For a better future, children need their fathers

3 mins read
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While a mother’s importance to her family cannot be overstated, too often our culture overlooks the significance of a father’s presence in the life of his children. The influence of a loving and involved father plays a crucial, irreplaceable role in shaping a child’s character and development. As we celebrate Father’s Day, we must recognize the many benefits that come from growing up with a father who is actively present, engaged and nurturing.

Fatherhood is facing an unprecedented crisis in America. According to data from the National Fatherhood Initiative, 18.4 million children are growing up without a biological father, a stepfather or an adoptive father present in their home. That means that 1 in 4 American children are being raised without fathers.

The same organization reports that those children who are being raised without fathers are twice as likely to drop out of school, are at seven times greater risk of poverty and are seven times more likely to become pregnant during their teenage years. Without a father present, children are more likely to have behavioral problems, to abuse alcohol and drugs, and to go to prison.

A father’s contribution

On Father’s Day, there is no more appropriate time to contemplate what a father does that stems this trajectory. What does a father’s contribution add to the life of the child?

First, a father’s unconditional love reflects the unconditional love of our Father in heaven. Scripture says, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1 Jn 3:1). A father’s love does not replace or challenge a mother’s love; rather, it provides a unique strength that complements a mother’s love. The unwavering support of a father helps foster emotional stability and self-confidence. The indispensable love of a father contributes to a child’s holistic growth and provides a sure foundation of love and acceptance.

The love received from a father helps children to form relationships throughout their lives. Children who grow up with supportive and involved fathers are more likely to establish secure attachments, have healthier friendships and build stronger romantic relationships in adulthood. Fathers serve as positive male role models, demonstrating the importance of mutual respect, communication and emotional connection.

Furthermore, the example of a father models just and moral living for his children. By their actions and through their words, fathers teach their children how to navigate challenges, make virtuous decisions and treat others with kindness and compassion. Scripture says: “But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:35-36). Fathers have a particular duty to emulate God’s justice, tempered with his mercy, and to hand on that balanced moral living to their children.

Additionally, fathers contribute to discipline by being consistent in their expectations and consequences. They establish clear rules and boundaries, ensuring that children understand which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. By consistently enforcing these boundaries, fathers help children develop a sense of structure and discipline.

A positive impact

Finally, active engagement with a father positively impacts a child’s emotional and cognitive development. One study has shown that fathers who read to their children make a significant impact on their child’s cognitive development, in part because fathers are more likely to ask challenging open-ended questions to their children during shared reading. That participation in shared reading also has been associated, positively, with children’s ability to regulate their emotions and their attention skills.

Just the presence of a father means a child will face a 23% lower likelihood of repeating a grade. Fathers encourage exploration, independence and risk-taking, fostering their children’s confidence to overcome challenges. Studies have shown that children who grow up with involved fathers tend to have higher levels of self-esteem, emotional intelligence and social competence.

Research consistently highlights the positive impact of involved fathers on children’s long-term success. Children who grow up with supportive and engaged fathers tend to have higher educational attainment, better career prospects, improved mental health and greater overall life satisfaction.

Listen to the science

All these studies and statistics in no way downplay the crucial responsibilities that mothers have in the formation of children, but while today’s culture tries to tell us that differences between the sexes are trivial at best — or even essentially nonexistent, and that all that matters is one’s conception of his or her “gender” — science clearly says otherwise, pointing to the critical nature of loving fathers.

Beyond financial support and physical presence, fathers play a vital role in shaping their children’s moral character and overall well-being. Their unconditional love, moral guidance, emotional support and balanced parenting contribute to their children’s emotional and cognitive development, helping them navigate the complexities of life with confidence and resilience. Let us cherish and appreciate the profound impact that fathers have on their children’s lives and work toward a society that recognizes the importance of involved fatherhood.

Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board

The Our Sunday Visitor Editorial Board consists of Father Patrick Briscoe, OP, Gretchen R. Crowe, Matthew Kirby, Scott P. Richert and York Young.