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Dads DO matter: Why children brought up by BOTH parents are happier and more successful
By JENNY HOPE - Last updated at 09:11am on 13th February 2008
Children behave better, learn more and are better adjusted if their father is involved in their lives, a major study shows.
Researchers found that a good relationship between youngsters and fathers had a positive effect that could last for two decades. In low-income homes, regular contact was also seen to lead to less juvenile crime.
Anna Sarkadi, of Sweden's Uppsala University, where the research was carried out, said: "Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure. "We found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes. "Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16. "It may seem obvious that what's worked for centuries is good for individuals and society, but that's what we found."
She said the studies showed the value of the father's input as a role model from babyhood to the teenage years. The review, published in the latest issue of the journal Acta Paediatrica, looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007. The smallest study focused on 17 infants and the largest covered 8,441 people ranging from premature babies to 33-year-olds. As well as examining research from Sweden and Israel, the Uppsala team looked at large-scale studies in the U.S. and the UK. They found that children who lived with both a mother and father figure had fewer behavioural problems than those who lived with their mother only.
Behavioural problems in boys, and psychological problems in girls, were also less frequent. Intelligence, reasoning and language were more advanced in children who had good contact with both parents. The researchers said it was not clear whether living with a biological father confers an advantage over living with a father figure alone. "Our review backs up the intuitive assumption that engaged biological fathers or father figures are good for children, especially when the children are socially or economically disadvantaged," added Dr Sarkadi. "Children who lived with both a mother and father figure had less behavioural problems than those who lived with just their mother. "However, it is not possible to tell whether this is because the father figure is more involved or whether the mother is able to be a better parent if she has more support."
Norman Wells, of Family and Youth Concern, an independent charity, said the study showed that fathers were not an optional extra. "Fathers and mothers complement each other and together provide a richness of care within the family that you can't replicate in any other setting," he added.