American Association of Pediatrics Galvanizes Importance of Fathers

(Photo: Vera Kratochvil, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Vera Kratochvil, Creative Commons)

Just in time for Father's Day comes an American Academy of Pediatrics report that says fathers in the US are more involved in their children's lives than they have ever been. The report also says that hands-on fathers have important effects on their young ones' well-being and health.

Dr. Michael Yogman, co-author of the report and chairperson for the academy's committee on psychosocial aspects of child and family health, said:

"From everyone's standpoint, the more we can do to encourage fathers' involvement, the better."

Yogman added that older children who have attentive daddies were less likely to have depression symptoms and fewer behavioral issues. There is also a lower level of teen pregnancies for adolescents who have connected dads.

Younger kids get a boost in language development and mental health if their fathers are present in their lives. The academy points out that research has shown that dads are apt to use new words that babies and preschoolers have not heard from their mothers, says Amy Norton of Web MD.

Daddies also are more likely to play a little rougher and encourage their young ones to take more risks and explore than moms are. Yogman says both styles are needed. He continued by explaining that "father" can mean any male figure that is part of a child's life and champions his or her well-being.

The report promotes the idea that dads should spend some time being primary caregivers rather than staying in the auxiliary support mode. It is, however, problematic for fathers to juggle work and family time, especially since few US employers offer paid family leave for mothers or fathers.

"Fathers really have a quite impressive impact on their children's health, including how well they do in school, how well they get along with friends, and whether children run into problems like substance abuse or delinquency," said Yogman. "Pediatricians can encourage fathers to get involved; one way is to write a prescription for dad with doctor's orders: ‘Play with your baby every day.'"

Michelle Stein, reporting for BabyCenter, offers some nifty tidbits about Millennial fathers. The rate of dads who have complete or partial shopping responsibility for the children's or household products is 72%. Almost 60% put their families before their work. And roughly 50% of today's fathers said they would bypass a promotion at work if it meant they would have less time with their family.

Sadly, many children living in poverty also do not have fathers who are engaged, which just makes matters worse for these youngsters, according to The Star-Telegram's contributor Robert Crosnoe Department of Sociology and a research associate in the Population Research Center at the University of Texas. And dads who break up with their kids' mothers and continue to have children with multiple partners are apt to have little consistent contact with their kids.

Many young ones who have connected fathers are already financially stable and have entree to high-quality schools. The result is an even wider gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Crosnoe says when looking for an answer to the problem parental leave would be a good place to start. But many fathers who have access to leave do not take it in fear that taking the full leave would jeopardize their jobs.

Also, men less often have a history of participating in parenting tasks. Because of this, parenting is often a subject that has to be taught to males. Quality parenting education programs would be "good for fathers, good for children, and good for society," noted Crosnoe.

Today's fathers account for 16% of single parents in the US, which adds up to 1.9 million. The US Census Bureau has determined that there are roughly 200,000 married fathers in America who are stay-at-home dads, reports Megan Daley for The Los Angeles Times.

Yogman said that researchers have found that the levels of oxytocin, often called the love hormone, are affected in males when they participate in exploratory play with their youngsters.

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