Leah Berenson
Leah Berenson
February 9, 2024 ·  4 min read

Kids with this Kind of Dad will Be Smarter, Safer, and Happier

Unsurprisingly, children need love, guidance, and presence from their parents to be happy and functional adults. Infants and toddlers benefit from having loving and involved parents, so much so that it actually impacts proper brain development. When it comes to parental importance, it’s no secret that having great mothers is key to raising successful children, but what about fathers? A term coined the ‘Father Effect‘ describes the importance of having an involved, loving, and active father in children’s lives. In fact, children with active father figures have been shown to hold down high-paying jobs, have higher IQs, and are less likely to drop out of school. The father effect is real, so much so researchers have invested countless hours into understanding how this effect impacts brain development. 

The Father Effect

Studies have shown that children with active fathers avoid self-destructive behaviors. Examples include sex with strangers, engaging in criminal activity, or underage drinking. In contrast, the father effect gives children a boost in IQ, confidence, and morality. Children with healthy and sufficient access to the father effect are also less likely to become school dropouts. In turn, setting them up for higher rates of success.

Several collections of data reflect several developmental benefits, including improved cognitive function. A study, dating back 30 years explored the psychological and cultural impacts of both parents’ involvement while growing up. The study was headed by J Kevin Nugent and published by the National Council on Family Relations in the Journal of Marriage and Family. Researchers examined the stages of pregnancy from infancy until the end of the first year. They found that children with active fathers benefitted more than those without. Additionally, children scored higher on testing and memorized details more easily.

Further Evidence Backing the Theory

Four years later, in 1995, authors M W Yogman, D Kindlon, and F Earls wrote a paper entitled ‘Father Involvement and Cognitive/Behavioral Outcomes of Preterm Infants.’ The study looked at families from urban areas that were primarily ethnically diverse or disadvantaged. The results showed younger fathers from lower-income families or who had teenage companions were less involved in their young children’s lives. Within these subgroups, improved cognitive function was seen primarily in children with active and present fathers. This led scientists to believe that an active father, or the ‘father effect,’ enhances cognitive abilities. 

Three years after, another study was conducted, authored by K M Harris, F F Furstenberg, and J K Marmer. This time to determine the long-term impacts of having an opportunity to experience the father effect. The results yielded a positive correlation between present fathers and children’s future success, confidence, and happiness. 

2006 Studies on the Father Effect

Later, in 2006, another group of studies was conducted. Authors C Garfield and A Issaco, theorized that fathers are discouraged from active involvement in children’s health and wellness checks. Although this doesn’t impact development, it does play a role in the care that children receive. Without proper instruction from a medical professional, fathers cannot provide the necessary care to their children. A few examples may be as simple as administering Tylenol at the recommended age or as complex as understanding what effects children’s epilepsy or diabetes medication may have on appetite or energy levels. 

Another 2006 study written by authors R Ryan, A Martin, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, looked at toddlers ages 2-3. The study compares developemtnet in those with and without both parents playing an active role. how having both parents actively present impacts development in children ages 24-36 months. Or 2-3 year olds. The results reflected that there is no difference between cognition if a child has an active mother vs. father. On the other hand, it did show children with access to both parents had a higher overall cognitive function.

Religiously Backed

Furthermore, there is a documentary called “The Father Effect” based off a book written by John Finch and Blake Atwood. The book entitled, ‘The Father Effect: Hope and Healing From a Dad’s Absence’ addresses how to overcome the pain of growing up fatherless. Moreover, he addresses that his own father committed suiciude and also grew up fatherless. Finch and Atwood have one goal in sharing their stories; to help educate men everywhere on the importance of the father effect and actively participating in their children’s lives. Although the roots of the messages are strongly tied to religion, they are nonetheless powerful, educational, and impactful.

Essentially, several studies have looked at and compared the impact of the father effect. The results have shown that children with participation and support from both parents have improved self-esteem, mood, and cognition. The father effect has also shown to help kids navigate social behaviors like playing and interacting with peers, or other adults. Meanwhile, active fathers also tend to ensure children have more proper health and wellness care, shy away from drugs and criminal activity, and tend to pursue higher education. Therefore, making more money, getting better jobs, and overall becoming more successful.