Friedrich Nietzsche said, “who has no father should get one”. The philosopher meant that fathers are important to the development of children as much as mothers. In fact, love as much as refusal by both parents can profoundly affect emotional balance, self-esteem and mental health of their children.
Several studies found that the absence of the father cause problems of adaptation in their children, as well as the surge of destructive behaviors as they grow. Of course, his presence and understanding have the opposite effect: facilitate the adaptation of the child and promote a healthy psychological development.
The mental state of the father directly affects children
Researchers at Michigan State University conducted a study that analyzed the importance of fathers in their children’s life. During the research they collected data from 730 families across the country.
These psychologists focused in the analysis of the effects of paternal stress and mental problems such as depression and anxiety on children. Thus, they discovered that these problems influenced the relationship of the fathers with their children and thus also their development.
Obviously, it is a predictable result, something like reinventing the wheel. But the most interesting thing is that it was found that the father’s mental state has long-term implications on his children, especially related to social skills such as self-control and the ability to collaborate with peers.
For example, it was discovered that when the father suffered from depression during the early years of his children’s lives, this influenced more children’s social development compared to depression or anxiety of the mother. The research also found that a high level of stress of the father when children are aged between 2 and 3 years old, is particularly damaging to the cognitive development and language.
The curious detail is that these problems arose independently from the influence that could have positive mothers. But, as expected, father’s influence was most evident in male children than females, probably because they identify more with the figure of the father and therefore his behavior has a greater influence.
The damage caused by the lack of love from the father
In recent years, psychologists have begun to investigate further the role of parents in child development. Thus, different studies have surged that highlight the importance of the father figure. It was seen that when children have a father actively involved in their training, they explore their environment with greater confidence and are more emotionally stable as they grow. Also they tend to have better academic performance and develop better social skills.
Recently, some psychologists from the University of Connecticut analyzed data from 36 studies that involved 10,000 parents and their sons and daughters. These researchers wanted to understand how a cold or distant father could affect the development of his children. Then they discovered that children who had been rejected by their fathers, showed signs of anxiety and insecurity, as well as a more aggressive and hostile behavior.
These results highlight the fact that fathers are important to the psychological well-being of their children as much as mothers, and have a great responsibility in emotional and cognitive development of their children.
How can fathers improve their mood?
Fatherhood is not an easy role, especially for new fathers. It is normal that fathers, like mothers, have their fears, insecurities and worries. Added to this is that many fathers feel compelled to appear strong and supportive for their partner, so they run a greater risk of feeling emotionally overwhelmed. In fact, this situation makes them more likely to suffer from high stress, which will have an impact on children.
– Recognize signs of stress. The first problem many fathers have is that, deeply involved in their daily routine and feeling obliged to support the family, don’t even recognize the signs of stress. Therefore, the first step is to recognize that you are feeling anxious or stressed. It is also important to learn how to identify the triggers of stress in daily life, to eliminate them or at least minimize their impact.
– Have a space for you. It is important that fathers have their own lives, as well as the care and attention they can give to their children. So, be sure to spend quality time with your partner and do not completely abandon your hobbies. This time will allow you to relax and recharge your batteries. Remember, to take care of your child you must first take care of yourself.
– Express what you feel. Talking about your fears, worries and anxieties will help you feel better. No need to hide these feelings. In fact, it is important that your partner is aware of your concerns about being a good father and support her, feelings that will strengthen the bonds that hold you together.
Vallotton, C. et. Al. (2016) Child behavior problems: Mothers’ and fathers’ mental health matters today and tomorrow. Early Childhood Research Quarterly; 37: 81-93.
Khaleque, A. & Rohner, R. P. (2011) Transnational Relations Between Perceived Parental Acceptance and Personality Dispositions of Children and Adults: A Meta-Analytic Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2011; 16 (2): 103-115.