The Father Factor

Here is some really good news that might surprise you: Kids with involved fathers do better in school than kids who have less connected dads. They not only do better in academics, they are strong social learners as well, feeling more satisfaction with school and friends. This is not to say that the father's touch is a guarantee. In this era of increased paternal involvement, some voluntary and some not, researchers have been spending more time trying to figure out if more fathering is a blessing or a curse. So far the bottom line is: Having a dad in your life, or someone who acts like one and feels like one, is an enduring resource for children.

This works in some interesting ways, starting with babies at six weeks of age, all of whom are born with the ability to relate differently to fathers than to mothers. Babies respond differently to their fathers' approach and touch, and the dads take the bait.

Right from the beginning it is clear to researchers that fathers (even when taking the primary responsibility for their children) do not mother, any more than mothers can ever father. Regular dads can comfort, feed, bathe, and nuture competently, given sufficient practice -- just as competently as mothers -- and the babies love it and thrive. The things that make fathering different from mothering have important and positive effects on kids over the course of their lives.

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