Study Claims Fathers Have a Unique Influence on Their Child's Academic Achievements (Credit - Freepik)
Children experience a "small but significant" boost in their educational achievement in primary school when fathers engage in activities like reading, playing, singing, and drawing with them, reveals research. It suggests a mere 10 minutes of such interaction daily could be beneficial.
The critical role of parental involvement in a child's education and development is well acknowledged. However, a study spearheaded by the University of Leeds points out that fathers have "a unique and important effect" on the educational outcomes of children.
The study discovered that when fathers are more involved before their children
step into primary school, it provides an educational edge to the children in their first year. Furthermore, increased involvement at age five contributes to higher attainment in key stage 1 assessments at age seven, with a slightly more pronounced effect in mathematics.
The study, financed by the Economic and Social Research Council, delineated the differing impacts of mothers and fathers. It found that while fathers' involvement significantly influenced educational attainment, mothers played a larger role in shaping emotional and social behaviours.
The research advises fathers to allocate as much time as possible for engaging in playful and educational activities with their children weekly. Engaging in various structured activities several times a week, even for brief durations, can enhance a child's cognitive and language development, according to the study's conclusions. A mere 10 minutes a day could yield beneficial effects.
Furthermore, the study encourages schools and early education providers to habitually obtain contact details from both parents whenever feasible, and devise constructive strategies to involve fathers. It also proposes that the school inspectorate body, Ofsted, should include father engagement as a factor during their inspections.
Dr Helen Norman, a research fellow at Leeds University Business School who spearheaded the research, mentioned that although mothers usually assume the primary caregiver role and tend to handle most of the childcare, when fathers actively participate in childcare as well, it significantly boosts the chances of children achieving better grades in primary school. Hence, motivating and aiding fathers to share childcare responsibilities with the mother from an early stage in the child’s life is crucial.
The research, released on Wednesday, is constructed on a representative sample encompassing nearly 5,000 mother-father households in England, sourced from the Millennium Cohort Study (that gathered data on children born between 2000-02). This data was then associated with the official educational records of children from the early years foundation stage profile at age five, and the national pupil database at age seven.
The involvement of fathers positively impacted a child’s performance irrespective of the child’s gender, ethnicity, age in the school year or household income, as acknowledged by the study, which also noted the substantial negative effects of early poverty on educational attainment.
Helen Dodd, a professor of child psychology at Exeter Medical School, stated that this robust research showcases the significance of parent involvement in children's development. She found it especially intriguing that the study discovered different outcomes linked to the involvement of fathers and mothers. While fathers’ involvement correlated more with broad educational outcomes, mothers’ involvement was more intimately tied to overall well-being, attention, mental health, and social skills.
Dodd elaborated that these distinctions might reflect the varying ways mothers and fathers engage and interact with their children, adhering to traditional parenting roles in two-parent heterosexual families. This emphasis further underscores the crucial role fathers play. However, it's vital to remember that regardless of a family's structure, children thrive when their parents partake in playful, creative activities with them.
Andrew Gwynne, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on fatherhood, expressed that this study reveals how even minor alterations in fathers' actions, and the ways schools and early years settings connect with parents, can significantly affect children's learning over time. He stressed the absolute necessity of ensuring fathers are not relegated to an afterthought.