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Study proves fatherhood can't be underrated

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September 28, 2005

Source: Trinity Western University:

Study proves fatherhood can't be underrated

A study by Trinity Western University graduate student Michael Dadson is redeeming a contemporary paternal stigma. Common nicknames like 'disneyland dad,' 'deadbeat dad,' and 'absent father' all contribute to a negative definition of father-child relationships. But Dadson's study, conducted to complete his M.A. in counselling psychology, shows that positive father-child relationships not only exist, but when they do, both father and child are filled with an unparalleled sense of purpose, meaning and life calling.

The qualitative study examines the positive father-child experiences of 12 young adults. It reveals that healthy father-child closeness yields a high degree of emotional intensity, a sense of value and well-being, an openness to accountability and criticism, and a deep love.

"When fathers form significant bonds with their children it's extremely meaningful," says Dadson, clinical counsellor and father of four. "It helps children understand morals and ethics of society, develop an appreciation for home life and be a responsible citizen—it establishes loving, lasting bonds that get passed down."

Over six months of interviews, participants in the study expressed the emotional value of close father-child experiences. "They would say things like 'We have a reciprocal relationship with mutual admiration that produces motivation and inspiration' and 'being in a close relationship with my dad is one of the fundamental things that makes me who I am.'"

Traditionally, mothers are credited as the mould that shapes who the child will become and as their foundation for mental health. This "motherhood first" approach measures the significance of the father's contribution to a child's development only in relation to the mother's involvement.

"Unfortunately, the emotional relationship between father and child tends to be seen as secondary to the financial support the father provides," says Dadson.

Dadson's research assigns a value to fatherhood that goes beyond a "breadwinning" role.
The study identifies 12 core themes that foster father-child closeness. They include accountability, communication, emotional availability, physical availability and time spent together.

"There are those who say a father's contribution to their child's development is redundant to the mother's contribution," says Dadson. "This research reveals that children with highly involved fathers tend to be more cognitively and socially competent, less inclined towards gender stereotypes, more emphatic and psychologically better adjusted." Each of these build into what he defines as a "transcendent eminent relationship."

"All the child wants to know is 'my parent loves me, I'm important to them, and I'm a worthy person,' says Dadson. "It fills them with purpose, meaning and life calling."

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DeVonne Friesen, Executive Director
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