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The 'Father Factor' and Children

In a recent study reported on by the Wall Street Journal, Kathryn Kerns, a professor of psychological sciences at Kent State University in Ohio, asked 30 teens and preteens to talk about their parents. She found that the youngsters described rich, warm relationships with their fathers, saying things like "My dad gives me encouragement to do things" or "My dad tells me he thinks I can do well."

In what's considered the "father factor," Kerns' study is one of "more than a dozen studies in the past two years [that] are yielding new insights into the nuances, and the value, of the seemingly random, sometimes silly play many dads engage in with their children," according to the WSJ.

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The ability for children to build close relationships not just with their mothers, but also their fathers, helps predict the quality of a child's future friendships, social skills and romantic relationships. So all that roughhousing and joking around with Pop is one of the factors in a kid developing a healthy state of mind. The encouragement that often comes from a father to engage their child in risk-taking and exploration can instill confidence starting at an early age.

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Interestingly, the way that new parents interact with their kids seem to differ. In a study of 100 moms and dads interacting individually with their 5-month-old infants, mothers tended to gaze into their babies' eyes, mimic their babbling and touch them affectionately, while fathers were more likely to arouse the babies, using quick motions to get them to laugh or encourage them to explore. But regardless of the interaction, parents who engage with their kids early on are more likely to form a lasting bond.

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