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How Fathers and Father Figures Can Shape Child Health and Wellbeing

Evidence from a systematic review of 18 studies, indicates that father engagement positively affects social, behavioural, psychological and cognitive outcomes of children. Current literature indicates that fathers play a particularly critical role in fostering social skills and capacity for positive relationships in their children.



Fathers have a significant impact on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical wellbeing of children from infancy to adolescence...

We shouldn’t underestimate the vast importance of fathers in children’s lives, not only because children ‘need and love their dads‘, but also because of the significant impact that fathers have on the social, cognitive, emotional and physical wellbeing of children from infancy to adolescence and with lasting influences into their adult life.

This summary of evidence is based on a review of literature and research published primarily in the last 10 years. As there is a vast volume of research relating to parenting and children more generally, the review focused on evidence relating specifically to the influence of fathers and father figures.

While there is a growing body of evidence about the role of fathers in children’s lives, there are also knowledge gaps, and the quality of evidence varies. Although a concerted effort has been made to capture evidence about the positive influences of fathers on child development and wellbeing, it is pertinent to note that studies to date have more often focused on the negative impacts of poor or absent  fathering on children.

Quite a number of studies have investigated very specific subsets of fathers (such as incarcerated fathers or those with serious substance addiction  issues), but for the purpose of this overview, we have primarily focused on evidence that is applicable to general populations.

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