Far exceeding the stereotypical fatherly role of the guy who reads the paper, mows the lawn and takes out the trash, the part a father has in his child's life is a powerful one.
Valarie King, a Penn State associate professor of sociology, demography and human development and family studies, said a father's involvement with his child's upbringing can have a significant impact on his or her academic achievements and behavior.
King, whose research includes examining the various connections of fathers and their children, said it's all about quality. Whether the relationship is between a step-, residential or nonresidential father, he has to make the most out of the time he spends with his child.
"I looked at the quality of the relationship nonresidential fathers had with their children. The closer the father-child relationship -- not just the amount of visitation -- the better children were doing," she said.
King went on to say that prior research on stepfamilies often suggests that the stepparent-stepchild relationship is a difficult one and that stepfathers may not positively influence child well-being. Not so, she found. Many stepfathers can establish a close relationship with their stepchildren, and when they can do so, it can be beneficial for children.
King also found that children living with a biological father and stepmother could have a good relationship with their stepmothers.
Another contradiction to prior research, which believed a child with two parents in his or her life is better off than one, may not necessarily be true. Obviously a happy marriage between two parents is best for children. However, King said if there is constant turmoil between the parents, their child might be better off with just one parent in his or her life and less turbulence.
"The majority of people that get divorced get remarried and that's more so with fathers than anyone else," she said.
However, she found nonresident biological moms have a bigger impact on the child's life than stepmothers. However, another study King worked on showed stepfathers living with a child have a bigger impact than the closeness of the nonresident father.
Most of the analysis King did while studying child well-being focused on children during adolescence and how the child-father relationship affected health, behavior, grades and delinquency. Overall she found that fathers, regardless of whether or not they live with their children, must establish a close relationship and stay actively involved in their children's lives.
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