Unlike moms, who to some extent have already secured a bond with their baby during pregnancy, dads can feel like they aren’t able to fully contribute until the child is brought into the world. Fathers have to hit the ground running, and sometimes it can take a little while to catch up and get the hang of things. Regardless, a father’s presence from day one is instrumental to the healthy development of a child; even while still in utero, the unborn baby can hear his voice.
Thankfully, society’s tendency to portray fathers in a less than great light is becoming a thing of the past (cue images of Homer Simpson or Al Bundy), and a more positive, constructive image of fatherhood is taking over. Read on to get a better idea of the important role fathers play in their children’s lives with these 45 protective facts about fatherhood.
45. Lots of Birthdays to Remember
The Alaouite sultan Ismail Ibn Sharif of the the Moroccan family dynasty was probably the man who has fathered the most children: he had hundreds of wives and mistresses, and a whopping 888 children.
44. Dads Needed
Having and being a dad is important. In the US, around 63% of youth suicides are committed by adolescents who live in a home without a paternal influence.
43. The Tables Have Turned
Finally–a break for females. In seahorses, during the mating process the female transfers all her eggs, between 50-1,500, to the male. The male then fertilizes and carries the eggs for two to four weeks (depending on species), and the female visits him daily.
42. It Starts at Home
A recent study shows that fathers who share the workload when it comes to chores around the house raise daughters who are more ambitious, and help to cultivate an environment for a daughter to gain a broader understanding and definition of gender roles.
41. Absent Fathers
Nearly 24 million children live in fatherless homes across the US. That's about one-third of American children.
40. Sing for Their Dinner
The better a male nightingale sings, the better a father he will be for his hatchlings. Studies show that the many song sequences and the different sounds that are made (like buzzes, whistles and trills) are indicative of the care and protection these males give, including more frequent feedings.
39. Dads are the Glue
Although it's not a straightforward case of cause and effect, kids who grow up in homes without fathers are four times more likely to be poorer than those children with fathers at home. They are also more likely to get married with less than a secondary school diploma and to become parents in their teenage years. Furthermore, they have a higher chance of being incarcerated compared to kids who live in a home with both parents.
38. Sharing the Feeling
Expectant fathers can share some of the same pain as their pregnant partners (sometimes even a very close pregnant friend or relative). In what’s referred to as couvade syndrome, dads-to-be can suffer from a sympathetic pregnancy with symptoms such as constipation, irritability, nausea, swelling, and even weight gain.
37. Protector of the House
The risk of maltreatment of a child (mistreatment, neglect, physical and emotional ill-treatment, etc.) increases with the absence of a biological father.
36. Man’s Version of a Biological Clock
Compared to younger fathers, older fathers have shown a greater risk of passing along genetic diseases, according to studies. This includes dwarfism, autism, schizophrenia, and Apert syndrome, a disorder characterized by the premature distortion of particular skull bones.
35. Chalk One up for the Geek Squad
Sons with older fathers have been shown to be more intellectual. They tend to hone in on their interests, are able to focus more, and don’t really care about how they interact among social circles. These kids do better in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
34. Way Ahead of His Time
Biologist Charles Darwin, who is considered the “father of evolutionary biology,” played a pivotal role in educating and raising his 10 (10!) children. This was almost unheard of in a time where women were seen as the primary caregivers.
33. Modern Househusbands
Gender roles are changing. Compared to 1965, the time spent with children has tripled for fathers, and the number of stay-at-home dads since 1989 has doubled. With the rise of working at home as a viable employment option, this number has grown even more in the 2000s.
32. You’re Just Like Your Father
Genetically speaking, mammals take on more of the genetic makeup of their fathers than their mothers. Both parents pass on their genes, but humans actually inherit more DNA from the dad’s side. This is why a disease, either passed down from mom or dad, can be more or less debilitating depending which side it comes from.
31. Swear Words Included
Mothers have perfected “baby talk” (motherese), the soft cooing voice many mothers talk to their preschoolers with. On the other hand, fathers tend to talk to toddlers like adults, creating a “conversational bridge” from childhood to the outside world.
30. He’s Got Some Good Swimmers
Calling your dad “old man” has a whole new meaning when your dad is 96-years-old. Ramajit Raghav from India was single into his 80s, and fathered a baby boy in 2010 with his 52-year-old wife.
29. Wanna Bet?
The gender of a man’s siblings determines the likelihood of the gender of his children: Men who have multiple brothers are more inclined to have sons, just as men who have multiple sisters are more inclined to have daughters.
28. Well, There Goes the Family Name
The likelihood of having sons greatly reduces with middle aged fathers over the age of 40.
27. Tough Love for Good Grades
Children with single fathers perform better in school and are less disobedient than children with single mothers. This is perhaps due to the disciplinarian role men often assume (or are portrayed to assume), which in turn prepares children for the regimented structure of homework and classes.
26. Don’t Do it for Your Kids
Did you smoke in your teens? Research shows that if a child’s father smoked during adolescence, the chances that the child will develop asthma are higher. That's some genetic black magic.
25. That’s a Lot of Fidos
True story: stats show that in the US, it is more common for children to live with a pet than to live with their biological father.
24. Grow up to Be Smart Like Dad
A father’s level of education sets up a child for future success in school. Children are 7.5 times less likely to excel in school if their father’s schooling level is low. By contrast, children are only 3 times less likely to suffer in academics if their mother’s schooling is low.
23. Just Don’t Break Anything
Play fighting and tackling with dad at a young age actually helps shape a child’s brain to better understand healthy emotional and physical conduct. Roughhousing builds social intelligence, improves morality, boosts resilience, and much more.
22. Time Off
Paid paternity leave is still up for debate in the political sphere. There are 66 countries that support a father’s right to paid paternity leave, and 31 countries that offer 14 weeks or more. The United States is nowhere on that list.
21. New Day, Old Tradition
The tradition of a bride being “given away” by her father comes from the old belief that a daughter was the property of her paternal caregiver. The tradition symbolizes the act of a father passing his daughter to the new man in her life, who is now taking on all the responsibilities of the father, including the bride's welfare and lifestyle.
20. In it Together
The pressures of being a new parent affect fathers too. One third of dads struggle with the mental pressures of being new fathers, potentially leading to postnatal depression. And women who suffer from postpartum depression? Men who support them are likely to go through the symptoms too.
19. Say it with a Card
The 4th most popular day for sending greeting cards is Father’s Day, with 87 million cards being sent each year.
18. They Do it Differently Under the Sea
In clownfish families, there is one dominant female leader. When she dies, the dominant male changes gender to become the new dominant female leader. Also, all clownfish babies are born male.
17. Sorry Mom
When it comes to first words, babies are more likely to say "dada" or "dad" before "mama" or "mom".
16. Keeping the Peace
Teenage boys with fathers who are around show fewer behavioural problems. Teenage girls also have fewer psychological problems and are less likely to have a teen pregnancy.
15. A Not-So-Strange Stranger
A father's role is imperative when his child is between the ages of 1.5 and 3.5, as this is when the child often separates from complete maternal dependency.
14. More Fun with Dad
Dads are also critical in helping young children find their sense of exploration and independence. Studies have shown that fathers will let their child crawl twice as far as mom will before picking them up.
13. How to Find a Good Husband
Fathers who are around for the duration of their daughter's childhood have a significant impact on how these women choose partners. A girl with a healthy relationship with her father is more likely to have relationships with men who are emotionally intimate, which leads to more satisfying and long-lasting marriages.
12. Daddy’s Little Girl
Positive affirmation from fathers to daughters at a young age actually teaches girls that they don’t need to look to men to find happiness and confidence. She already has self-confidence from dad–the first important male role model in her life.
11. The Yin to the Yang of Parenting
Although fathers are just as in tune as mothers with their babies’ emotional cues, the way they respond to these cues is drastically different than how a mother would handle the same situation. A father’s response to babies tends to be more stimulating and playful.
10. It’s Never Too Late
In a recent study where successful male executives and managers were asked, “What single thing would you change about your childhood relationship with your father?” most had the same answer: to have been able to enjoy a closer, warmer, and more emotional relationship.
9. Do you Even Lift, Dad?
The chances of becoming obese or suffering from the health risks that come with weight gain are significantly increased when fathers are absent. Studies show that fathers have a big impact on how children approach fitness and physical education.
8. New Meaning to the Term “Dad Bod”
Dad’s total body fat percentage is the bigger predictor of whether or not a daughter will gain weight as she gets older—not the mother’s BMI.
7. Talk Like Daddy
Contrary to popular belief, fathers influence a child’s verbal development more than mothers. Fathers don’t spend as much time with children, and so naturally bring in new words into the conversation that aren’t normally shared between the mother and child. This broadens the child's vocabulary and gives way to learning new and foreign concepts.
6. Setting an Example
One of the longest studies ever done on the lives of men is called The Grant Study. The study found that it wasn’t men with poor mothering who suffered from poor marriages, it was those with the poor fathering who were more likely to have failed marriages.
5. The Father-Son Bonding Effect
The Grant Study also shows that a man’s relationship with his father is able to predict whether or not he deems his life satisfactory when he reaches the age of 75.
4. The Common Thread
In Canada, father-deprived children make up 72% of all teenage murderers, 60% of rapists, 70% of incarcerated children, 80% of teens in psychiatric hospitals, and 90% of runaways.
3. True Father Figure
Father’s Day in North America really only kicked off after Sonora Dodd proposed the idea in 1910 in honor of her single father, who raised six children. The holiday takes place in June, the month of her father’s birthday.
2. Too Much Space
"Father Hunger” is a disorder that little boys between the ages of one and two suffer from when their father all of a sudden becomes absent. These very young boys can go through bouts of insomnia, nightmares, and night terrors within one to three months after the separation.
1. Scary Thoughts
It’s common for new fathers to bottle up their feelings when their partner is pregnant with their first child, but people don’t realize just how often these soon-to-be dads to have horrifying fantasies about parenthood. 45% of fathers reported intrusive fantasies about suffocation/SIDs and 25% had thoughts about intentional harm. It's important for expecting fathers to understand that research indicates these "scary fantasies" are normal, and overwhelmingly, do not become a reality. Psychologists who specialize in helping fathers deal with becoming parents emphasize the need for validating these thoughts and addressing the underlying emotions--often fear, shame, anger, and sadness.