Fathers are more involved with their children than ever before…but

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Here’s the “but”…

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How did your father influence your life’s path? My father taught me that I could think for myself and solve problems if I tried. He expected me to achieve.

Fathers matter to their children. In fact, research says that father-child relationships influence children as much as mother-child relationships. Fathers influence their children in different ways than mothers. Babies who interact with their fathers tend to acquire language skills more readily. Children whose fathers spend time with them do better in school, have more self-control, and are more ambitious and willing to embrace risk. Teens who feel close to their fathers start having sex later.

Fathers are more involved with their children than ever before. The roles of mothers and fathers are converging. Most families with children have two incomes and share in the care of their children. And more fathers provide the primary care of their children.

The research says that African-American fathers are more likely to physically care for their children and prepare meals for them than other fathers. Most nonresident fathers maintain contact with their children, and many are involved with their children’s daily activities. Nonresident fathers who have jobs are more likely to be involved with their children. An equal number of moms and dads say that parenting is rewarding and central to their identity.

So what happens when a father is incarcerated? Emerging research finds that when fathers are sent to jail or prison, their children pay the price. And this is particularly true of sons. Sons of incarcerated fathers show more aggressive behavior and attention problems. Children of incarcerated fathers have more contact with the child welfare system.

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Science of Dads.

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For decades, psychologists and other researchers assumed that the mother-child bond was the most important one in a kid’s life. They focused on studying those relationships, and however a child turned out, mom often got the credit — or blame.
Within the last several decades, though, scientists are increasingly realizing just how much dads matter. Just like women, fathers’ bodies respond to parenthood, and their parenting style affects their kids just as much, and sometimes more, than mom’s.cdf43-dove-for-dads
“We’re now finding that not only are fathers influential, sometimes they have more influence on kids’ development than moms,” said Ronald Rohner, the director of the Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut.
Feeling dad’s love
Rohner and his colleagues recently reviewed decades of studies on parental acceptance and rejection across the globe. Unsurprisingly, parents have a major effect on their kids. When kids feel rejected or unloved by mom and dad, they’re more likely to become hostile, aggressive and emotionally unstable. Parental rejection also can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and negative worldviews.
This is true for both parents, Rohner told LiveScience. But in some cases, dad is a more important factor than mom. [History’s 12 Most Doting Dads]Father comfort - 2016
Behavior problems, delinquency, depression, substance abuse and overall psychological adjustment are all more closely linked to dad’s rejection than mom’s, Rohner said.
By the same token, dad’s love is sometimes a stronger influence for children than mom’s, the researchers found.
“Knowing that kids feel loved by their father is a better predictor of young adults’ sense of well-being, of happiness, of life satisfaction than knowing about the extent to which they feel loved by their mothers,” Rohner said. He and his colleagues detailed their findings in May in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.
Influence and persistence
The research looked only at male father figures, so while the dad in question doesn’t have to be biological, the results don’t apply to absentee fathers. Rohner and his colleagues aren’t certain why fathers sometimes outshine moms in their kids’ development. In every family, Rohner said, there is a member with more influence and prestige — the person who might set the weekend plans, for example. In families where dad is that person, his actions might make the greatest impression on the children.
In those cases, “kids tend to pay more attention to what dad does and dad says than mom, and he’s going to have more influence,” Rohner said.
Dads may also be responsible for endowing their kids with “stick-with-it-ness” that serves them well in life. In a study of two-parent families published Friday (June 15) in the Journal of Early Adolescence, Brigham Young University researchers found that dad’s parenting style is more closely linked to whether teens will exhibit persistence than mom’s parenting. A persistent personality, in turn, was related to less delinquency and more engagement in school over time.
ec62a-fathersThe magic fathering style that was linked to such persistence in kids is called authoritative parenting, a style characterized by warmth and love, accountability to the rules (but explanations of why those rules exist), and age-appropriate autonomy for kids, the researchers found.
“Our study suggests fathers who are most effective are those who listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms,” study researcher Laura Padilla-Walker told LiveScience.
It’s not clear why dads might be more important than moms in teaching perseverance, but it’s possible that fathers simply focus on this trait more, while moms teach traits like gratitude and kindness, Padilla-Walker said. [5 Ways to Foster Self-Compassion in Your Child]
Being a good dad
Fortunately for dads, biology is there to back up good parenting. Hormonal studies have revealed that dads show increased levels of oxytocin during the first weeks of their babies’ lives. This hormone, sometimes called the “love hormone,” increases feelings of bonding among groups. Dads get oxytocin boosts by playing with their babies, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.
Fatherhood also leads to declines in testosterone, the “macho” hormone associated with aggressive behavior, according to research published last year in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. father_0This change is stronger the more involved a dad is with his baby’s care, suggesting that it may reduce a man’s risk-taking drive and encourage nurturing and domesticity. 
What’s most important, Padilla-Walker said, is that fathers realize they matter. Quality time is important, she said.
“That doesn’t mean going on fancy vacations, it can be playing ball in the backyard or watching a movie with your kids,” she said. “Whatever it is, just make yourself available and when you’re with your children, be with them.”

Source: The Science of Fatherhood: Why Dads Matter

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The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children | Psychology Today

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Alienation is a crime - 2015Parental alienation involves the “programming” of a child by one parent to denigrate the other (targeted) parent, in an effort to undermine and interfere with the child’s relationship with the targeted parent, and is often a sign of a parent’s inability to separate from the couple conflict and focus on the needs of the child.

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The Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

Psychology Today

Parental Alienation Harms Children - 2015

Ten Parental Alienation Fallacies:
1. Children never unreasonably reject the parent with whom they spend the most time,
2. Children never unreasonably reject mothers,
3. Each parent contributes equally to a child’s alienation,
4. Alienation is a child’s transient, short-lived response to the parents’ separation,
5. Rejecting a parent is a short-term healthy coping mechanism,
6. Young children living with an alienating parent need no intervention,
7. Alienated adolescents’ stated preferences should dominate custody decisions,
8. Children who appear to function well outside the family need no intervention,
9. Severely alienated children are best treated with traditional therapy techniques while living primarily with their favored parent,
10. Separating children from an alienating parent is traumatic.Childhood Trauma Family Courts - 2015

The article provides a summary of the research on parental alienation that has emerged over the past decade. As with Warshak’s (2014) article, “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report,” it supports shared parental responsibility as in the best interests of most children of divorce, and as a remedy for parental alienation. It is an important contribution to understanding the most common errors in judicial practice and social policy in this arena, as well as in mental health practice. It is the implications for intervention with children and families that should be of special interest to us.

One of the most controversial points is the last, “Separating children from an alienating parent is traumatic.” Alienation and isolation by a parent in the absence of a child protection order is damaging to a child, and is itself a child protection concern. The key for children is to reunite with the alienated parent, ideally with the support of the other parent, which necessarily entails temporary separation from that parent. However, complete separation from an alienating parent may be a form of alienation in itself.

Another mistaken assumption that struck me is, “Young children living with an alienating parent need no intervention.” It seems difficult to believe that such an assumption still exists, but there has been a widespread and persistent denial by some practitioners and policymakers about the reality of parental alienation. The fact that “parental alienation syndrome” is not identified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, Fifth Edition (DSM-V), for example, does not mean that parental alienation does not exist; as Warshak’s consensus statement and other meta-analyses have demonstrated, parental alienation is much more widespread than is commonly assumed.

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