Study reveals bias against fathers

January 9, 2008

Dads may be participating more than ever with moms in helping raise their children, but they are still not included in most studies of children and their families, Dalhousie University doctoral student Erin Moon has concluded.

“The research has not kept up with the changes in society, with fathers being more and more involved in children’s lives,” Moon, a clinical psychologist, told CanWest News Service. “Almost all the previous research has been conducted with mothers.”

Moon is researching the parental response to a child’s pain, specifically if fathers react differently based on whether a son or a daughter is suffering. She discovered that the questionnaires and tests previous researchers conducted all excluded the responses of fathers, presumably because it was thought that mothers were the primary caregivers.

Men’s issues author Warren Farrell was not surprised by Moon’s observation. He contends that society’s view of fathers is 50 years out of date. “The sexism against men is so great we don’t even think of them,” Farrell told CanWest.

Yet Dave Quist, executive director of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, told Today’s Family News the evidence is growing that fathers have a vital role to play in bringing up their children. For example, they promote their child’s development through physical activity, and they can play a critical role in their education.

“For far too long, the need for a father in a child’s life has not been well understood,” said Quist. “Moms and dads both play important roles in the raising of their children – but they are often different roles and one cannot substitute for the other.”

As family expert Patrick Fagan with the Washington-based Heritage Foundation concluded, “teenagers without a dad around are almost twice as likely to be depressed as teenagers from an intact married family. They are more than four times as likely to be expelled from school and three times as likely to repeat a grade. Drug and alcohol abuse is much more common. On top of that, they are also more likely to have sex before they are married – setting the stage for yet another fatherless generation.”