There is an increasing amount of fatherhood research going on, which is a good thing. A father’s place in the family has been undervalued in recent decades while single motherhood was socially accepted and supported. Children need their fathers.
But it’s not just kids who benefit from having a dad; dads benefit too. A new study finds that, after men become fathers for the first time, they show significant decreases in crime, tobacco and alcohol use. Researchers discovered that by following 200 “at risk” boys from the age of 12 until they turned 31.
According to the news release about the study, these effects of fatherhood were in addition to those from marriage (whose positive effects are well documented) and from the simple process of getting older. But the effects were stronger for men who were well into their 20s and up to age 31 when they became fathers (and were therefore more likely to be married?) compared with those who had their first child in their teens or early 20s.
I think this means that an older, married man is more likely to give up smoking when his first child comes. Hopefully, he has already given up crime and drunkenness.
Lead author David Kerr of Oregon State University says:
“This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior,” he said. “This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”
I suggest one good intervention would be to guide the unmarried towards a marital commitment.
Another recent study based on a survey of 1000 American men found that 77 percent rated being a good father as very important, while just 49 percent said the same about having a successful career.
Still, the study, which surveyed nearly 1,000 men across the United States who are in relationships with women, suggests that fathers and non-fathers alike see fatherhood as a “package deal” — they consider things like work and leisure important, too. But those elements complement, not compete with, being a parent.
Not all the men were married; some were cohabiting. And not all were fathers. An indication of the difference marriage makes might be deduced from the following finding, since religiosity would seem to dispose a person towards marriage:
Men who valued leisure and career, who espoused greater religiosity, who embraced non-egalitarian gender values, and who were already fathers tended to value fatherhood most.