Study Measures Benefits of More Involved Fathers

Children face greater risk when agencies focus only on moms, overlook dads Family service agencies are missing huge opportunities to help children by focusing only on mothers and ignoring fathers, according to a groundbreaking study by some top U.S. family and child development researchers. The scientific study, which is being published [10Aug09] in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, found that when mothers and fathers enrolled together in 16-week sessions to work on their relationships as parents and partners, their children were much less likely to show signs of depression, anxiety and hyperactivity. “The vast majority of family services — from parenting classes to home visits — are really aimed at mothers, while fathers are almost completely overlooked,” explained Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine and a co-author of the study. “The research is clear that the best way to create a healthy environment for children is to engage dads and moms together.” An executive summary of the research and the full research paper are available for the public. According to the most recent census statistics, one in three children grow up without fathers. For low-income families, that percentage is even greater. Previous research has found that kids with absent fathers are more likely to suffer from psychological problems, drug addiction or incarceration in their lifetime. The new study is especially relevant at a time when the president is calling on fathers to take more responsibility and when economic distress is expected to put more pressure on young fathers and their families. The Supporting Father Involvement study represents the first randomized,...