Children, whose fathers actively engage with them, in activities like reading, playing, telling stories, drawing, and singing, have an educational edge in the early stages of primary school, a new study has found.
The study, titled ‘Paternal Involvement and its Effects on Children’s Education (PIECE)’ and led by researchers from the University of Leeds, looked at 4,966 two-parent (mother-father) households in England from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), which includes data collected on children born in 2000-2002 as they grew up.
The study found that three-year-olds whose fathers actively engaged with them achieved higher test scores at age five while five-year-olds whose fathers actively engaged with them had better test scores at age seven.
“Fathers’ involvement throughout their child’s early and primary education can impact positively on their children’s educational attainment,” the study states.
Commenting on the findings of the study, Dr Roma Kumar, senior consultant psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi and Max Hospital, Gurugram says, “The educational benefits of an involved father for their children, as the study also elucidates, are far greater than fathers who aren’t actively involved with their child’s care. The influence a father has on the educational attainment remains life-long with the child. They are also able to learn life skills way faster than children without involved fathers. So, this relationship is a symbiotic one,” she adds.
Dr Jeremy Davies, Head of Impact and Communications at the Fatherhood Institute, who co-authored the report, said: “Our analysis has shown that fathers have an important and direct impact on their children’s learning. We should be recognising this and actively find ways to support dads to play their part, rather than engaging only with mothers, or taking a gender-neutral approach.”
Andrew Gwynne MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fatherhood, said “This study shows that even small changes in what fathers do, and in how schools and early years settings engage with parents, can have a lasting impact on children’s learning. It’s absolutely crucial that fathers aren’t treated as an afterthought.”
According to the research, mothers had more impact on their children’s emotional and social behaviours rather than their educational achievement. It found that mother’s involvement helps to enhance a child’s cognitive behaviour at age five, helping them reduce problems associated with peer socialisation and emotional conduct and hyperactive behaviour.
The study suggests that paternal influence helps children get slightly better grades in maths,” adding, “Both parents bring different, unique, and equally important things to the table.”
Dr Helen Norman, research fellow at Leeds University Business School, who led the research, says that mothers still tend to assume the primary carer role and therefore tend to do the most childcare. “But if fathers actively engage in childcare too, it significantly increases the likelihood of children getting better grades in primary school. This is why encouraging and supporting fathers to share childcare with the mother, from an early stage in the child’s life, is critical,” he added. The study accounted for other factors such as the child’s gender, ethnicity , age , family’s social economic status, the father’s age, the total number of children in the household and whether the child had attended pre-school formal childcare.
What does the research say?
Several studies conducted in the past have looked at the impact of parental and father’s involvement on the academic achievement of the child.
A 2019 study, which looked at the impact of parental involvement in children’s academic achievement in Chile, had found that children with medium and high parental involvement had higher academic achievement, when compared to those with less-involved parents.
A 2012 study that researched the correlation of perception on the role of fathers with academic achievement in senior high school students found that more positive perceptions about the role of the father resulted in higher academic achievement.
What should dads do?
The study recommended that schools and early years education providers routinely take both parents’ contact details in addition to developing strategies to engage fathers.
“Even short periods of regular reading can have a positive effect,” the study stated.
The study recommends that fathers spend at least 10-20 minutes per day reading or sharing stories with their child or even simply having conversations with their children about their day at school. “If fathers have limited time during the working week, setting time aside at the weekends is important,” it stated.
Children whose fathers spend time with them, engaged in activities such as reading, playing, drawing, singing etc, performed better academically in primary school, a new study has found.