It is a common belief that mothers tend to connect emotionally with their children, while fathers are known to connect in a more rational manner.
Major studies across the world which follow families over time have found fathers’ involvement with their children linked with their higher educational achievement and higher educational or occupational mobility relative to their parents.
A recent systematic review of studies taking account of mothers’ involvement and gathered data from different independent sources, found ‘positive’ father involvement associated with a range of desirable outcomes for children and young people. The positive outcomes include:
- Better peer relationships
- Fewer behavior problems
- Lower criminality and substance abuse
- Higher educational or occupational mobility relative to parents’
- Capacity for empathy
- Non-traditional attitudes to earning and childcare
- More satisfying adult sexual partnerships
- Higher self-esteem, life-satisfaction and ‘locus of control’ – that is, the belief that they can control much of what happens to them in life (Pleck & Masciadrelli, 2004).
All this is relevant to children’s educational outcomes, since ‘better functioning’ in life in general tends to enable better functioning in an educational/achievement sense.
Fathers’ commitment to their child’s education and their involvement with the school are also associated with children’s better behavior at school, including reduced risk of suspension or expulsion. Children’s school behavior is strongly linked with their educational attainment; and fathers’ influence on that behavior is not only significant. Fathers tend to be more significant authoritative than mothers in their parenting. For instance, fathers’ harsh parenting is more strongly linked to children’s (especially boys’) aggression than mothers’ parenting.
Fathers’ affection, support, warm-but-firm parenting style and high levels of parental sensitivity are strongly linked with their children’s better educational outcomes. In addition to the IQ effects noted above:
- School readiness in young children is associated with high levels of paternal sensitivity, over and above mothers’ sensitivity.
- Fathers’ support for their children’s autonomy has been found, to be significantly and uniquely associated with higher levels of reading and mathematics achievement among Grade 3 boys (Belsky et al, 2008).
- In a sample of African American families, fathers’ authoritarian parenting style (rigid and bossy) was connected with poorer vocabulary and receptive and other skills in their children. In this study, fathers’ parenting carried the weight of influence over mothers’ parenting for facilitating both child academic skills and social behaviors.
The subtlety of fathers’ impact is illustrated by the finding that when fathers perceive their children to be capable of a task. This is linked not only with the children’s positive perceptions of their own abilities, but also with the degree to which they value the task.
Hence it is very important for fathers to be not only there to cater for their children’s education materially, but to be present and actively involved in their education. The ideal situation would be to have fathers as the guiding and encouraging force behind their children’s life in general. This produces balanced individuals in society, where every parent has their contribution to a child’s upbringing.
About the author
Carolyne Wanjiku is our marketing intern. She holds a Bachelor of Education, and has a background in teaching Maths and Science to primary school Students.