The Impact of Father Figures on Our Children’s Mental Health

In June, we focus on fatherhood and celebrate the fathers and father figures in our lives. It is no secret the importance these male figures play in the lives of families and the influence they have on guiding and shaping their children’s lives. Now more than ever, people are grappling with mental health struggles, and our children are particularly vulnerable.

In an effort to address these issues, we wanted to dig more deeply into the role fathers play in mental health. To find this answer and others, EBONY sat down with Eric Warren Jr, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist, motivational facilitator and wellness advisor, about the impact that male figures can have on a child’s mental health.

EBONY: Why are fathers and father figures so influential on the mental health of children?

Eric Warren Jr.: Research has shown that a child having a healthy attachment to a father or father figure promotes cognitive, social, and emotional development. When a child has a positive male figure present, it can serve as an additional barrier to prevent unwanted external influence that oftentimes may lead to behavioral or social challenges in the home, school and community.

What are some aspects of fatherhood associated with good mental health in children?

In recent years, more studies have been conducted that reveal that a father’s positive influence is similar to a mother’s positive influence when both are present and parenting at the same frequency. Children benefit when they can learn early on how to conduct themselves in society. Having an available father figure may help them learn more about how society views fairness, duty, justice and rewards for doing right in addition to learning about the consequences of doing wrong.

Why is family structure so important for children’s mental health?

Children are very impressionable and tend to mimic what has been modeled to them. If a child observes that his or her parental figure is perpetually stressed or struggling, the child may very well find themselves going down the same path not because they want to, but because they only know what they have been taught. The consistent emotional and mental fatigue that can come with raising a child without adequate structure leads to acute symptoms of anxiety and depression, amongst other mental health diagnoses that are not necessarily hereditary but are unfortunately generational.