Does Time with Dad in Childhood Pay Off in Adolescence?

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Today’s fathers may have a greater impact on their children’s lives than in previous decades due to the increasing salience of the parenting role in their lives and the increase in spent parenting time. Father involvement earlier in life may play a particularly principle role as these young people move through adolescence and into adulthood. In this critical life stage, youth are much more vulnerable to the influences of their peers and their neighbourhood contexts than in middle childhood.

A birth cohort study of kids, who have now arrived at adolescence, investigated whether father nearness and contribution in childhood are related to teenagers' conduct results in middle puberty. Critically, this examination oversampled births to unmarried guardians, giving a bigger example with which to look at the role of residential and non-residential fathers.

In this study, there was used a unique data set that follows children from birth to age 15. This data set asked both mothers and fathers as well as children aged between 9 and 15 questions about father involvement. There was examined the degree to which paternal presence and involvement in middle childhood were associated with externalizing and internalizing behaviours in adolescence.

Youth who lived with their fathers a more regularly spent time, as reported by both of them and their mothers, were more likely to be close and engaged in more activities together. Whereas, youth who lived with both biological parents at ages 5 and 9 also differed from those who did not live with both of the parents at those waves.


Youth who lived with their mothers, but not their fathers had slightly higher internalizing and externalizing behaviour scores. Youth with nonresidential fathers faced more disadvantages. They were more likely to have had a low birth weight, have a less educated younger mother, a mother who experienced depression, a lower household income, and have a father with drug or alcohol problems who had been incarcerated and also had children with other partners. They were also more likely to have an African American mother or a mother of “other” race. Children with residential fathers were more likely to have mothers who were immigrants or were Hispanic.

Adolescents who reported being extremely close to their biological fathers had lower externalizing behaviour scores than those who were not extremely close to their fathers. Engaging in activities with their fathers are also associated with reduced externalizing behaviours.

In conclusion, spending time with as well as being extremely close to the biological father at both middle childhood waves is associated with reduced internalizing and externalizing behaviours.

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