by Father John Flynn, LC
Research into the family continues to confirm the importance of two parents as the best basis for bringing up children. One common problem in the last few decades is the absence of fathers, and the corresponding rise of families headed by single mothers.
A recent report confirmed that the role of the father is, indeed, necessary for children. The February issue of the journal Acta Paedriatica published an article titled, “Fathers’ Involvement and Children’s Developmental Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies.”
The article was authored by four academics: Anna Sarkadi, Robert Kristiansson, Frank Oberklaid and Sven Bremberg. They reviewed the conclusions from 24 studies. Of these, fewer than 22 provided evidence of the positive effects of involvement by fathers.
An active fatherhood role not only reduced the frequency of behavioral problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, but it also had a positive effect on cognitive development, along with decreasing delinquency and economic disadvantage in low-income families.
In spite of the convincing amount of evidence, the study observed: “Unfortunately, current institutional policies in most countries do not support the increased involvement of fathers in child rearing.”
Some of the studies distinguished between biological fathers and father figures who cohabit with the children, but the authors commented that more study is needed on the role of a biological bond between the father figure and the child. Some results indicate that non-biological father figures can play an important role for children in their households. There is evidence, as well, that biological fathers may be salient in a specific way, they noted.
Overall, however, they concluded, “There is evidence to indicate that father engagement positively affects the social, behavioral, psychological and cognitive outcomes of children.”
Effects on children
Another study, published last week by the Institute for American Values’ Center for Marriage and Families, confirms that academic research is now favoring the family. In “The Shift and the Denial: Scholarly Attitudes Toward Family Change, 1977-2002,” authors Norval Glenn and Thomas Sylvester with Alex Roberts, document how scholarly opinion has evolved.
They studied the 266 articles published in the Journal of Marriage and Family from 1977-2002 related to how family structure affects children. “Overall, we found strong evidence that scholars have become more concerned about the effects of family change on children,” they concluded.
As the years have gone by scholars have become more aware of the possible negative effects of divorce and unwed childbearing on children, the study observed. This was particularly the case, the authors noted, when the studies were empirical, as opposed to an opinion-style article.
Glenn and Sylvester also affirmed: “[T]here now is widespread agreement that there have been negative effects from recent family changes that are strong enough and pervasive enough to be important.”