Dad's involvement in child's education makes notable difference

August 17, 2009

For dads seeking to make a difference in their child's educational upbringing, research shows the earlier the involvement, the better.

For dads seeking to make a difference in their child's educational upbringing, research shows the earlier the involvement, the better. It's important that both parents are involved, but each parent apparently plays a different role in assisting in the educational process and in influencing a child's later academic achievements.

What a research team from the University of Illinois found was that mothers play an ongoing important role in the child’s future academic success. However, a father’s participation in the education process, which tended to be later on in the schooling years, was negatively associated with future student achievement. The reason, according to researchers, is that fathers often may not get actively involved until there are problems, such as a child flunking, getting expelled, or having behavioral issues.

However, the research, published in the May issue of the Journal of Educational Psychology, also showed that if a father has not participated in the process prior to a child starting school, "there's even less likelihood he's going to be engaged even when there is a problem in school," reports Brent McBride, a UI study author. "If fathers establish early on that they're going to actively engage in the parenting process, they're much more likely to continue that engagement as they grow older."

Fathers and fatherly role models, according to study authors, can have as great an impact on children's learning abilities mothers do, and should be viewed as co-equal partners in parenting.

"We need to look at the bigger picture, because these analyses all point to the same conclusion: that men and women each contribute uniquely to child outcomes," McBride adds.

Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation and the American Educational Research Association.