Fathers' Involvement in the Care and Development of Their Children

Studies have shown that fathers have a tremendous influence on their children's lives, not just in terms of providing dietary and financial support but also in terms of emotional support. We are increasingly beginning to understand that a father's presence and involvement can profoundly affect his child's well-being—especially during illness or distress.

Father's Involvement in Treatment Decisions

As the caretaker of a child in treatment, nothing is more important than the father's role. While the mother is undoubtedly a vital part of the decision-making process, the father must also be informed and involved. Fathers often bring unique perspectives—everything from their history of childhood treatment to their current job or career—that can help form a well-rounded and effective plan. There are many factors that fathers can consider when making decisions about their child's treatment, such as −

  • Medical History − A parent's medical history could provide clues as to how their child may respond to different forms of treatment.

  • Finances − Many treatment options require parents to cover costs. Hence, fathers (and mothers) need to understand how they can best finance their child's care.

  • Time Management − Treatment may take a toll on a family's day-to-day schedules. Hence, fathers need to plan and manage additional family responsibilities if needed.

Therapeutic Benefits Related to Fathers' Inclusion in Treatment

The following logical issue is whether incorporating dads in treatment improves the efficacy of therapy for children and adolescents. The effects of including dads in treatment have mainly been investigated via behavioral parent training. Research has indicated that including either moms or dads in behavioral parent training results in equivalent treatment effects. Other research has indicated that including dads improved the persistence and generalization of parent-training effects. Parents may also aid, support, and encourage one other's efforts and remind each other of specific parent-training approaches. Involving moms and dads in such treatment can help with marital and co-parenting concerns.

The findings imply that including dads and mothers in therapy affects child-parent interactions. Webster-Stratton discovered that when dads and mothers participated in parent training, mother-child relations were less harmful than when fathers were not participating in the rehabilitative process. Parenting similarities between mothers and dads (i.e., fathers' reports of parenting alliance and disciplinary similarity) were shown to be related to decreased parenting stress for mothers in another study. Another advantage of involving dads in child-oriented treatment is that it may assist in revealing underlying issues that would have gone unnoticed if the focus was entirely on moms and children.

Characteristics of Clinicians Who Include Fathers in Therapy

Because dads are infrequently engaged in treatment for emotional/behavioral difficulties in children and adolescents, it appears relevant to study the personal qualities of therapists linked with fathers' engagement in therapy. Lazar and colleagues (1991) discovered a variety of personal and professional variables associated with fathers' participation in treatment in a study of social workers and psychologists working in child welfare agencies and public schools.

This inclusion was linked to taking more family therapy courses in graduate school, being a male therapist, having flexible hours for therapy appointments, and having fewer years of therapist experience. Furthermore, maternally oriented therapists who saw dads as secondary carers were less likely to engage fathers in treatment. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether these findings are generalizable, given that the participants exclusively worked in child welfare organizations and public schools.

The current study aimed to investigate and expand on these difficulties with a more generalizable population, namely professionals actively involved in treatment with children and adolescents. In order to examine the involvement of dads in treatment, the current study tried to include therapists working in various therapeutic settings with various experiences, vocations, and training. Furthermore, therapists' personal and professional qualities were investigated to determine their relationship to fathers' participation in child-oriented treatment.

Impacts of an Absent Father during Treatment

Studies suggest that lacking a father figure can have drastic consequences when developing and treating childhood disorders. For example, research by the renowned Johns Hopkins University concluded that children with absent fathers are four to five times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders. Additionally, they are more likely to require psychotherapy or medication as part of their treatment plan.

Unique Contributions of Fathers to Treatment

When it comes to treatment, the father's role is often overlooked. However, fathers make unique contributions to the treatment that mothers or other caregivers cannot replicate. Here are just a few −

  • Building Self-Confidence − Studies have shown that children whose fathers are more involved in nurturing activities, like reading them stories or helping with homework, have higher self-esteem and better performance in school.

  • Enhancing the Parenting Relationship − Fathers also bring an extra level of depth to the parenting relationship. They often contribute different perspectives, interests, and skills to activities than mothers do, creating a more prosperous environment for learning for children.

  • Reducing Stress − Finally, fathers also reduce stress levels for both parents during treatment by helping with tasks like child care or running errands, thus allowing mothers more time for self-care and relaxation during stressful periods.

Recommendations for Increasing Father Engagement in Treatment

In order to increase fathers' engagement in treatment, there are several key recommendations that mental health care professionals can keep in mind.

  • Support Fathers' Involvement in Treatment − Mental health care providers can consciously ensure that fathers are included and accepted in treatment. This involves ensuring fathers feel respected, validated, and included in the treatment plan.

  • Educate Fathers About Treatment Processes − Parents should be provided with education about their child's diagnosis, treatment options, expectations for outcomes, and expectations for parent involvement. Furthermore, parents should be informed of their role in helping their children reach positive outcomes from treatment.

  • Address Barriers to Engagement − Professionals must be aware of potential barriers preventing fathers from engaging during treatment. These could include shame or guilt related to not understanding the condition or being able to "fix" it quickly; fear of judgment; a lack of knowledge related to how best to support the family; a lack of financial resources; or a lack of access due to distance or transportation issues. Providers need to consider such potential barriers when engaging with fathers during treatment.

Future Research on Fathers and Treatment Outcomes

Fathers play a crucial role in the treatment process for their children. More research is needed to examine the effects of the father's role in treatment. We know that fathers directly impact their child's psychological well-being, but further exploration of this topic can help identify even more ways fathers affect treatment outcomes and help bring about more effective treatments for children.


In conclusion, the relationship between fathers and their children is indispensable to childhood development and treatment. Fathers involved in their children's lives provide comfort, security, and a sense of safety for their children. Fathers also affect their children's behavior, self-esteem, and, in some cases, their future academic and occupational success.

Updated on: 09-Oct-2023


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