Study shows that fathers' involvement crucial to child development

Study shows that fathers' involvement crucial to child development

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PROVO — Next time you want to get in some family time with the kids you may consider this: simple, everyday activities trump vacations or expensive outings in kids' minds.

A new study out of Brigham Young University looked at a father-child activity as it relates to family stability, balance, adaptability and cohesion. While previous studies looked at a mother's perspective of how these activities affected the family, Marriott School professors Ramon Zabriskie and Neil Lundberg surveyed fathers and children and analyzed their responses.

Of the fathers studied, 80 percent of the fathers were married, 13.8 percent were divorced and 7.3 percent were single or never married, in addition to a minority of other situations, which reflected the most recent national census data. The children who participated in the study were between 11 and 15 years old. Authors noted that because the study looked at fathers' and children's perspectives, that it "allows some level of generalizability" to the patterns of family involvement across different types of family.


Zabriskie and Lundberg looked at two types of interaction: Core and balance family activity patterns. Core activities were defined as "regular experiences in family leisure that are predictable and promote closeness," and included inexpensive or cost-free activities like watching TV or movies, playing sports, board or video games, or going on walks as a family.

Balance family activities, however, were defined as activities which challenged and provided opportunities for change and growth, and are "usually done away from the home, are novel experiences, not done as often, and may require more resources such as time, effort, and finances." Balance activities including things like family vacations, camping, hiking or swimming at a public pool.

What researchers found was that father involvement and satisfaction in those regular experiences for children was the best predictor of family functioning, from both the perspective of the father and the child.

"For fathers, family and home-based leisure activities are a primary context for leisure and familial attachment," the authors wrote in the study.

"For fathers, family and home-based leisure activities are a primary context for leisure and familial attachment."

Function, as well as attachment or closeness, was another significant outcome of regular core activities.

"Although participation in balance family leisure activities is important and needed, it was fathers' involvement in the everyday, home-based, common family leisure activities that held more weight than the large, extravagant, out-of-the-ordinary types of activities when examining family functioning," the authors said.

From the perspective of youth, those core activities with their father allowed them opportunities to learn social skills, flexibility and adaptability. In previous studies, fathers viewed that leisure time as a time to teach those skills to their children, allowing children to learn greater adaptability and to cope better.

The study noted that balance activities were necessary, though less frequently, than their counterpart. While core activities gave children an opportunity learn one set of skills, balance activities like vacations or outings take them out of their comfort zone and teach them other skills. Father involvement in these activities, however, remained crucial for children to learn those skills.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof


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