the child
Many clinical cases are illustrative of how affective ties with such unstable and ambivalent fathers can have decisive effects on the emotional and cognitive level in the structuring of the child’s personality.
- The two ways of development
From the evolutionary point of view, the male characteristics follow two directions of development. On the one hand, he may have a greater social idea of his family. In the other, he may develop characteristics of aggression, aimed at protecting the mother-child relationship and freeing it from its burden of anguish.
Therefore, evolution rewarded the males more capable of attachment to females, the ability to look after the children and guarantee survival in the threatening universe, more complex and less gratifying than the mother’s body.
The father offers the child lessons for survival
We could say that in the human species, from an evolutionary point of view, the father, through his ethical and cultural role as a protector from the dangers of the world, define the meanings necessary for survival with the outside world.
- Natural Selection for children
In humans, natural selection has begun to favor the survival of children with a plastic brain that is capable of learning, from the earliest stages of development, the skills necessary for sociality. Babies could begin to acquire these skills through contact or interaction with the person who cared for them, who was (and mostly still is) the biological mother in our environment of evolutionary adaptation.
However, dependence on the mother has to deal with the state of weakness that post-partum and breastfeeding caused in the woman. For the newborns to survive and become adults themselves, the help of another person was needed to engage in what is called “parental investment.”
This individual could only be the father, the person whose reproductive success was equally assured by accompanying the immature child to reproductive age.
- Joint contribution works perfectly
In this way, the tendency to maintain an exclusive and lasting relationship has been found in the male and the female, the biological function of which can be traced in the fact that only through the joint contribution of a mother and a father can a little human survive.
The old and new roles of the father in child development
From a historical point of view, until the first half of the last century, the father’s role, purpose, and what society asked him, remained practically unchanged for centuries. In changing eras, communities, and cultures, the father has always been the figure appointed to establish the rules and discipline the behavior of the children.
Regardless of the historical moments or the family’s social class, his duty was to instill a sense of responsibility in his children to make them grow and insert them into the world of adults.
- Changes in the old concept
In recent decades, feminist ideology has contributed to delivering decisive blows to the traditional concept of family, and the emancipation of women and her increasingly influential and vital entry into the world of work has given way to a different conception of the family and a new definition of the roles within it.
Thus began to emerge a type of fatherless distant and more involved.
- How the fathers work in recent years
In recent years, a new awareness of fathers has seemed to emerge as they try to find a way between the authoritarian and the maternalized father. An authoritative father is able to quell conflicts in the family and society.
The watchword has become “co-parenting,” that is to say, greater involvement of the father in the lives of the children and interchangeability of functions, which goes beyond the gender differences sanctioned by tradition.
It has been increasingly common in recent decades to come across new fathers willing to change nappies, get up at night, and bottle-feed their baby. They are doing the things that, from a traditional patriarchal perspective, seemed unthinkable and absurd before.
The father imbues a sense of the family to the child
Today fathers have a new attitude towards their children. They are present in their lives in a completely different role from that of the fathers of the past, dominant, punitive, rigid, and scarcely available to listen.
It was highlighted that in contemporary society, the daily involvement in the work of caring for children increases with the father’s level of education and is favored if the mother works and does not generate conflicts of competence.
- Proper responses are offered by the father too
Now a father does not feel an incapable son an object of private property. Studies on the ability of parents to respond adequately to the child’s signals (responsiveness) have shown that the male is also responsive towards the offspring. The child gets a good idea of a healthy family from the father.
- The way this phenomenon takes place
An example of this is the phenomenon of engrossment. In many fathers, at the birth of the child, a sort of immediate falling in love with the child has been observed. The father distinguishes and recognizes the child from the others.
He notices physical or character resemblances, in short, and builds an internal image of the child that tends to occupy more and more space in his mind. This initial process favors the emergence of a good father-child attachment relationship from the first year of life.
- The division in the role of the parents
Above all, an important distinction has been proposed between competence and execution in the paternal role.
Although fathers exhibit caring behaviors towards the child to a lesser extent than mothers, they do so equally adequately when they care for the child.
Fathers are not fundamentally different from mothers in their capacity for mutuality, alternation of shifts in face-to-face interaction, as well as competence in using language, adapted to the child’s age, in recognizing his signals, or in carrying out nursing duties. However, they have a different style of interaction.
The father helps in both the physical and mental growth of the child.
Fathers prefer to interact with their children through physical play, with very stimulating and rhythmic body contact. Whether the father plays with his son or takes care of him, his attitude compared to that of the mother is more proximal, less based on visual communication and language.
- The findings of researches done on the subject
Several types of research of the last twenty years show how the intellectual development of the child is linked in a privileged way to the relationship with the father and how this parental figure is more decisive than was believed in the past, within the family dynamics, and in the socialization of children.
- Characteristics of the parent offer great results to the child
Specific paternal characteristics marked by warmth and availability are present from the first years of the child’s life and play a decisive role in developing self-esteem and social competence and increasing the motivation for the realization of intellectual potential and creativity.
The continuity of the father’s function appears crucial and his integral presence, physical and mental, both on the level of objective reality and on that of the internal experience relative to the area of depth.
The child understands the social interaction process through the father.
The social interaction of fathers with their children is characterized by an intense physicality aimed at stimulating the motor and social skills of the child who, starting from the first year, acquires an active role of “regulator” of the relationship.
By favoring the exploration of the external environment through playful activities, enriched by elements of novelty and surprise, the father differentiates himself from the mother. She uses more verbal exchanges and ways of interaction face-to-face and calmer.
- How the parental play becomes helpful
Paternal play helps the child learn the regulation of affective states and represents the bridge between the family social system and peers.
The categories of planning, motivation towards future goals and decision making, adequate self-esteem, a good body image, moral strength, and social competence are other dimensions of the personality that can be linked explicitly to the paternal function.
- Which parental behaviors strengthen the ties
Paternal behaviors such as telling stories to children, participating in their school life, accompanying them to visits to museums or historical places, encouraging extracurricular activities are some of the relational factors that appear significantly correlated with long-term academic achievement and personal fulfillment rates.
The quality of the relationship that the father establishes with his child is also closely linked to the type of affective and emotional involvement that characterizes it. The father can help his child to have greater self-esteem, better social skills, a higher level of academic achievement, a more pro-social behavior, only if he is really involved in the interaction with the child.
It is essential to observe how in many studies, the role of the father (especially in the first years of the child’s life) is framed through the concept of peripherality, based on which three different conditions are distinguished. Physical periphery is like the physical distance of the father who spends a few hours or even a few minutes a day with his son.
Psychological-social periphery is the father’s involvement, due to his instrumental role as representative of society, of the one who provides for economic needs and protects the family unit from the outside world.
Frequently Asked Questions
The father and the son are not jellying up. What to do?
If the father and the son do not mix openly and properly, then it is leading to an unhealthy relationship.
The mother should take steps, in this case, to talk to both the father and the child to understand the reason behind their lack of interest. In such instances, starting a conversation between the two can really help.
The child is not talking till the age of 5. Is it normal? If not, then why?
Most five-year-olds can verbalize anywhere from 100-500 words and understand much more than that. It is concerning if a 5-year-old is not yet speaking.
However, the father should spend more time with the child talking about different things. If that does not help still, then he should consult with the family doctor.
The father does not let her children watch television. Does this put them at any disadvantage because they are not aware of the modern culture as their peers?
The average child spends 4 hours each day in front of a television screen. This strikes the experts as a significant waste of time. They do not need to be in front of the television for such a long time.
However, in a more controlled manner, the father can show different educational as well as entertaining programs to the child and create a cultural bonding with him through the programs.