Research has proven that when dads are positively involved, there are significant benefits to children’s development and future success in life. Yet there is still a lack of resources, support, and focus on helping dads be positively involved parents.

Dad Central’s vision is to see an involved, responsible and devoted dad for every child. To help achieve this vision, we’d like to simplify what it means to be a positively involved dad. It’s also important that we communicate our position that healthy families come in many forms. What is also true from research is that positive father involvement is essential.

In this short post, we’re sharing insights from a compilation of research studies. The goal is to simplify the most essential elements of what it means to be a positively involved dad. We hope you see this as a simple description of positive father involvement. How they are applied and what it looks like in different family structures may vary. Most important is answering the question, “What is positive father involvement?”

The Most Influential Factor Affecting Positive Father Involvement

Quite simply put, the most important factor is the quality of the relationship between father and child. While it is important for dads to have time to be with their children, when a strong relationship exists, it is the most protective and important element that fathers bring to helping children develop.

Helping dads know, understand, and develop relationship building skills supports positive father involvement.

Four Things Positively Involved Dads Do

Based on consistent themes found in research, positively involved fathers bring four things to their role:

  1. They view their role as co-parent rather than a “helper”
  2. They have warm, loving relationships with their children
  3. They adjust their involvement to meet the needs of the child
  4. They engage in diverse forms of parenting, including play and discipline

Three Aspects of Positive Father Involvement

When dads demonstrate the above, they are laying the foundation for being positively involved parents. A specific model created by Lamb helps clarify three additional aspects of positive father involvement.

1. Engagement – this is defined as direct, one-on-one time with a child. It can include activities like changing diapers, bathing or feeding an infant. It can also be reading to a child, taking them to the doctor or helping with their homework.

2. Accessibility – this is the indirect involvement and availability of dads for their children. It can include preparing food for the child, being available to answer questions or comfort them when upset, or taking time off work to be with a sick child.

3. Responsibility – this is the attitude and commitment of a dad to their child. It is harder to define, but includes a dad’s willingness or desire to be involved, taking initiative for what needs to be done for the child and the family, and their commitment to the child and family.

Positive father involvement benefits children, moms, and dads. To see the benefits, let’s start by helping families know what positive father involvement looks like and supporting them in finding ways to achieve it.

If you’re an organization that wants to engage more dads, then check out our free webinar, “How to Support and Include Dads: 10 Actions You Can Take Now.” We think it will be a great starting point. If you’re looking for more training to engage dads, then consider our My Dad Matters training on March 26th. Learn more and register here.

If you’re a dad looking for support, then check out our library of free resources, explore our past on demand webinars, or head to our store.

At Dad Central, it’s our mission to empower dads, organizations and communities to raise healthy children together. Thank you for your support in the process.

Resources: 

  1. Lamb ME. The history of research on father involvement. Marriage Fam Rev. 2000;29(2-3):23-42. DOI: 10.1300/J002v29n02_03
  2. Allen S, Daly K, Ball J. Fathers make a difference in their children’s lives: a review of the research evidence. In: Ball J, Daly K, eds. Father involvement in Canada: Diversity, renewal and transformation. Vancouver: UBC Press; 2012. p. 50-88.
  3. Pleck, JH. Paternal involvement: revised conceptualization and theoretical linkages with child outcomes. In Lamb ME ed. The role of the father in child development. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons; 2010. p. 58-93.
  4. Rodríguez Ruíz MM, Carrasco MA, Holgado-Tello C, Holgado-Tello FP. Father involvement and children’s psychological adjustment: maternal and paternal acceptance as mediators. J Fam Stud. 2019 Apr;25(2):151-69. DOI: 10.1080/13229400.2016.1211549
  5. Elam KK, Sandler I, Wolchik S, Tein Y. Non-residential father–child involvement, interparental conflict and mental health of children following divorce: a person-focused approach. J Youth Adolesc. 2016 Mar;45(3):581-93. DOI: 10.1007/s10964-015-0399-5
  6. Zhang B, Zhao F, Ju C, Ma Y, et al. Paternal involvement as protective resource of adolescents’ resilience: roles of male gender-role stereotype and sender. J Child Fam Stud. 2015 July;24(7):1955-65. DOI: 10.1007/s10826-014-9995-3
  7. D’Andrade AC, Sorkhabi N. Improving father involvement in child welfare practice and research: conceptual considerations from the social science literature. J Public Child Welf. 2016 Oct;10(5):542-60. DOI: 10.1080/15548732.2016.1176611
  8. Brown GL, Mangelsdorf SC, Shigeto A, Wong MS. Associations between father involvement and father–child attachment security: variations based on timing and type of involvement. 2018 Oct;32(8):1-10. DOI: 10.1037/fam0000472
  9. Holmberg JR, Olds DL. Father attendance in nurse home visitation. Infant Ment Health J. 2015 Jan;36(1):128-39. DOI: 10.1002/imhj.21490
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