“The words that a father speaks to his children are not heard by the world, but they are clearly heard by posterity.”
– Jean Paul Richter
(The following excerpt from The Distinct, Positive Impact Of A Good Father by W. Bradford Wilcox originally appeared on theatlantic.com on June 14, 2013. To view it in its entirety please click on the link below.)
I understand where Jennifer Aniston is coming from. Like many of her peers in Hollywood, not to mention scholars and writers opining on fatherhood these days, she has come to the conclusion that dads are dispensable: “Women are realizing it more and more knowing that they don’t have to settle with a man just to have that child,” she said at a press conference a few years ago.
Her perspective has a lot of intuitive appeal in an era where millions of women have children outside of marriage, serve as breadwinner moms to their families, or are raising children on their own. Dads certainly seem dispensable in today’s world.
What this view overlooks, however, is a growing body of research suggesting that men bring much more to the parenting enterprise than money, especially today, when many fathers are highly involved in the warp and woof of childrearing. As Yale psychiatrist Kyle Pruett put it in Salon: “fathers don’t mother.”
Pruett’s argument is that fathers often engage their children in ways that differ from the ways in which mothers engage their children. Yes, there are exceptions, and, yes, parents also engage their children in ways that are not specifically gendered. But there are at least four ways, spelled out in my new book, Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives (co-edited withKathleen Kovner Kline), that today’s dads tend to make distinctive contributions to their children’s lives in the following areas:
1. The Power Of Play
2. Encouraging Risks
3. Protecting His Own
4. Dad’s Discipline
5. The Difference Good Dads Make