Single-parent households are becoming more common throughout the United States and Canada. Research has shown that these families often have lower socio-economic statuses (SES) than two-parent families, and that children from these families are less likely to graduate high school than children who are raised in two-parent households. Additionally, children of single-mother households are at increased risk to develop psychological issues. “In general, research has indicated that children who experience fathers’ absence from the home at various points during childhood are more likely than other children to display internalizing problems, such as sadness, social withdrawal, and anxiety, as well as externalizing problems, such as aggression, impulsivity, and hyperactivity,” said Erin Pougnet of Concordia University and lead author of a study examining the effects of a father’s influence on behavioral and cognitive development.
Pougnet and her colleagues looked at 138 families from low SES communities to find out how a father’s presence would impact a child’s development in teen years. The researchers examined data that was collected when the children were in early elementary school and again three to five years later during pre-middle school to middle school ages. “The results indicated that for girls only, fathers’ presence in middle childhood predicted fewer internalizing problems in preadolescence.” The team added, “For both boys and girls, fathers’ positive parental control predicted higher Performance IQ and fewer internalizing problems over six years later.” They noted also that the children who had educated fathers experienced the highest levels of internalizing; suggesting that further research is needed in this area. “These results suggest that fathers’ presence in middle childhood and early control might be important for children’s later cognitive and behavioural functioning for reasons other than fathers’ income contribution to the family, even among socioeconomically at-risk families.” The team concluded, “Initiatives such as parental leave for men and parenting classes that emphasize the role of fathers could help to maximize children’s development from early childhood to preadolescence.”
Pougnet, Erin, Lisa A. Serbin, Dale M. Stack, and Alex E. Schwartzman. “Fathers’ Influence on Children’s Cognitive and Behavioural Functioning: A Longitudinal Study of Canadian Families.” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 43.3 (2011): 173-82. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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