It’s long been the belief that mothers have the upper hand over fathers when it comes to child custody cases, after a divorce or otherwise. Whether or not there’s any truth to this remains a topic of much debate.
By and large, laws are written, especially recently, so that neither the mother nor father has an inherent advantage. It doesn’t always play out that way in reality, but on paper at least, it’s a level playing field.
But beyond custody, which parent has the most influence on their children? This obviously varies a great deal from one situation to the next, but the prevailing logic seems to hold that mothers have a greater influence on daughters, while fathers hold greater sway with sons. Various studies, however, have something different to say on the matter.
A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology looks at the emotional importance of fathers in the lives of daughters. The findings show a variety of benefits to positive father-daughter relationships.
Subjects who have a positive relationship with their fathers were found to be more adept at coping with stress in typical, everyday situations. They are also less likely to develop ongoing issues like depression and anxiety.
Additionally, warm relationships “characterized by emotional support and consistency” impact external relationships down the road.
Researchers found these subjects much more open to expressing themselves and discussing their feelings and their needs. This often leads to more fulfilling friendships, as well as healthier, more satisfying romantic relationships as they grow older.
By now it’s generally accepted that having both parents involved after divorce provides numerous benefits for children. Not only from an emotional standpoint, as illustrated above, but in practical terms as well.
A study from Rutgers University in New Jersey examines the impact of fathers remaining in a child’s life after a split. Findings show that fathers who don’t live with their children but maintain a consistent involvement, reduce a child’s food insecurity.
In short, kids are more likely to have enough to eat and less likely to worry about where their next meal is coming from with both parents around.
This doesn’t simply include financial support or monetary contributions either, though that certainly plays a role. The study found that making child support payments alone didn’t alleviate food insecurity. In addition to cash, involvement includes spending time with the child, and “’in kind’ support, such as treats, gifts, and payment of medical or childcare expenses.”
Related Reading: Preparing For Your Child Custody Case
So, Are Fathers More Important?
This all leads to the question: are fathers more important than mothers?
No, no they’re not. Neither parent is more important, and both are vital. What matters most is that both parents show up and stay involved.
Both parents are indispensable and hugely important to kids through all stages of life. The true extent depends a great deal on the relationships and the people involved. And, of course, countless factors go into nurturing and supporting healthy relationships between parents and children.
More than anything, these studies and those like them illustrate the importance of remaining in your child’s life, even after divorce. You may never want to see your ex again, but it benefits your kids in countless ways.
So, make use of your visitation and maintain a regular presence. Emotional support and even just being there are significant. You may not always feel that way, but they are. It leaves a lasting impression and has a substantial impact for a long time to come.
Related Reading: 5 Avoidable Missteps In Child Custody Cases