Fathers, it turns out, contribute far more to their children than many of us realize.
Those contributions begin during pregnancy, before fathers and their children have even met. Studies show that the death rate of infants whose fathers were not around during pregnancy is nearly four times that of those with engaged dads. And depression in fathers during their partners’ pregnancies — which is more common than most people realize — can increase the child’s lifelong risk of depression.
After birth, children whose fathers play with them, read to them, take them on outings, and care for them have fewer behavioral problems during their early school years. And they have a lower risk of delinquency or criminal behavior as adolescents.
For many of us this is old news. But in a culture where fathers are widely ridiculed as bumbling, unimportant—or even dangerous—it refreshing to see someone take the subject seriously.
Raeburn has compiled the latest research on the role of fathers in childhood development in his new book, Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked (Scientific American / FSG, 2014).