By NICK CHILES
A new study out of Brigham Young University gives scientific backing to something I have been noticing for years: Fathers have a direct role in developing the crucial traits of persistence, determination and tenacity in their children.
Brigham Young researchers followed 325 families over the course of several years, paying particular attention to boys and girls age 11-14 (the age range of two of my own children). What they discovered is that fathers have a huge impact on the development of traits having to do with persistence and mental toughness—particularly fathers who have a more authoritative, instructional parenting style.
According to the research, about 52 percent of the dads exhibited above-average levels of authoritative parenting—and in those families, children were significantly more likely to develop persistence, leading to better outcomes in school and lower levels of delinquency.
“There are relatively few studies that highlight the unique role of fathers,” one of the researchers, Laura Padilla-Walker said.
These findings were reported in the Journal of Early Adolescence.
What’s fascinating to me is how closely this jibes with a lot of the research I did when I was an education reporter. For one long profile on black boys and education that I did for a major magazine, I spent a lot of time in North Carolina, observing how much better black boys in particular did in school when their fathers were closely involved in their education and their upbringing. The difference was so stark that some of the teachers told me they could determine at the start of the school year within a few days which boys had involved fathers in the home because they were more disciplined and focused.
Before I go further, let me stress that this is not at all an indictment of single mothers. After all, these studies are not saying that the children of single moms are necessarily going to be less disciplined and determined. It is just saying that the odds are better that a child will have these traits when a strong father figure is involved in the child’s life. So if you’re a single mom, you are still perfectly capable, of course, of raising a child with tons of tenacity and persistence who soars in school.
The researchers went out of their way to explain what they mean by “authoritative” parenting”: It is not rigid, demanding or controlling. These are the most important traits of a successful authoritative parenting style:
- Children feel warmth and love from their father;
- Accountability and the reasons behind rules are emphasized;
- Children are granted an appropriate level of autonomy.
In my own home, because I’ve always been closely involved in helping shape my children’s character, it’s hard for me to tell what they would have been like without my involvement. I will say that I believe I have always done the three things mentioned above. I also will say that my children have always been more disciplined and tenacious than most of their peers and all three of them continue to be great students. So, while acknowledging that Mom certainly has a lot to do with that, I’m also going to take a few bows myself—backed by the research from Brigham Young.
I think every Mom and Dad reading this should print out those three traits mentioned above and use them as a Bible. Showing love and warmth, requiring accountability, and granting some autonomy. Words to live by.
1. That’s Love: Celebrating Black Fathers On Father’s Day 2012
2. Good Black Fathers Are… Everything: Celebrating African American Dads With AtlantaBlackStar.com
3. Daddy Love: Everything I Know About Life, I Learned From My Awesome Black Father