Family Life: Some Thoughts About the Role of the Father

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

Ever since the “women’s liberation movement” there was a tendency to think that fathers are unimportant as compared to mothers. In fact, doing a “Google Search” of family research, shows that many more studies have been done of the role of mother as compared to the role of the father. However, studies show that fathers play a crucial role in the psychological development of their sons and daughters. In addition, it has been found that children raised without a father experience many more problems as compared to those from intact families.

While there are lots of families in which the father is present, what is important is the way in which they make their presence felt. For instance, abusive fathers have nothing but a negative impact on their children and wives. This holds true for fathers who are alcoholic, drug addicted or criminal. In addition, fathers who are present but uninvolved with their family are not having a positive impact on their children. What is most important to the family is that father be “actively involved” with their children.


What is meant by a father’s “active involvement?” According to some of the research, “active involvement is defined in terms of (a) engagement (directly interacting); (b) accessibility (being available); and (c)responsibility(providing resources). Actively-involved fathers have close and affectionate relationships with their children; they spend time with their children; they talk to them about things that matter; and they are the kind of person their children want to be as adults.” (Harris, K. M., Firstenburg, Jr., F. F., & Marmer, J. K. (1998). Paternal involvement with adolescents in intact families: The influence of fathers over the life course. Demography, 35, 201-216).

That last sentence, “and they are the kind of person their children want to be as adults,” is extremely important. The father is a role model for boys and girls for the way a man is supposed to be. As a positive role model, the father reveals the male person as loving, hard working, responsible, available and dependable. Of course, father does not work alone in the context of the family. It is the way mom and dad interact with each other as well as with the children that helps shape the kind of people they will become.

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What are your thoughts and experiences with regard to fathers? If you did not have a father, what was that like for you?

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

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