Fathers are involved in their children’s lives in a multitude of ways that go beyond the traditional roles of “economic provider” and “playmate.” The quality of father-child interactions is not as frequently studied or understood as is the quantity of father-child contact. New research is focused on new ways of thinking about father involvement and the roles that fathers play in children’s lives.

Father and son reading

Fathers can be involved with their children in more roles than the provider role. This view of father involvement is applicable to fathers who live with their children as well as those who do not. Research underscores the difference that it is important to distinguish between the quantity and quality of father involvement. If a father cannot have consistent physical contact with his child yet provides warm, stimulating and positive contact when possible, children can still benefit from father involvement.

How do social, economic and cultural factors influence a father’s involvement with his child?

Socioeconomic factors:

  • National studies consistently found strong links between socioeconomic status and father involvement.
  • Fathers able to provide economically for their children are more likely to stay vested in their marriages or partnerships, and are more likely to be engaged with and nurturing of their children — even if they live apart from their children.
  • Unemployed fathers are less likely to form families or assume responsibility for children born outside of marriage.

Cultural factors:

  • African-American fathers who do not live with their children are more likely than Non-Hispanic white or Hispanic counterparts to share in housework and child care tasks, participate in child-rearing decisions, and visit their children.
  • African-American fathers are less likely than Non-Hispanic white fathers to read to their children, but more likely than white fathers to play with them.
  • Fathering roles cross cultures. These include fathers as economic providers, protectors, caregivers and teachers.

Family Structure:

  • Only 25% of African-American children and two-thirds of Non-Hispanic white children lived with both biological parents in 1992.
  • Single fathers are more likely to be African American than are married fathers.
  • Although many nonresident fathers are initially involved in their children’s lives, this involvement tends to taper off over time, particularly among men never married to their child’s mother.

How do fathers contribute to their child’s well-being?

  • Fathers can positively influence their children’s development by assuming a significant share of the child care tasks.
  • Care by fathers may be particularly influential in the first year of life.
  • A father’s parenting style has implications for child well-being.
  • Higher levels of father involvement in activities with their children are associated with fewer behavior problems, higher levels of sociability and better school performance.
  • Provision of child support is related to children’s cognitive development, academic achievement and behavior.


Child Trends (2000). Research Briefs: The Meaning of Father Involvement for Children;

What Do Fathers Conribute to Children’s Well-Being?; How do Social, Economic, and Cultural Factors

Ae fathers are important in child rearing?

With both parents in a child’s life, no one parent should bear the responsibility of a child’s health and well-being. A good parent helps a child develop confidence, problem-solving abilities and a feeling of safety and love. A good parent is involved in a child’s life from Day One of birth or adoption and throughout life.

The following ideas help empower fathers to develop and strengthen their parenting skills and give positive direction to their life. Parenting is a lifetime learning process embracing the idea that knowledge is required for raising children.

  • Make time for your child every day. If you are not there physically, you can call or write.
  • Be aware of when your child needs you; don’t wait to be told or invited.
  • Make a list of family activities that can be taken on spontaneously such as reading with your child or dancing to music.
  • Make time to vacation with your family. Make a day off feel like a vacation by thinking of family fun ideas. Encourage children to initiate or participate in the plan.
  • Include your child in your daily routine whether you are going to the hardware store or work. Give your child an idea of how you spend time and interact with neighbors and friends.
  • Stepfathers, grandfathers and uncles can be excellent role models for children and can help children develop a positive self-image.
  • Participate regularly in night-time feedings and diapering; comfort your child when upset. These intimate moments show your child that you are there during difficult times.
  • Listen when your child is hurting; help him or her work through frustrations and problems.
  • Solicit your child’s thoughts about things as you experience them together. Set an example of how you share ideas and thoughts. For infants, imitate their sounds and gestures.
  • Get to know your child one-on-one and develop your own interactive style. This will nurture the bond between the two of you.