Fathers In Today’s Modern Family

Alexandra Temblador

By Alexandra Temblador

gay dads

The commercials on Super Bowl Sunday of 2015 showed us what’s hot and interesting in the world right now: dads. With so many Super Bowl ads designed around fathers the message is clear: dads are taking on a new role in society. There are 70.1 million dads, according to the 2008 census, and it seems that fatherhood has taken on a new importance in our lives. Dads are no longer just men married to mothers, dads are now single, divorced, gay dads, adoptive dads, stepdads, and stay-at-home dads and it’s this diversity in fatherhood that is perhaps the reason why fathers are having a new impact on our society than ever before. Take a look at some information on dads below to get a better understanding of fathers and fatherhood in America.

dads in America

America’s Perception of Fathers

Fifty years ago, fathers were expected to be the breadwinners for their families but it is 2015 and the times have changed as has America’s perception of the role of a father. Only 41% of Americans believe that a father’s most important responsibility is to provide income for the family. Rather 6-in-10 Americans, or 58%, believe that a father’s most important role is to provide moral guidance and teach values. Fifty-two percent said it is very important for a father to provide emotional support while 47% said it was important to provide discipline.

A majority of the public agrees that the emotional well-being of children seems to be connected to the presence of fathers. Sixty-nine percent of adults argue that a child needs their father in their life to grow up happy. Even more interesting is that fatherhood abilities are important to those looking for mates. Ninety-three percent of adults said that a potential husband or partner must have the qualities of being a good dad.

Fathers, therefore, seem to have a very important role in American minds than they ever have before. Americans seem to appreciate fathers in a way that removes them from the money maker role and places them in the position of taking care of our children’s emotional stability, a role that was for so long deemed to mothers.

Dad's roles in today's family

A Father’s Involvement in Their Children’s Lives

In 1965, fathers spent about 2.5 hours per week with their children. Today the number has risen to about seven hours per week. Although seven hours does not seem like a lot of time, this is due to a variety of a factors such as working extra hours to support their families financially. So what are fathers doing with these seven hours?

Seventy-two percent of fathers with children under age 5 feed or eat with their children on a daily basis. Similarly, 9 out of 10 of these fathers bathed, diapered, and dressed their children every day. Most all fathers whose children are under the age of 5 play with their children daily and are six times more likely to read to them every day.

For fathers of children ages 5-18, 66% ate meals with their children every day. Only 21% of fathers take their children to and from activities, a number that is only slightly lower than the 30% who checked for completion of homework or helped their children with their homework. On a positive note, 65% of fathers with school-aged children discussed their child’s day every day.

gay dad and son

Dad’s Parenting Style

Parenting styles of fathers tend to focus more on physical interaction such as playing, known as a playful-interactive style, rather than a sensitivity parenting style. Some studies suggest that men have a more playful-interactive parenting style due to high levels of a sensation-seeking trait that is more common in men. What makes dad’s parenting style so interesting is that by creating excitement in children during play, whether negatively or positively, fathers are actually teaching children how to control their feelings and develop interactive emotional communication skills.

However it must be noted that parenting styles of dads can be effected by outside variables. For instance, fathers with high stress jobs tend to parent more harshly with discipline. Also, fathers who have independence at work will teach their children to have independence while those fathers who work in a very strict environment bring that home with their parenting style and are more likely to provide physical punishment. Conflict in marriages will also affect a father’s parenting style and they might find themselves disconnecting from the child as a result.

Although studies have been done to figure out parenting styles of fathers, take note that this does not apply to all fathers. A father’s parenting style is usually directly related to different factors such as their marital status (married, single father with custody of the kids, divorced father not living with the children) and as mentioned above, their jobs, and other factors such as a dad’s particular genetics, their choice to adopt, upbringing, etc.

Dad and daughter sleeping

Impact of Fathers

Most Americans believe that a father’s most important role in a child’s life is to provide moral and emotional support and these listed facts about the impact fathers have on their children’s lives seems to prove this belief. Take a good look, dads, because this list says two very important words about the impact you have on your children: You matter.

  • Children with involved fathers tend to have fewer behavioral problems and have higher reading scores.
  • Children with absent fathers are almost four times more likely to grow up poor and more likely to be obese.
  • Children born with married parents have lower levels of aggression than those born to single mothers.
  • Youth are less likely to be incarcerated with a father present in their life.
  • Youth raised without a father are more likely to have a teen pregnancy and marry without obtaining a high school degree.
  • A father’s involvement in their children’s education makes a child more likely to get mostly A’s in school.
  • gays with kids from California

Single Father Homes

In 1960 only 1% of homes with children under 18 were headed by single fathers. Today that number has increased to 8%. In terms of numbers, 8% is roughly 2.6 million homes! So who are these single fathers and what are they like?

  • More often single fathers live with a partner (about 41%).
  • Single fathers usually have higher incomes than single mothers and are more likely to live above the poverty line. Single fathers in households of three make on average $40,000 per year in income.
  • Compared to single mothers, single fathers are less educated.
  • As for demographics, single fathers are usually older and white. Eight percent are under 30 while 47% are 40 and over.
  • Fifty-percent of single dads are separated, divorced, widowed, or have never been married and do not live with a cohabiting partner.

Dads in the Home

Television shows like Leave It to Beaver showed the father kissing his wife, going to work, and returning later for dinner with his wife and kids. For most American fathers this is still a common reality, but for many fathers, that type of fatherhood has long been left in the early 60’s. Because 16% of all stay-at-home parents are stay-at-home dads and 21% of these fathers are solely staying at home to care for their family. It must be noted that 35% of stay-at-home dads are home due to illness or disability while 23% of stay at home dads cannot find work. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t see stay-at-home fathers as beneficial to children compared to stay-at-home mothers.

The word “dad” invokes something different now than it did even fifteen years ago. Fathers are finding themselves taking on more responsibility with their children. They are asking for joint custody during divorces. They are raising children on their own. They are adopting with their partner. But most of all, dads are now more present in the lives of their children and society is taking notice.

Photo Credit: Picture #2 Guiseppe Milo 

Picture #3 – Divdshub

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