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men who change diapers change the world

Monday, 26 November 2007
Study: after years of research scientists come up with obvious conclusion on dads.












For those who visit you would know that the headline above is a "farkism", where they sneer at actual studies like:  Does beer makes you fat, or students use free laptops from schools for porn. Fark notes:  Apparently there's an entire wing of the US government working hard on studying things that just don't need studying. The Maxim Institute out of New Zealand just put out a massive135 report that seems to fit this category. And to press this matter further this is a study on studies on fathers (got it?)  

The question:  Do fathers make unique contributions to the lives of their children? 

The short answer: Yes. Fathers who pay close attention to their kids end up with well adjusted kids.

There it's done: I could end this post now, and I'm sure we'd get a few giggles on the brush off, after all this is one of those papers that will be read by nearly no one except for the author himself and a few hard core daddy bloggers.  What bothers me the most about these studies is the dads who need this information the most are the least likely to read it.  If you stuck one paragraph in front of one dad who needs a few parenting lessons with a gun to their head, they couldn't understand it if they tried. I could hardly digest it myself.   

But hey, researcher Daniel Lees spent a lot of time on his homework, and even added pictures to the poster board, so instead of giving him a checkmark, I figured I'd go through all his research and put it into one easy to read table. I even added a translation to each of their key findings. 

Nonetheless it's still pretty dull.  So if you are happy with the short answer above, skip the long answer, scroll to the bottom and click the button  that says "Yes I have read this entire post and I agree to your short answer" If not you may read on to the long answer below. Good luck! 

The long answer:

SECTION 1: Literature review (or why we chose the studies we studied) 

 The reports studied had to be in English, published on or after 1990, (sorry Kyle Pruett you did do a few after 1990 that deserved a look but you weren't chosen). They picked the studies to be studied from a "database" (google?)  and books using the keywords   "father" and "involvement," and more specific combinations such as "father" and "child" and "unique." They found  2,657 hits with only 24 studies meeting the "criteria for inclusion because research into the possible unique effects of fathers is relatively new." All studies had to have been in a "peer-reviewed journal or an edited academic book" and the studies had to measure both mothers and fathers contribution. 


Study/PublicationTitleKey FindingKey Finding Translated

Sample used

Aldous and Mulligan (2002) - Journal of Family Issues 23, no. 5 (2002): 624-647.

"Fathers’ Child Care and Children’s Behaviour (sic) Problems: A Longitudinal Study."

Fathers' involvement and Fathers' support and their childcare were uniquely associated with fewer behavioral problems in childron.

Just look at your kids in the eye and with out raising your voice explain why they can't smear  jello all over  the DVD player.

National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), a nationally representative sample from the US  13,017 respondents.

Amato (1994) Journal of Marriage and Family 61, no. 2 (1999): 375-384.

"Paternal Involvement and Children’s Behaviour Problems."

Fathers’ involvement with their children when they were young was uniquely associated with overall life satisfaction, happiness and psychological well-being in early adulthood

If you don't run to them right away when they fall down at the playground they won't grow up to be bums. 

Phone interviews  with 2,033 parents over a period of 12 years. 471 of their children were also interviewed.

Amato (1998) - ed. A. Booth and A.C. Crouter. (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1998), 241-278."More than Money? Men’s Contributions to their Children’s Lives." in Men in Families:

When Do They Get Involved? What Difference Does It Make?

Children whose fathers had close and supportive relationships with them when young (aged 7 to 19) were most likely to be satisfied with their lives as young adults (aged 19 to 31), even after taking into account relevant social factors.

Same as above More interviews with same children analyzed 22 years later 
Amato and Rivera (1999) - Journal of Marriage and Family 56 (1994): 1031-1042.

"Father-Child Relations, Mother-Child Relations, and Offspring Psychological Well-Being in Early Adulthood."

Fathers’ time and support were uniquely related to fewer behavioural problems in children (aged 5 to 18) after controlling for parental education, family size and step-father status. The strongest unique effects of father involvement were seen in biological-married-parent families, although step-fathers also uniquely affected child outcomes if they were highly involved with their step-children.

Spend quantity time as well as quality time with your kids, and they will actually not talk back to you  when they become teenagers. 

13,017 respondents.  Married parent couples with one child between the ages of 5 and 18 years, which reduced the effective sample size to 994 couples. 

Barnett, Marshall and Pleck (1992)

"Adult Son-Parent Relationships and Their Associations With Sons’ Psychological Distress."

Adult sons who had good quality relationships with their fathers were less likely to experience psychological distress. Relations with mothers only had an independent effect if fathers were deceased

Take old computers apart with your kids when they are 2 now and they will want to do it with you all the time . 300 adult sons aged 25 to 40 who were either married or living with partners. The analytical sample included 285 men, some of whom had children.
Carlson (2006)

"Family Structure, Father Involvement, and Adolescent Behavioral Outcomes." Journal of Marriage and Family 68, no. 1 (2006): 137-154.

Father involvement over time was uniquely associated with lower levels of psychological distress in teenagers from married parent families, compared to those from other family types. Concluded that father involvement was one of the reasons for differences in outcomes between family structures

Same as Amato and Rivera (1999) result. 2,733 participants. children  10 and 14 years. Asked how many times in the past year they had stayed out without permission, hurt someone badly enough for them to need medical attention, lied to their parents, damaged others’ property, or abused alcohol.
Cookston and Finlay (2006)

"Father Involvement and Adolescent Adjustment: Longitudinal Findings From Add Health." Fathering 4, no.2 (2006): 137-158.

Fathers’ involvement and support was uniquely associated with fewer depressive symptoms in adolescents after controls were added, but not with alcohol use or delinquency

If you drink and rob banks the kids just might notice.2,387 children aged 15,  the number of times children lied to parents, written graffiti, stole a car, shoplifted, displayed loud or rowdy behaviour, sold drugs or burgled.
Crockett et al (1993)

"Father’s Presence and Young Children’s Behavioral and Cognitive Adjustment." Journal of Family Issues 14, no. 3 (1993): 355-377.

Fathers’ presence from an early age in the lives of their children was associated with better vocabulary development at ages 4 and 6. When controls were added for mothers’ IQ and poverty levels, however, the father effect was reduced to insignificance.

The less money dad has more dad can't pay attention to the kids because he is out trying to make more money. 

1,688 children who were aged between 4 and 6 at the time of the interviews in 1986, with the majority of the parents aged 20 years or younger.

Flouri and Buchanan (2003)

"The Role of Father Involvement and Mother Involvement in Adolescents’ Psychological Well-being." British Journal of Social Work 33 (2003): 399-406.

Father involvement during childhood had a stronger effect on adolescents’ and adults’ psychological well being and overall happiness than mother involvement after controls were added

If you sit at the computer and let your kids watch TV when they come home from school, they they will be probably be drawn to the XBOX's  Halo3 rather than the practicing for the high school band or the football team.

2,722 adolescents, aged between 14 and 18. The measures used included a four point scale gauging how often adolescents felt "happy and confident" about themselves, ranging from "never" to "often."

Flouri, Buchanan and Bream (2002 - UK)


Perceptions of Their Fathers’ Involvement:

Significance to School Attitudes."

in the Schools 39, no. 5 (2002): 575-582.

Fathers and mothers uniquely affected their children’s positive attitudes towards school when they were between 14 and 18 years old, yet the strongest overall effect was associated with parents’ joint contributions.

Work together, don't give your kids mixed messages when they are young and they might talk to you more then 20 minutes a day when they grow up. 

2,722 kid between  14 and 18 were rated on these questions "I like my teachers and enjoy college," "I never take my work seriously," "I set myself high standards," "I don’t like school, it’s a waste of time" & "It’s ok most of the time."

Grossman et al (2002 - Germany) 

"The Uniqueness of the Child- Father Attachment Relationship: Fathers’ Sensitive and Challenging Play As a Pivotal Variable in a 16-Year Longitudinal Study." Social Development 11, no. 3 (2002): 301-337.

Fathers who played with their children in a sensitive and challenging way had a unique influence on their children’s emotional security (at ages 6 and 10) and their views about relationships as adolescents (at age 16). Mothers’ sensitive play, however, had no observable effect on children’s later security, but the quality of their attachment relationships with their children played a unique role in their children’s attachment security.

Keep playing on the monkey bars with your kids.  Resist urge to join the moms playground cocktail hour.  

49 families, with information on attachment security taken at ages 6, 10 and 16. The analytical sample for the present analysis included 44 families.

Harris et al (1998)

"Paternal Involvement With Adolescents In Intact Families: The Influence of Fathers Over the Life Course." Demography 35, no. 2 (1998): 201-216.

Increasing closeness with fathers over time (between the ages of 7 and 16) associated with less psychological distress and delinquent behaviour  (between the ages of 16 and 22). Fathers who were highly involved also compensated for the negative effects of mothers who were less involved

If your less involved wife works 70 hour work weeks,  get out of the house more, join a playgroup and talk to her as much as possible to avoid emotional distance. 

2,301 children from 1,747 households.  7 to 11, in 1976. The second round of data collection occurred in 1981 when the target children were aged between 11 and 16. The final follow up occurred in 1987 when the respondents were aged 17 to 22. The final analytical sample consisted of 584 children who were in continuously married parent families over the eleven year period.

Kahn et al (2004)

"Combined Effect of Mothers’ and Fathers’ Mental Health Symptoms on Children’s Behavioural and Emotional Well-Being." Archive of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine 158 (2004): 721-729.

Fathers with low levels of mental and emotional health had no observable negative effect on the well-being of their children when they were about eight years old, whereas mothers’ well-being did have an observable effect. On the other hand, good mental and emotional health in fathers may protect against the negative effects of mothers’ depressive symptoms. Overall, the findings suggested that mothers’ wellbeing has a greater impact on children than fathers’ well-being.

If dad is cool the kids might not notice mom has PMS.

(This study also includes amazing  results that  showed "there was a strong negative effect on child well-being when both parents had low levels of mental health")

822 children from 605 families study relied mainly on mothers’ reports of child behaviour.
King and Sobolewski (2006)

"Non-Resident Fathers’ Contributions to Adolescent Well-Being." Journal of Marriage and Family 68 (2006): 537-557.

Non-resident father involvement can have unique, though modest effects on children’s academic attainment, self-efficacy and levels of emotional, behavioural and school-related problems. Children in this study were aged 10 to 18 years.

Divorced Dads get lots of competition from their replacements. 

453 adolescents, plus a second set of data by telephone interview for 456 children, aged 10 to 18, who had non-resident fathers.

Kosterman et al (2004)

"Unique Influence of Mothers and Fathers on Their Children’s Antisocial Behavior." Journal of Marriage and Family 66, no. 3 (2004): 762-778.

Mothers and fathers have different effects on children’s outcomes. The mean age of children in this study was 11 years. Fathers’ prosocial engagement with their daughters was associated with fewer anti-social behaviours in those girls. For boys, strong bonds with both parents, along with encouragement that they could be involved in family life, was associated with fewer behavioural problems.

When your kids watch you laughing and getting along with your friends they are learning how to get along with their friends. 325 families. parents and the target child were asked to complete a questionnaire
Marshall et al (2001)

"The Effect of Fathers or Father Figures on Child Behavioural Problems in Families Referred to Child Protective Services." Child Maltreatment 6, no. 4 (2001): 290-299.

The effects of father involvement were indirect, operating through aspects such as income and family process/the quality of family relationships

I have no idea what this means. 

182  participants  which investigated the effects of maltreatment on children’s health and well-being. 

Ryan, Martin and Brooks-Gunn (2006)

"Is One Parent Good Enough? Patterns of Mother and Father Parenting and Child Cognitive Outcomes at 24 and 36 Months." Parenting: Science and Practice 6, no. 2 & 3 (2006): 211-228.

Two year old children who had highly supportive fathers and mothers displayed better cognitive functioning and better behavioural outcomes than those who did not. These results remained consistent after controlling for parents’ characteristics and income.

When they are born start reading  to them (use the cloth books). Don't stop till they are reading Wired magazine on their own. 

237 couples who lived together when the toddler was two years old. 82 percent of the fathers were biological and 18 percent were "social fathers"

Stolz, Barber and Olsen (2005)

"Toward Disentangling Fathering and Mothering: An Assessment of Relative Importance." Journal of Marriage and Family 67, no. 4 (2005): 1076-1092.

Fathers’ support played a greater role than mothers’ support in explaining pro-social behaviour in adolescents. Fathers also influenced their children both in unique ways and through their shared contributions with mothers

Dads will watch Family Guy with their kids... mom's won't. (used to be The Simpsons and before that The Three Stooges

644 youths (with two evenly numbered groups of 11 and 14 year olds) from the National Institute of Mental Health-funded Ogden Youth and Family project.

Tamis-LeMonda et al (2004) Belgium

"Fathers and Mothers at Play With Their 2- and 3-Year-Olds: Contributions to Language and Cognitive Development." Child Development 75, no. 6 (2004): 1806-1820.

When positive and negative aspects of parents’ interactions were considered jointly in playtime interactions with two and three year olds, fathers’ sensitivity, positive regard and were uniquely associated with children’s social skills.

Kids love dads who don't let their wife prevent the kids from going the "wrong way" on the slide.

low income sample of 290 families from the National Early Head Start study (NEHS). All the fathers were resident biological fathers of the target children. Father-child and mother-child play engagements were videotaped for 10 minutes during a semi-structured play situation

Verschueren and Marcoen (1999)

"Representation ofSelf and Socio-Emotional Competence in Kindergartners: Differential and Combined Effects of Attachment to Mother and to Father." Child Development 70, no. 1 (1999): 183-201.

Father-child attachment relationships were relatively more effective in explaining children’s self-esteem and pro-social behaviour than mother-child attachment relationships, whereas relationships with mothers had a greater impact on children’s self-image. The children in this study were five years old.

I think you get the point here, you have passed the test.  If you are still reading you may scroll down to the bottom now and click the submit button. 

80 children, 40 of whom were boys and 40 girls. These children were kindergarten age, the median age being 5 years 3 months.

Videon (2005)

"Parent-Child Relations and Children’sPsychological Well-Being: Do Dads Matter?" Journal of Family Issues 26, no. 1 (2005): 55-78.

Increasing satisfaction with father-child relationships over time was associated with higher levels of well being and decreasing satisfaction was associated with lower levels of well being. This held constant after controlling for changes in mother-child relations

 3,206 boys and 3,306 girls. aged 11 to 20 in the United States in 1996
Wenk et al (1994)

"The Influence of Parental Involvement

on the Well-Being of Sons and Daughters."

Mothers’ and fathers’ emotional and behavioural involvement in the lives of their children was uniquely important for the well being of boys and girls (aged between 7 and 11 at first data collection and 18 and 22 during the 2nd  interview)


2,000 children aged 7 to 11 years in 1976. The analysis is based on 367 male respondents and 396 females who were living in a household with a mother and father/stepfather present at time

Williams and Kelly (2005)

"Relationships Among Involvement, Attachment, and Behavioral Problems in Adolescence: Examining Fathers’ Influence." The Journal Of Early Adolescence 25, no. 2 (2005): 168-196. 

The quality of relationships between fathers and children and mothers and children was measured in relation to teachers’ reports of adolescents’ behavioural outcomes (at ages 11 to 14). The results show that the quality of the father-child relationship was uniquely related to teenagers’ positive behavioural outcomes.


116 students from a demographically representative (stratified) sample in Florida. The ages of the students ranged from 11 to 14.

Yeung et al (2000)

"Putting Fathers Back in the Picture: Parental Activities and Children’s Adult Outcomes." Journal of Marriage and Family Review 29, no. 2 (2000): 97-113.

A father’s personal characteristics have a significant and independent effect on children’s attitudes and success in later life (ages 29 to 36).


1,024 children, aged 17 and below


[ref: Maxim Report

Yes I have read this post and agree with your short answer


Posted by athomedad at 1:45 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 26 November 2007 9:47 PM EST
Post Comment | View Comments (1) | Permalink | Share This Post

Wednesday, 16 January 2008 - 2:43 PM EST

Name: "Gina Stepp"
Home Page:

I must say, I enjoyed reading the research as you presented it much more than reading the original studies (which I have done for my own articles on the subject of fathers and daughters). I'll be bookmarking your blog--maybe I'll come here from now on before cracking open those expensive journals.

All the best,


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