If you’re a dad, chances are you will lose your temper once or twice—or, fine, a handful of times. And no one will blame you for it. After all, it comes with the parenthood territory.
But did you know that how a father is feeling affects his children more than he thinks he does? And it isn’t only about his temper, it also involves his general mood and disposition.
According to a Michigan State University study, children’s mental and behavioral development is strongly linked to their fathers’ moods.
This is because parental stress and mental health issues affect how parents interact with their children and, subsequently, childhood development.
“There’s this whole idea that grew out of past research that dads really don’t have direct effects on their kids,” said Claire Vallotton, associate professor and primary investigator on the research project.
Fathers carried this image that they simply set the tone of the household, while it was the mothers influence that affect their children’s development.
“But here we show that fathers really do have a direct effect on kids, both in the short term and long term,” professor Vallotton said.
Said a Michigan State University story:
The study found that fathers’ parenting-related stress had a harmful effect on their children’s cognitive and language development when the children were 2 to 3 years old, even when the mothers’ influences were taken into account. This impact varied by gender; fathers’ influence, for example, had a larger effect on boys’ language than girls’ language.
Another key finding: Fathers’ and mothers’ mental health had a similarly significant effect on behavior problems among toddlers.
Furthermore, fathers’ mental health had a long-term impact, leading to differences in children’s social skills (such as self-control and cooperation) when the children reached fifth grade.
In fact, fathers’ depression symptoms when children were toddlers were more influential on children’s later social skills than were mothers’ symptoms.
What the study highlights is the father’s significant role in the household, particularly in their children’s cognitive development, and that they have a bigger role in the family that what was originally believed.
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