Positive results for children who have good relationships with their fathers, study finds


Children who have good relationships with their fathers are happier, feel less anxious and are more engaged in physical activity, according to a new study published by the Institute for Economic and Social Research (ESRI).

The study also indicates that fathers who had a more traditional view of their role, emphasizing their financial responsibility as male parents, tended to be less involved with their children and to have less positive relationships. with them.

The research was carried out in partnership with the Department of Children and used data from the Growing Up in Ireland (GUI) study. He focused on the involvement of fathers with their children aged nine months to nine years in two-parent households.

ESRI said the number of single fathers and same-sex couples in the GUI sample was too small to be analyzed separately.

More than two-thirds of nine-year-olds said they get along very well with their fathers and most (84%) say they would talk to them if they had a problem.

In the case of nine-month-old infants, more than half of fathers reported sharing most of the care and play activities with their partners, although mothers were more involved in personal care such as feeding, dressing and bathing the baby.

Fathers reported greater involvement when mothers worked full time and less if they worked long hours themselves.

Fathers who were more involved in caring were linked to a greater bonding with infants, which had a lasting effect on the quality of the relationship, measured when the child was aged five and nine, according to the study. .

As the child grew older, fathers were very involved in activities and outings, especially reading to the child, playing with them, and participating in sports or other physical activities.


Fathers were more likely to engage in these activities with their sons than with their daughters. Men with higher levels of education tended to be more involved in activities with five- and nine-year-olds, unlike their lower levels of involvement in infant care.

The study also indicated that fathers reported close relationships with their children, with low levels of father-child conflict. The levels of stress or tension in their parenting role were also relatively low.

First-time fathers reported more feelings of stress as they adjusted to their new role, while financial difficulties also contributed to parenting stress for fathers.

Longer working hours appeared to be a barrier to fathers’ engagement with their children. In contrast, fathers who had resorted to family-friendly work practices, such as flexible hours, when the child was five, were even more involved in their children’s lives four years later.

ESRI said the findings underscore “the value of providing tailored information and support to different groups of fathers at different stages of their children’s lives.”

“Such information could usefully underline the importance of the role of fathers and the quality of their relationship with the child in shaping children’s experiences and outcomes,” he said.

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