Takeaways from recent research on fathers for your Father's Day
1. Fathers may be more responsible than mothers for teaching children about the outside world
Parents share a great deal of responsibility for shaping their kids' worldview. Some researchers think that given the male's evolutionary role in confronting threats external to the household (men are better able to pick out angry faces from a crowd than women, for instance), children may be turning to fathers for social cues about the outside world. That's in contrast to the prevailing conventional wisdom that says mothers influence kids more. Rather than trying to adjudicate the dispute, one study simply suggests that children of socially anxious fathers will also tend to become socially anxious themselves. If that's true, the burden of treatment for social anxiety could shift to men.
"The clinical practice is often to help mothers to become less overprotective towards their anxious child, and rather encourage their anxious child towards exposure," the researchers write. "But if mothers' overprotection might be in part a response to fathers' anxious behavior, and fathers might be more convincing in encouraging and modeling their child to be courageous in doing exposure, it might be more effective to involve fathers than mothers in therapy."
2. Fathers who engage in moderate physical play help their kids become emotionally mature
Kids who are active often play rough with each other -- and that's just a healthy part of growing up. But fathers who play rough with their kids may be unwittingly making them more aggressive. In a study of 85 children aged 2 to 6, rough-and-tumble play was significantly correlated with physical aggression in the kids -- especially if the father did less to set rules and boundaries in the exchange. Fathers who assumed a dominant role in rough-and-tumble play were found to have kids who were less aggressive. Since aggressive behavior early on has been linked to chronic psychopathology in later life, researchers say fathers have a big role to play in helping children master their aggressive emotions through "controlled confrontation."