The act of being a father is deeply ingrained in societal norms. Fatherhood often conjures images of a provider, disciplinarian, or an authoritative figure within the family structure. However, the essence of fatherhood extends far beyond these constraints. This essay aims to observe the impact fathers have on their children and how the father-child relationship impacts the personal development of the father.

Historically, fatherhood has been defined by the father being economically responsible for the family, but in putting more emphasis on being the family’s financial support little emphasis has been put on the father’s contribution to the emotional well-being of the child. Society’s emphasis on the breadwinning role of fathers has frequently overshadowed the significance of their active involvement in parenting tasks. This emphasis has perpetuated the notion that fathers should prioritize work over family, amplifying the perceived conflict between traditional masculinity and nurturing parenting roles. Consequently, fathers have often found themselves torn between societal expectations of being the primary provider and the desire to engage meaningfully in their children’s lives.

Society’s prioritization of monetary success has frequently steered fathers towards prioritizing career advancement at the expense of meaningful engagement with their children. Consequently, fathers who solely fixate on providing financially can disrupt their family’s dynamic, resulting in strained relationships, emotional detachment, and a deficit of parental guidance— destabilizing the household. The children of fathers who are absent from the household, both physically and emotionally, tend to have more behavioral issues, lower academic achievement, and emotional instability. This research shows a direct link between a child’s self efficacy and their relationship with their father. Children with present fathers tend to be better situated in society, they tend to have a sense of belonging and direction than children without paternal guidance. Fathers help children develop confidence and self-identity— how the child relates to their father determines how they relate to themselves and the world around them. 

During the height of the pandemic, many fathers were at home with their children, this helped them to see how meaningful engagement with their children is more important than the pursuit of material success. Active fatherhood emerges as a critical factor in child development, fostering better academic performance, emotional well-being, and social competence among children. Delving into the benefits of active fatherhood versus absenteeism reveals the profound impact fathers have on shaping the lives of their children. Recognizing the necessity of dedicating time to parenting enables fathers to cultivate stronger bonds with their children and actively participate in their growth and development, ultimately enriching family dynamics and fostering healthier relationships within the household.

Fatherhood transcends biological ties and involves conscious decisions to prioritize and actively engage in a child’s upbringing. 

The reason behind a father’s absence also affects a child’s social and emotional well-being. The National Longitudinal Study of Youth indicates that children whose fathers are absent due to uncontrollable factors (e.g., military service, health issues) exhibit fewer behavioral problems and less social disconnection. These children do not experience the absence as abandonment, so their identity is less impacted by feelings of being left behind. Additionally, research shows that Black children with absent fathers experience fewer negative social and emotional effects compared with their white counterparts. This is likely due to the strong relational bonds within the Black community. Historically, Black households have been supported by a larger, close-knit community, helping children see themselves as valued members rather than as a fatherless child. Strengthening a child’s sense of value within their community can mitigate the effects of an absent father. 

Moreover, active fatherhood not only positively shapes the child, but it also cultivates the father’s character. Fatherhood can influence a man in various ways, impacting his psychological, emotional, social, and even physical aspects. Psychologically, it can enhance empathy, compassion, and emotional resilience, often leading to a deeper sense of purpose and a redefined self-identity. Behaviorally, fatherhood can foster responsibility, maturity, and healthier lifestyle choices. Socially, it strengthens relationships with partners, family, and friends, and expands social networks to include other parents. Ultimately, becoming a father is not just about what a man can give to a child, but also how the relationship he develops with his child impacts the way he sees and interacts with the world. Being actively engaged in fatherhood shapes a man for the better.

By redefining traditional notions of fatherhood, society can foster healthier family dynamics and support the holistic development of children. It is imperative for fathers to recognize their pivotal role in shaping future generations and prioritizing relationships with their children. Through active engagement, both fathers and children stand to benefit, contributing to a more nurturing and fulfilling family environment, and audaciously, an even  better society.

If you are a father or know men who are fathers, it is imperative to get connected with helpful support and resources so men are best equipped for the role of fatherhood. 

Resources for Fathers

National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse is a program that seeks to support fathers through every stage of their fatherhood. They provide tips, research, and other sources to help teach fathers about being a father. Linked is their program map to see if there is a meetup near you. 

PostPartum Support International helps fathers during the baby’s postpartum ensuring that fathers are receiving mental health care as well. 

Fathers Assisting Mothers (FAM) is a daddy doula network that helps fathers during the pregnancy process. 

National Fatherhood Initiative has online resources for fathers to teach them about fatherhood.