A 'New Fatherhood': Dads Matter and We Have The Research To Prove It
AAP report focuses on a father's role in a child's development
As a dad of three and a pediatrician, my life can be pretty hectic.
Sometimes I have to be reminded by Mrs. Smitty to put down the iPhone or the tablet and spend some family time. After all, this is the new era of fathers being more involved than ever before.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights the significant amount of research that has been done on the 'New Fatherhood' and the important role that dads play in their child’s development, mental health and many other areas of well-being.
And the benefit of fathers is not just restricted to the biological dad.
Fatherhood can be defined generally as “the male or males identified as most involved in caregiving and committed to the well-being of the child, regardless of living situation, marital status, or biological relation.” This means that biological, foster, adoptive, step-, grand- or any other father matters.
The report highlights the many benefits that fathers provide for their children throughout the child’s years of development.
Even before the baby is born, father’s help to set the foundation for their children’s health. If fathers are involved during pregnancy, moms are 1.5 times more likely to get early prenatal care. If mom smokes, they are more likely to stop smoking if dad is involved with the pregnancy.
Newborn and Infant Period
Supportive fathers play a huge role in the success of breastfeeding and a “competitive” father can undermine it. Fathers play with infants differently than mothers. Their play tends to be more “stimulating, vigorous and arousing.” These interactions may encourage more exploration and independence in children.
Fathers speak to children differently than mothers. They tend to use words that are new which might stretch a child to learn new and different words. If dads are involved with their children during infancy, those kids are less likely to have mental health symptoms when they get older.
When a father is involved, adolescents are less likely to have depressive symptoms (both genders) and be less likely to be involved in risk-taking behaviors (especially in boys). Daughters benefit from father involvement by being less likely to have “early puberty, decreased early sexual experiences, and decreased teen pregnancy.”
While they may not always do things the same as mothers, the role of the father and the benefits they provide need to be acknowledged. Perpetuating old stereotypes about fatherhood undermines the importance in the development of their children. Highlighting the value of fatherhood should encourage fathers that their involvement matters in many ways.
Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnewsroom.com. His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in the fall of 2016.