Fathers and father figures play a critical and distinct role in children’s lives and the evidence demonstrating fathers’ potential to positively influence their children’s health, social success and academic achievements is indisputable. 

Current research shows that targeted and universal interventions aimed at promoting positive parenting behaviours and fathers’ engagement increase fathers’ involvement, significantly improve child outcomes, and prevent harmful and anti-social behaviours.  

Health and development

Fathers who demonstrate accessibility, engagement and responsibility have children with fewer emotional and behavioural problems, better language development, better life and social skills and fewer problems with peers.

Father engagement and involvement has been associated with increased levels of social responsibility and capacity for empathy, social maturity, self control and self esteem.

Education and school engagement

Consistent parenting from fathers is predictive of increased NAPLAN scores across Year 3, 5 and 7 and results in fewer difficulties adjusting to school and improved academic progress.

Father involvement in school and educational activities is associated with improved cognitive outcomes, few behavioural difficulties and greater school enjoyment in children.

Mental health and addiction

Involved and engaged fathers provide significant protective and positive impacts on their children’s mental health including prevention of mental illness and more positive attitudes towards help seeking. 

The influence of fathers and father figures on child and adolescent alcohol and illicit drug use may be distinct and stronger than that of mothers, with children from father-only or father-absent households more likely to engage in cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use.

Behaviour and Delinquency

Children and adolescents who have more involved fathers or father figures are less likely to engage in delinquent and anti-social behaviours such as property, violent or drug related crime, cheating at school or participating in gang fights – particularly for boys. 

The odds of increased sexual risk behaviours or teenage pregnancy are lowest when fathers or father figures are present throughout childhood, and father or father figure support has been associated with increased protective sexual behaviours such as condom use among adolescents.

This summary of evidence is based on a review of literature and research published primarily in the last ten years to describe the impacts of fathers on child development and wellbeing.