A Father's Critical Role to Play

Posted by Chris Smith on July 27, 2020

Only 34 percent of children born in the United States in 2000 will be living with both parents in the same house by age 18, according to some projections. Further projections estimate only fourteen percent of fathers winning custody of their children, and only twenty-five percent of children of divorce seeing their father weekly or more.

Relationships between fathers and their children are in a precarious state once the relationship between the parents reaches a family law court, and children are the most aggrieved parties as a result. Sons and daughters benefit from a relationship with their father, but daughters are often overlooked when considering the importance of time with dad. In fact, the relationship between father and daughter may prove to be the most important relationship in the development of any young girl.

Fathers play a crucial role in the well-being of children

In her book Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters and the Pursuit of Thinness, Dr. Margo Maine, Ph.D., opines that, “The time has come to focus on the positive and crucial role that fathers can play in their daughters’ emerging identity and self-esteem. There is no substitute for a father’s love. Similarly, there may be nothing worse than being deprived of or feeling uncertain of it.” She goes on to write that, "Numerous studies have shown that women who report having a close relationship with their father during childhood developed a strong sense of personal identity and positive self-esteem, as well as enjoying greater confidence in their adult relationships with men.”[1] 

It is established that children with fathers who are involved in their lives have higher cognitive and developmental functioning, greater empathy, and stronger internal locus of control.[2]  These "father positive" children are also more successful academically, athletically, and socially.[3] 

"A number of studies suggest that fathers who are involved, nurturing, and playful with their infants have children with higher IQs, as well as better linguistic and cognitive capacities.”[4]  The same study concluded that "children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and as they grow older, have better social connections with peers.”[5]  Study after study establish that fathers are critical to the well-being of children and that the relationship is important from the day the child is born.

The relationship between father and child must be of a quality that allows the child and father to develop a good relationship. A poor-quality relationship with a child does not have the same impact of a good relationship .[6]  This suggests that courts are critical to lowering the barrier for fathers to have such a relationship with their children, as opposed to becoming the primary obstacle. 

Daughters especially need a relationship with their dad

Daughters demonstrate an acute need for a close relationship with their father, and without such a connection daughters are more likely to feel rejected, abandoned, anxious, fearful, sad and insecure.[7]  If a daughter sees from mom that dad is unimportant, a danger, sick or bad, the daughter will reject father as unimportant, a danger, sick, bad and will project upon the father the accusations of the mother.

Our own father’s parenting style and influence impacts most of us at some point, and leads many to divorce and heartache. It is only when we deal with our past and the relationship we wanted to have, but didn’t, with our fathers, that we may be able to break the cycle of father-deprived childhoods that have plagued so many.  It is this departure from our own past influence that will allow us to live into the versions of self that we wish to be as parents. Only by separating from the old ways will new ways be possible.

Fathers, your relationship with the mother of your children will become the prototype relationship for your daughter and the men in her life. Mothers, your relationship with the father of your children will become the prototype relationship that will influence your children’s view of their father, and thus their own future relationships. If you are not modeling a positive relationship, your children, and especially daughters, are going to struggle to have positive relationships in their own life. Daughters will deduce from what they hear and see. If they are hearing negative things about dad, they will think negative things about dad. If they see dad acting poorly to mom, they will expect to be treated poorly by the men in their life.

Surveys have found that divorce severely strains the father-child relationship, with one-third of divorced fathers maintaining no further contact with their children, and only 25 percent of the children of divorce seeing their fathers at least weekly. “Contact decreases as parental conflict increases...” according to Dr. Maine. This places a greater importance on courts and litigants to work more diligently to protect their time with their children, without valid justification otherwise. 

The attorneys at Ball Morse Lowe are tireless advocates for good parents maintaining significant and substantial relationships with their children, while at the same time protecting the well-being of the children in cases that necessitate a deviation from equality. However, we also believe that any decision to restrict a parent’s time and relationship with their children should be based upon verified factual evidence that supports such an action. We recognize the role we play as attorneys and we appreciate the opportunity to work with parents who find themselves fighting for the right to be the parent they wish to be.

[1]M. Maine. (2004). Father Hunger: Fathers, Daughters and the Pursuit of Thinness, Second Edition. Nashville: Gurze Books.

[2] M.E. Lamb (1997). Fathers and Child Development. In M.E. Lamb (Ed.), The Role of the Father in Child Development, 3rd ed. New York:John Wiley and Sons.

[3] H.B. Biller, J.L. Kimpton (1997). The Father and the School-Aged Child. M.E. Lamb (Ed.).

[4] Fathers and Their Impact on Children’s Well-Being. Department of Health and Human Services, 2006.

[5] Id.

[6] B. Wilcox. The District, Positive Impact of a Good Dad, The Atlantic, June 14, 2013.

[7] M. Maine.

Tags: Family Law, Divorce with Children, Divorce, Child Custody, Father's Rights