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Amcclain_sm By Department of Children and Families Commissioner Angelo McClain

When it comes to openly loving and caring for their children, fathers are no longer the helpless and hopelessly befuddled fathers of the old days.  When we consider that the role of fathers during the last two centuries was commonly limited to the traditional roles of breadwinner, disciplinarian, and conveyor of moral and religious values, we can appreciate that the role of father’s in today’s household is dramatically different from prior generations. 

Previously, fathers were not expected to be nurturing, caring, nor openly loving to their children.  In fact, they were expected to be patriarchal and stern.  In those years, it was primarily the mother’s role to remain in the home and care for the children.  The father, on the other hand, was expected to have periodic, and often long, absences from the home in order to provide for the family.  Societal expectations of fathers and their parental roles, at that time, simply did not include being actively involved in their children’s everyday lives.

Today, we are seeing a transition from the traditionally stern patriarch father to a more nurturing and loving father.  For instance, it is much more common today to hear children address their fathers by their first names than the formal parental term, ‘Father.’ The formal term, which connotes stern authority, has given way to less formal, more affectionate types of address such as “Pop,” “Dad” or simply their given names — Bill, Jim, Carlos, or Juan, to name a few.

Today fathers are much more involved in raising, nurturing and caring for their children.   Recently published national research shows the important role that fathers play in the development of children; the influence of fatherly love on children’s development is as powerful an influence as a mother’s love.  Fatherly love helps children develop their sense of place in the world, which helps their social, emotional and cognitive development and functioning.  Likewise, children who receive more love from their fathers are less likely to struggle later in life with behavioral or substance abuse problems. 

Raising children is a tough job that requires the loving involvement of both parents.  Society must embrace, foster, and promote collaborative parental engagement; and intentionally support and encourage fathers, from all walks of life, to embrace, and excel in, the rewarding experience of openly loving and nurturing their children.  One of my greatest joys has been raising my daughter and seeing her grow into a wonderful, intelligent woman who cares about, and contributes to, her community.  On Father's Day, she will jokingly call me "old school" and share her love unconditionally.

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