The State of Fatherhood Today
(And Why it Matters to Schools)
Findings from the rapidly growing science of early childhood and brain development show that a father’s active participation and emotional engagement with his children leads to improved social, emotional, behavioral, and academic outcomes. The research confirms that a father’s emotional engagement — not the amount of time fathers spend with children, rather how they interact with them — leads to multiple positive outcomes, and serves as a significant protective factor against high risk behaviors in both girls and boys. This holds true for resident and nonresident fathers alike. For example:
- More frequent father engagement in their child’s literacy and education results in higher achievement levels in reading and math for the children.
- Positive father engagement is associated with lower levels of impulsivity, higher ratings of self-control, and better stress tolerance.
- Fathers who become involved in school settings early in their children’s lives are more likely to stay engaged longer.
At The Fatherhood Project at Massachusetts General Hospital, we believe that educators working with families in schools have an unprecedented opportunity to utilize these important findings and dispel the myth that fathers are somehow unimportant or unnecessary to raising healthy children. Our work with schools focuses on:
- Strengthening the essential emotional connection between fathers and their children in the early years by offering the opportunity to have fun together while learning and practicing lifelong relationship skills.
- Educating the parent community about the positive impact fathers have on child outcomes when they are actively involved in children’s lives at home and school.
- Empowering school and parent leaders to create a more father-inclusive school environment.