Involved Fatherhood is Good for Fathers

Involved fatherhood is good for fathers. It sure has been good for me.
Involved fatherhood is good for fathers. It sure has been good for me.

We dads know this headline is true. However, if you read most news coverage on why paternity leave and other supports for working dads are important, you’ll usually see the following arguments:

  • Involved fatherhood is good for kids– especially in terms of positive developmental and behavioral outcomes
  • Involved fatherhood is good for women– especially in terms of gender equity and labor force participation

Both of these arguments are completely true and backed up by a library full of research. But they don’t tell the whole story. Have you noticed who is missing? Ok, I’ll just say it:

Involved fatherhood is good for fathers!

I’ve been working on a paper (to be presented at the United Nations on May 12th!!!!- how’s that for a not-so-humblebrag), and I’ve taken a deep dive into the research literature on fatherhood and work-family policy. I found the following reasons why involved fatherhood is good for fathers:

  • Involved fatherhood makes men happier and healthier
  • Fathers consistently report that meaningful involvement with their children is their most important source of well-being and happiness
  • Fathers who report close connections with their children:
    • live longer
    • have fewer mental and physical health problems
    • are less likely to abuse drugs
    • are more productive at work (see here)
    • and report being happier than men who do not have this strong connection
  • Men who are fathers are more likely to:
    • be involved in their neighbors
    • regularly attend religious services
    • volunteer in their communities

Anecdotally, I know that being a father is the very heart of my life. Part of why I advocate so strongly for working dads (and wrote a book for us!) is that I want all dads to be able to experience the joys of involved fatherhood.

It is great that lots of people recognize the need to support working dads, and that there is so much evidence that supporting dads benefits others. But I think we are missing a vital part of the story when we lose sight of the most obvious but overlooked beneficiary of involved fatherhood- fathers themselves. Spread the word.

How has involved fatherhood been good for you, or the other dads in your life? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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