Study Finds that Lukewarm Dads Are the Worst
Better to be harsh and involved than distant.
We learn how to be parents from our own mom and pop, right?
Not exactly. A new study from a researcher at UW-Madison found a much more complex relationship between how men perceive the involvement of their fathers and their own parenting style – whether in the categories of "verbal stimulation" (such as reading a story), basic care-giving (such as changing a diaper) or physical play (such as giving a piggyback ride). Cristina Diaz's paper, which used data on 4,050 fathers, collected as part of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, found that fathers who reported low performance on the part of their own dads appeared to "re-work" these experiences into more positive outcomes for their own children.
At the other end of the spectrum, in the cases of fathers whose dads were warm and highly involved, these men seemed to carry on the good vibes. They themselves were warmer and more involved as fathers, as conventional wisdom would suggest.
So who are the lackluster dads? Diaz found that the sons of men who were "indifferent" fathers seemed to struggle the most. Without a clear example to work against, or model, they floundered and reported the highest levels of parental stress. Paradoxically, having a father whose degree of warmth was slightly below average, as opposed to far below, made a man more likely to perpetuate a cold parenting style for another generation.
Other tidbits from the study:
Older fathers reported more parenting stress than younger ones.
Fathers also appeared to be more stressed in households where "there are more male children ... this correlation may indicate that men feel expected to devote more time and energy into child-rearing, which likely increases stress."
Conversely, if a household was overflowing with female children, this tended to decrease a father's self-regard, "which may indicate men feel less confident about their ability to parent their female offspring."
Men who had strong partners in the children's mother were more likely to view themselves as strong fathers. If the woman had a college education, the man was some 90 percent more likely to view himself as a "good father," and a "very good relationship" between the two made the man twice as likely.
(hat image from BigtimeTeez)