A father's love is just as important to a child's development as a mother's, and sometimes more so, suggests a new review of about 100 studies published between 1949 and 2001.
Researchers found that, overall, the love -- or rejection -- of mothers and fathers equally affects kids' behavior, self-esteem, emotional stability, and mental health. "But in some cases, the withdrawal of a father's love seems to play a bigger role in kids' problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse," says study coauthor Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. And for others, the presence of a father's love may do more to boost children's sense of well-being and improve their emotional and physical health.
More research is needed to explain these connections. The issue is not who's more important, says Dr. Rohner, but recognizing that dads are key in all the ways moms are. "We hope findings like these will encourage men to become more involved in their children's care," he says. "Then the whole family benefits."