For more decades, research has indicated a strong correlation between engaged fathers and child well-being. A 2009 study published in the journal, Child Development, specifically continues this trend in the area of preventing risky sexual behavior.
Researchers led by Rebekah Levine Coley, an associate professor at Boston College, surveyed 3,206 teens, ages 13-18, annually for four years. All of the teens came from two-parent homes. Teens were asked about their sexual behavior and their relationship with their parents.
The study assessed this group of teens two different ways and came to the same conclusions. The findings show that:
“We have known for a long time that fathers bring a unique set of parenting skills to the table,” said Dr. Cheryl Robinson, UC Foundation Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies. “What makes this study significant is the fact that it was conducted with teens in two-parent homes and the findings were no different than the vast amount of research that has been done with high-risk teens, those living in divorced or never-married homes. Children need father involvement.”
This doesn’t seem like rocket science, but the reality is that many fathers struggle with their role as a parent.
“The message to both moms and dads, but especially to dads is, be involved with your child,” Robinson said. “Just because they grow up and get taller than you does not mean they are adults. You have to continuously stay involved with them. Involvement gives you the opportunity to teach them, to help them develop good decision making skills and to transmit values. You can talk all day and tell them not to do something, but if they are with you and see your behavior, they understand why they shouldn’t do those things.”
Dad, your teen may be outwardly sending you messages that make you think your parental involvement doesn’t matter. Don’t be fooled. Based on the findings from this study, your intentional commitment to engage your teen at every level has the potential to dramatically enhance his life at every turn.
“Don’t be afraid to set expectations with your teen concerning family time, knowing their friends and how they are spending their time,” Robinson said. “They may roll their eyes, but on the inside you are providing a safety net that will help them navigate life’s treacherous roads for years to come.”