Though the father’s role in child-rearing has traditionally been understood solely in terms of financial support, research now shows that fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives is critical to healthy child development. Healthy father involvement can also serve as a protective factor to strengthen families at risk for child maltreatment. The Child and Family Research Partnership aims to better understand the role that fathers play in shaping their child’s health and wellbeing through rigorous research focused on fathers.
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Programs designed specifically to support fathers in their role as parents are relatively new to the policy landscape. New services and programming aim to increase fathers’ knowledge and skills of positive parenting, appropriate discipline, effective communication, emotional support, and stress management.
A child does not have a legal father until both parents establish paternity, which also impacts what benefits and protections he or she can receive. Also, without legally establishing paternity, unmarried fathers have no rights or responsibilities to their children.
In addition to providing emotional support to their children, fathers play a crucial role in their children’s development through the provision of financial support. Unmarried fathers provide financial support both formally through the child support system as well as informally without legal obligation.