Father-Son Relationships Influence Adult Stress-Coping Skills

Parent-child relationships influence how children grow up to see the world. Strained relationships can result in resentment and insecurity, and are a common topic of exploration and discussion when adults meet with therapists and counselors. But positive relationships have positive adult outcomes, and a new study has found a specific link between father-son relationships and grown sons’ ability to deal with stress. Men who report having had supportive, attentive fathers reacted to stress less emotionally and reported significantly fewer stressful situations in their daily lives. Those whose fathers were less attentive were more likely to become upset by social interactions. Talking with a psychotherapist or counselor can help adults not only understand how childhood family dynamics shaped their growth, but can also provide an opportunity to address insecurities and change mental patterns for the better.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jake


    August 15th, 2010 at 4:17 AM

    Its just amazing how our relationships during our childhood can have such far-flung implications later in life and can even go to an extent of changing the way we see and perceive things and how we interact with others later in life.

  • maddie


    August 15th, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    would think that the same would hold true if there was a strong parental influence in your life, not just between fathers and sons. So much of how we react to life in general as adults is very strongly influenced by the relationships that we formed in our early years. So sad that there are so many people who have to go through adult years without having had that good adult role model as a child and knowing how to react and deal in certain situations.

  • Rebecca


    August 15th, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    They do what they see.

    If father can’t soothe himself when stressed, he surely can’t teach it to his son.

  • Jane


    August 16th, 2010 at 4:57 AM

    So much of how we behave as an adult comes directly from what we witness growing up as a kid. I wish that there were more people who would come to realize this before deciding to have kids themselves. If you are not ready to be the role model that you need to be to be a good parent then maybe you are not ready to have kids at all!

  • Tonya


    August 16th, 2010 at 5:30 AM

    A child needs to see and experience the love from a parent to be able to give the same or even better to his own child when he grows up. When this does not happen, he is left confused and is not in a position to connect to how his relationship with his own father to that between him and his child now.

  • maurice


    August 16th, 2010 at 11:23 AM

    My dad’s always been my hero and even to this day I try and follow him. I am in my mid-twenties but have never felt like I was learning from someone who was one generation behind me.He has been a great support in life and I just hope I can provide the same kind of love and affection to my son in the future.

  • Gunther


    October 19th, 2010 at 9:29 AM

    And if your father left you when you were 3 months old and your stepfather died when you were 3 old, leaving your mother in devastated and depressed state, this will be a solid basis for a stressful, miserable life.

    To all you guys that have children, please take care of them.

  • Seth K

    Seth K

    February 23rd, 2012 at 10:39 AM


    My son is 12 and lives with his mom. I don’t think she does a very good job raising him but that is out of my hands. I want to try to improve my relationship with him. I may be starting a bit late but I have been trying very hard. His mother got a Judge to forbid me from taking him to a counselor. So All I can do is try and read.

    Can anyone recommend a good book(s) that I can read to try to improve our communication and relationship? I found this one online; “Better Dads, Stronger Sons: How Fathers Can Guide Boys to Become Men of Character”

    I am trying really hard but he doesn’t seem to want to listen to his old man.

    I am asking for help.

    Thank you


  • Jean


    March 17th, 2016 at 11:39 AM

    Stumbled here by accident, in a sense.
    I’m making an alternate point, based on the first comment:
    Jake said: “Its just amazing how our relationships during our childhood can have such far-flung implications later in life and can even go to an extent of changing the way we see and perceive things and how we interact with others later in life.”

    Yes, it is.
    Alternate point for consideration: Public schools (ANY schools, actually.)
    Back on topic, which will tie in that point.
    My father was mostly absent when I was a child. I perceive myself to be a M2F transsexual with lesbian orientation. I’m also small-c conservative, which for our discussion basically means, I don’t expect the world to kiss my (ahem). I’m the outlier, and that’s OK. That’s the conclusion of 40 years so far.
    Dad was absent when I was a child, making his own business. He did well, WRT building it; but there was a lot of stuff I didn’t do with him, or never got to do with him, or where mom ‘helped” (sometimes too much, an emotional incest situation as I got to my mid-late teens.)
    Did I know Dad was there? Yes. It was a normal marriage, both parents together. Etc. No overt abuse. Lots of covert damage to mom (emotionally abusive family as a child, some traumas as well, bad situation.) Dad, too, with his father in and out of institutions, and moving, and taking care of a farm at 10 (grandma’s broken pelvis immobilized her and grandpa in the asylum.)
    So with those as background points:
    School HAD to be a Catholic Parochial school. Lax discipline (appealing to kids’ better natures. These kids didn’t HAVE better natures. Cross Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn with Anders Breivik). Long story short, from third grade through 7th grade, I wasn’t allowed to fight back (protect myself), so I was the target for all kinds of abuse. Name calling, gossip, physical harassment, assault even.
    Not sure if it was Dad’s absence, followed by my being ignored (by both parents), due to the authoritarian nature of dad’s discipline, or all of the above. Dad was very free with his hands… And it was always his way or else.
    Mom was neurotic and passive-aggressive, plus there’s the whole emotional incest / pseudo-husband, and the feminization of the male mind (plus, dad accepted to challenge to his “alpha male” status.)
    The teachers were 100% female, BTW… As were the admins et al. Meaning, weak discipline was endemic (and a battle-axe like my grandmother wouldn’t have been tolerated even then, in the 80s. She DID get results, but she was from the Old Country.)

    So, I’m struggling now to correct the bad roadmap of life. SO FAR off course, despite getting a decent start; I made some bad decisions, and now I’m paying for them.
    Consider this: it has been written about by other, such as John Taylor Gatto, and Roosh, Dalrock, others (the last two are writing from the view of masculinity; JTG is an educator, teacher, who taught in New York City. Roosh is a pickup artist type; Dalrock a Christian conservative commenting on modern masculinity and dating). These schools are teaching the absolute wrongest things: disorder, chaos, triviality, lax self-discipline, low morals. Also brutalizing sex roles (think, expectations for life. Like telling children they’re all special – including the one who can do nothing but soil himself… And meaning they’re all going to be President, as the old saw goes.)
    These institutions are what you trust your children to.
    Bad enough we can get brutalized by our families and damaged there. Then we get damaged by the schools. And everyone turns a blind eye…
    But look what we’ve lost since the 80s. What we’ve gained….? you mean, the necessity of two-income families? Delayed family and child-rearing, opening the door to greater birth defects and need for IVF and fertility treatments? The raunch culture and concurrent objectification of women? (who objectifies them again…?) [An expanded work force drives down labor costs, BTW. Simple economics. Further skewed by hiring quotas… And while women have been “liberated” to the workforce, men are still shunned for being stay-at-home parents. Even SAHMs are shunned! So far, so fast, so what? Children are bound to be more damaged NOW, since parents CAN’T be counted on, and it’s not new. My cousin, born about the same time… His parents fired the nanny when he started speaking his first words… In Polish, not English. He’s dead now – suicide…. their only son & only child.]

    Sorry, getting off both topics. We need to get back to an awareness of humanity’s basic Tribal nature. And determine who (what) is allowed in your tribe. If Dad (or mom) doesn’t fill the role, someone or something else will (TV, for example.)
    Further, while it MUST NOT be mandatory (e.g., legislated), we need to offer help – WITHOUT JUDGEMENT – to those who need it. E.G., we now are talking about a mandatory national “depression screening.” On the heels of declaring incompetent seniors who have someone managing their retirement funds (so Gov’t takes their legally owned firearms, because they’re now “mentally incompetent.”) Same with Vets…. See the VA, mention you’re feeling down, the Psych tells you “go home, you’re fine,” arrive home and the door’s been kicked in and the police are taking your legally-owned guns…
    Transgender and homosexual kids ain’t stupid, nor are adults. going for “help” is now a lifelong sentence to government oversight. And just GOING to a shrink means you might be subjected to this.
    I grew up hearing about this from Communist countries. Guess what’s being taught in schools, BTW?

    Haven’t even touched on the inhumanity induced by constant cell phone interaction; it’s like a drug, and like training a dog (google “fading the lure” or intermittent reward.)

    Teach them well, because they’re always learning. We can learn bad lessons any time, it’s YOUR JOB (our job, at my age) to teach the next generation the CORRECT way of living. Pretending your enemies are your friends is a recipe for disaster. Allowing others to raise your children, too, and it changes the society (not necessarily for the better.) And a fair amount of that comes from having no / weak male role models. {We also need to redefine what a “strong female role model” is. My grandmother handled her husband’s mental breakdowns, bad winter on the farm, multiple moves, limited funds, stoking the coal furnace in their building in the city, and raised my father. How well, eh, maybe in doubt, but still – he went to college, went into chemistry and rocket propulsion, founded a company, lived a decent life aside from alienating people who didn’t need his services… His dad wasn’t the best, either, so we see that chain of issues. But I’d challenge the “strong, independent” women of today to handle his mother, and live to tell about it. She’d split their skull by accident, Lenny and a bunny… (of mice and men) }

  • Jean


    March 17th, 2016 at 11:54 AM

    I’d suggest you head over to RooshV, Citizen Renegade, Dalrock, and Return of Kings. Most of it is meant more towards dating, but there is a lot as well about being a better man, and therefore a better example for your son. I’d also say, try and fight the judge’s order. If your son doesn’t NEED therapy, it won’t hurt. If he does and isn’t getting it, he could turn out like me… Especially if she’s dating again (many, many, many stories).
    Also, those sites and their related Manosphere sites will point you towards truths about dating which will come up much sooner than you realize. I was being told by my mother as recently as a year ago, there’s still PLENTY of time to have a family with some beautiful young woman… (Doesn’t know about my “gender issues.”) Since I was fed a line of BS for the last 40 years, I’ve come to doubt sincerely. Especially since I’m “with” a woman right now who epitomizes most of the bad characteristics.
    It’s not about being misogynistic; it’s about recognizing the truth, and finding how to tell the truth to your son, so he doesn’t get indoctrinated to serving the “female imperative” and burned and discarded. How to recognize a high-quality woman. How to know if a woman is the type who wants a family, and whether she’s capable of committing to that family. Or if she’s looking for a good time. Or maybe looking for a payday (yes, that happens too.)
    How to treat a lady like a lady.
    God forbid you get those mixed up! (That would be me… Entered relationship with about $100K in assets; 2 years later, declaring bankruptcy. We weren’t exactly profligate, either, but I tried to help her with her depression; we had a custody battle with her ex-husband for her daughter; multiple trips to see the daughter; multiple moves, bought a house finally… Get the picture? She’s worked sporadically at best, and I’ve been the breadwinner. She also doesn’t like the gender incongruity. For more info, google “Self-Made Man”, whose author, Norah Vincent, set out to prove “male privilege” – and then found there was none, and there WAS female privilege, and worse, had to check herself in for mental evaluation and care after the experiment of living as Ned. Not knocking her; looking at my own mental state, being forced to be “the man” by a domineering yet incapable woman, who has her own past abuse issues and no therapy.
    Water seeks its own level, when put through Hell: It becomes “familiar.” The LACK of pain induces pain.
    So use whatever resources you can get, and make sure he doesn’t go through similar problems. If he can navigate that minefield, excellent.
    (Otherwise, you might be posting to Shattered Men. Might want to google that one, too.)

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