Dad involvement in child behavior

November 14th, 2012 by Daddy Duty in

A call to duty for dads.

                What is the revised job description for fathers’ today?  Provider, sports enthusiast, household helper?  The primary nurturing role still seems to be mom’s domain. So what is our role? We are there to have fun, do some chauffeuring and help pay the bills. Everyone keeps telling us we should be more involved with our children, more hands on. But what does that mean? I don’t see the moms giving up their day job of child rearing, food selection, taking care of the kids when they are ill, and comforting their emotional needs. As a matter of fact in my Pediatric practice, I still rarely see the dads. The doctor visits are primarily under the auspices of mom. Anything dealing with health, vaccines, behavior, nutrition and development is generally supervised and determined by mom. “Not that there is anything wrong with that”. Even in households, where both parents are actively involved in child care, when I call a house and the dad answers the phone, he always puts his wife on the phone when the conversation’s focus turns to his child’s health. I would say with very few exceptions, the dad’s are involved with the discussion but the moms are the hands on decision makers.   When I do finally meet a father in my office it is usually because mom cannot make it to the appointment due to illness. You don’t hear us dads complaining, we are alright with that, because we feel the job is handled well by mom and our influence is only secondary. So why are we being included as one of the culprits in the dramatic rise in childhood obesity? The ongoing research into clues for the etiology of so many out of shape children has once again brought our role as fathers into the forefront of the news. We have been satisfied by being called off the couch when and where we were needed, like the sixth man in basketball. A recent study, however, published in December 2007, by the Pediatrics journal, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, has shown quite convincingly, that dad’s have a bigger impact and role in determining whether children are obese, will stay obese and develop the subsequent health problems then we thought. The study found that poor parenting control by the father as well as inadequate social interaction with their children was associated with higher incidence of preschool children being overweight and obese. In this study, from the Australian National Population Study, Wake, MD, et el. “The odds of a child being in a heavier BMI category increased by 59% for those with permissive” fathering styles, and by “35% for those with disengaged fathers.” Authors in a previous study, Stein, et al, speculated from their results that “fathers’ parenting may be an important determinant of the extent to which the family environment as a whole is supportive of children’s attempts to lose weight. Father’s dietary and physical activity behaviors have also been associated with children’s weight, diet, and physical activity.”(1.) In other words, our influence on our children’s health behavior is significant. How we act, whether we are active, and if we are involved in our children’s sports and fitness efforts, is an important factor in determining whether our children will be obese and their ultimate health.  If your involvement with your child is that of cheerleader and spectator, and if you think that watching television and eating snacks is a sport, then you shouldn’t be surprised that your children are less then fit. With the incredible rise in childhood obesity attributed to lack of exercise and poor eating habits someone needs to take the initiative and become the family sports commissioner. We now know, and probably should have known all along, that us dads can have a tremendous role in whether our children will be healthy or obese. We need to lead our children both by example and by being involved with their fitness and health. Unfortunately not being involved with your children is the recipe for obesity, poor health and a shorter lifespan. Time for you to get off the couch and be active in your child’s life, their health depends on it.



  1. “Pediatrics”, December 2007, Wake, MD et. el