Fatherhood / Male Involvement Facts

The Importance of Fathers in the Lives of Children

Since the early 1900's, there has been an increasing body of evidence about the importance of father involvement, the changing family structure and its subsequent impact on the lives of children. The positive effects of father involvement have been a consistent finding in numerous studies.

In June 1998, the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released a report that examined the increase in divorce, non-marital childbearing, changing family structures, and important contributions of fathers in the lives of their children. Findings in the report include:

  • Nearly one-third of children are born out of wedlock, and many who are born into married households experience the divorce of their parents.

  • Fathers who are involved are spending more time with their children, but fewer men are actually involved fathers. Fathers who live with their children are spending more time taking care of them, but divorce and non-marital childbearing have reduced the average amount of time fathers spend with their children over the life course. Almost half of the fathers who do not live with their children have no contact with their children at all.

  • The absence of a father in the home has adverse consequences for children's school achievement and labor force attachment, as well as being an indicator of early childbearing and risky behavior by the children.

  • Family structure makes a difference, even when income is taken into account. Two parents are better than one. However, it should be noted that many children raised by a single parent, could make a successful transition from childhood into adulthood if that parent has adequate economic and social supports.

  • Research that separates father involvement from mother involvement indicates that fathers have an independent effect on child well-being. For example, the father's parenting style, level of closeness, flexibility, and other family processes affect the child's well-being.