Fatherneed: Why father care is as essential as mother care for your child



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Pruett, Kyle D. (2001). Fatherneed: Why father care is as essential as mother care for your child. New York: Broadway Books. “Introduction,” 1-16.
* The most stunning change in the American family over the past generation is how men and women have changed their expectations and behavior toward fathering. Co-parenting, a radical concept for most of our parents, is now a major expectation among newly marrying couples.
?? What is co-parenting? Parents’ sharing in the physical and emotional care of their infants and children as well as in the responsibilities and decision making regarding infants and children.
* Pleck (compared changing survey responses by newly marrying couples who were asked to rank-order certain values they planned to instill in their marriages) found that co-parenting has moved from the eleventh priority out of fifteen topics in 1981 to the second priority in 1997.
* However, in staggering contrast, census data tell us that just 34 percent of all children born in America in the last three years of the twentieth century will reach the age of eighteen living with both biological parents; nearly two-thirds of our kids will reach majority in a nonnuclear family configuration.
* Census data also show that households headed by single fathers are the fastest-growing family type. Single mothers outnumber single fathers at about a 5 to 1 ratio.
* Parenting books typically leave out fathers, their influence on, and relationships with their children in their discussions on parenting. There is no definitive guide to the well-being of children that speaks as compellingly to men as it does to women.
* Pruett wrote the book to explain exactly (1) what it is that children need from their fathers, (2) why a father has so powerful an influence on the kind of person a child eventually becomes, and (3) why women need to encourage the profound father-child connection. And to answer the question, “What is the effect of men, especially fathers, on the development of children?”
* Up until the early 1970s, what little literature there was about fathers, almost always had to do with father absence, not presence. It was as though fathers mattered more when they were not fathering than when they were.
* Father absence remains exquisitely painful for the nineteen million children who are currently growing up without their father. Earlier sexual and drug activity, higher rates of school failure, school dropout, teen suicide, and juvenile delinquency stalk these children’s histories.
?? If science has shown us that father absence adds such a burden of risk factors, what on earth does father presence add?
* According to Phares, when we bother to look for the father’s impact on children across a wide variety of subjects, we find it — always. Not looking at the impact of fathers and children on each other has given the entire field (and the best-selling parenting books it produces) a myopic and worrisomely distorted view of child development, a view with staggering blind spots.
?? How could fathers be left out like this?

* Pruett’s hunch: in order to look at the father, one must look away from the mother, behavior that can raise normal anxiety early in life. Will Mom be there when I look back? Will it hurt her feelings if I look or turn away from her, even for a moment? Maybe I’d best not risk it. Is this early pattern, this ambivalence, sufficient to preserve the black hole of ignorance surrounding father care, its effects, and its impact on a child’s growth? Maybe the grown-ups among us who are studying children have some lingering maternal separation experiences and feelings that need further attention and resolution if we are to get the science right this time.


* Fatherneed is in yourself, your children, and your partner or spouse and what makes it such a remarkably compelling force in our emotions and behaviors, longing and growth, sorrow and joy.
* It is a thoroughly understandable physical and emotional force that pulls men to children just as it pulls children to men, related or not, to shape, enrich, and perpetuate each other’s lives.
* Pruett wants to show you what you can do on a daily basis to provide your children with father care that touches them deeply, changing their lives — and yours — for the better.
CH 1
?? How is father care different from mother care and how and why does it matter so much to kids?
* Children from the first moments of life are equipped to find their father and distinguish him from their mother, even before their vision is twenty-twenty. At six weeks of age, infants can tell the difference between their mother’s and father’s voice. At 8 weeks of age, they can anticipate the complex differences in their mother’s and father’s caretaking and handling styles.
* An infant’s capacity to recognize father care in its own right so early in life alerts us to how critical connecting to the father is to the healthy development of the child.
* Children often utter their word (or sound) for “father” before their “mother” word, and no one really knows why. Is it because the mother and child are so close that the mother does not need a name whereas the slightly more separate father entity does?
* Toddlers are particularly insistent in expressing fatherneed; they look for their father, say his name when he’s not there, puzzle over his voice on the phone, and explore every inch of his face and body if given half a chance.
* School-age kids long to be with their father at work, to know his friends, to challenge his skills and strengths.
* Teenagers express fatherneed in more complex ways, competing with their father and confronting his values, beliefs, and limits.
* For so many sons and daughters, it is only at the death of the father that they discover the intensity and longevity of their fathemeed, especially when it has gone begging.
* In addition to the child’s contribution to the father-child relationship, the father’s response to that contribution shapes the relationship even further. Father care differs from mother care in ways that are tremendously interesting to children.
* Fathers, compared to mothers, spend more of their time with their children in play that involves few toys and that encourages exploration and less of their time in play that is simply for the purpose of entertainment or distraction alone. Mothers, even when not home full-time, play less with their children, spend more of their time in giving physical care, and emphasize instruction and self-control.
* Fathers are more likely to encourage their kids to tolerate frustration and master tasks on their own before they offer help, whereas mothers tend to assist a fussing child earlier.
* Dads discipline less with shame and disappointment and more with real-life consequences. Moms, however, tend to emphasize the emotional costs of misbehavior.
* Fathers tend to activate their kids emotionally and physically more than moms do. The father who turns his toddler on just before bedtime and then complains when the child won’t settle down and go to sleep is a classic source of maternal frustration.
* The 1998 survey on shared parenting by the Work and Families Institute of New York shows a remarkable increase, compared to data collected thirty years ago, in the percentage of child care provided by fathers: whereas fathers used to provide less than 25 percent of the child care provided by mothers, they now provide 75 percent of the care that mothers provide.
CH 2
?? How does father involvement actually work to promote a child’s emotional, physical, and intellectual development?
* Children whose dad has regularly changed their diapers, burped them and rocked them to sleep, and read to them (1) enjoy a reserve of strength in dealing with stress and the frustrations of everyday life. (2 & 3) They are less rigid in their gender stereotyping of their peers and in their response to other children and to society in general. (4) They enjoy measurable intellectual benefits, especially in school readiness.
* Fathers have an instructional style more common among fathers than mothers (e.g., fathers tend to be as interested in the process of finding an answer as in the correctness of the answer itself). Perhaps that is why math competence in girls often seems to be associated with early connections to the father.

* All of these positive effects are even stronger and endure longer when they are complemented by a mother’s support of her partner’s active contribution to her child’s emotional, social, and intellectual life.


* There is an expectation among children whose father was involved in their daily life that diligence of effort pays off and that frustrations need not defeat. Interest in the novel and the challenging seems slightly keener in children whose fatherneed is gratified; they tend to assume that there is usually more than one way to skin any cat.
* John Snarey’s four-decade-long study of fathers who supported their daughters and sons in less conventional ways — for example, by encouraging athletic competence and achievement in girls and being emotionally close to their young sons — had daughters who were more successful in school, work, and career and sons who eventually achieved more academically and in their careers down the line than did the children of fathers who supported them in more conventional ways.
CH 3
* Although the proportion of children who are raised by their father as the primary caretaker is relatively small and probably will always be so, the actual number, now over two million, is growing steadily.
* Even when a father is changing diapers, cleaning, and cooking, he still plays with and disciplines the child in ways that differ from a mother’s approach, but his gender stereotyping tendencies disappear! It is the mother who begins to reinforce some of the old stereotypes; it is as though she is getting her kids ready for the “outside world.”
* What especially characterizes most of these children now as preteens is the closeness of their friendships with opposite-sex peers.
CH 4
* We know that parents are changed by their children nearly as much as children are changed by their parents.

* The requirements of parenting are so demanding that none of us is good at all of it at all developmental stages all of the time. The dance between adult and child development requires that the lead change frequently without losing the rhythm or forward motion of personal growth.


CH 5
* The greatest challenge to a father’s parenting competence is the separation of his life from his child’s. In America that usually means divorce, which affects nearly half of all families. The topic of divorce connects what we know about how important fathering is to, the well-being of children and what we now know of the huge cost to children and fathers when the fatherneed goes unmet or is damaged.
* What terrifies children about divorce is what terrifies fathers: losing each other. What the kids want most is for their mom and dad to be “friends enough so they let each other love us the way we need loving.” The adversarial process and litigation itself are seen by even preschool children as bad forces that destroy their parents’ ability to stay “friends enough.”
CH 6
* Fathering, like mothering, comes in an infinite variety of hues and shapes. Cultural and ethnic variety sculpt fatherhood in intriguing ways. African-American fathers, for example, are often more present in their child’s community and neighborhood than in the home; looking closely, we see that nonresidential does not mean absent.
* Hundreds of thousands of fathers over age fifty are fathering and grandfathering kids in ways they could not imagine in their twenties; a certain relaxed freedom, even grace, characterizes their fathering now that they have either made it or not in their careers (or care less about making it than they did in their youth).
* Abandoning and teenage fathers are both being better understood. Over 90 percent of teenage fathers in most studies want to stay involved in the life of their child and the child’s mother. Those who do are more likely to finish school, stay employed, and avoid contact with the law.
CH 7
* What makes a man a father is a mother, and what women think and feel about the men with whom they create children strongly shapes fathering opportunities.
* What mothers feel, think, and remember about their relationship with their own father is a critical factor, a relationship that powerfully shapes a woman’s expectations, hopes, and fears about her mate’s role in the life of their shared child.
* For biological and social reasons, mothers play a larger role in promoting competent fathering than fathers do in promoting competent mothering.
* The competence of each parent is intimately connected with and interacts with that of the other, but women do need to loosen their grip on the gate latch if they want their men and babies to fall in love with each other and stay in love.
* Not all children have a father in their life on a regular (or even irregular) basis. It is practically impossible for a mother to fill a child’s fatherneed by herself, just as it is for a father to fill the motherneed in his motherless child.
* With the support of the caring, competent men in her life and in her community, however, a mother can provide her child with opportunities for ongoing and predictable physical, intellectual, spiritual, and emotional interaction with men, experiences from which her child will benefit measurably.
* Part of fatherneed in boys is the hunger to understand and practice maleness; in girls there is a wish to experience and explore its difference from femaleness.
* Oppressions from her past can complicate a mother’s desire or ability to embrace the idea of a healthy paternal presence in the life of her child. Such struggles and pain need to be respected and acknowledged, as must the right of her children to a potentially better experience of a paternal presence in their own growing up.
* Encouraging and supporting male involvement in child care settings, schools, camps, after-school activities, and events sponsored by one’s faith community are wonderful ways to address male deficits in the life of a child. A single mother can ask her married friends to include her child in their family outings and gatherings.
* Fatherneed does not doom fatherless or under-fathered kids. It does mean that we must support single mothers in their struggle to provide caring male relationships for their kids. And it means we can alert these mothers to the hunger in their kids for such relationships if their own hunger has been somehow damaged or wounded, tempting them to dose the gate after their kids.
CH 8
?? If father care can do so much for kids, What can it do for men? What are the effects on men of being so involved with kids?
* Women are often the first to notice that a baby has changed a man. “More responsible” is the most common report, but “more patient,” “more gentle,” “more emotional,” “nicer,” “mellow,” and “settled” are not far behind.
* Men enjoy better overall health after becoming fathers — despite the reduction in sleep. Reduced contact with the law and increased work productivity are also reported for all social groups. There don’t seem to be many downsides to fatherhood for men.
* There is compelling evidence that men who feel involved in their child’s life are much less likely to default on child support — or mother support after divorce. When a divorced man feels that he has significant input into his child’s everyday life and relationships, the financial and emotional commitment and sacrifice make more sense to him and feel less punitive.
* Father care also appears to exert strong influence on the father’s health. In a four-year National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) study of dual-earner couples, Wellesley College’s Rosalind Barnett found that men who worried about their children were more likely to experience job fatigue, anxiety, headache, low back pain, and sleeplessness.
* Involved fathers also have fewer accidental deaths, fewer premature deaths overall, less substance abuse, and fewer hospital admissions. Being positively involved seems to affect men’s well-being so strongly that their diminished worry improves their health-related behavior.
CH 9
* Beyond gatekeeping there are countless barriers in our culture itself that discourage competent fathering within and outside families: (1) the glass ceiling for the fathers of young children who seek flextime and paternity leave; (2) the child care and educational settings that hold parent conferences only during work hours; (3) bureaucracies involved in the healthcare of children whose forms do not even have a place for the father’s name; (4) the media treatment of fathers as fools or jerks, even for our youngest audiences.
* Legal advocacy must be reworked so that men who want to establish paternity for their children are not garnisheed back into poverty in a draconian Catch-22 that punishes them for trying to do the right thing for their kids.
SAMPLE EXAM QUESTIONS.
1. Based on Pruett’s discussion, how many of the following statements are true about the definition of co-parenting?

(1) parents share in the physical care of their infants and children

(2) parents share in the earning of wages to support their infants and children

(3) parents share in the responsibilities regarding their infants and children.

(4) parents share in providing for food, clothing, and housing for their infants and children

(5) parents share in the emotional care of their infants and children

(6) parents share in the decision making regarding their infants and children

a. one statement is true

b. two statements are true

c. three statements are true

d. four statements are true

e. five statements are true

f. six statements are true
2. According to Census Bureau data reported by Pruett, approximately how many of the kids in the United States would reach the age of eighteen living with both biological parents at the end of the twentieth century?

a. 25

b. 34

c. 50

d. 67

e. 75

f. 84
3. FILL IN THE BLANK. According to Pruett, developmental research clearly shows that children are born with a drive to find and connect to ___________________ .

a. their mothers only

b. their fathers only

c. both their mothers and fathers

d. everyone

e. anyone



f. no one


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