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The importance of the male figure in child development

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

The presence of the male figure in child development is very important, and goes beyond what we can imagine. According to research conducted by the American Academy of Sciences (National Academy of Sciences), the benefits of this relationship are present both for fathers and for their children, because by becoming fathers, men tend to be less aggressive and more sensitive. In turn, for the child, the active participation of the male figure, such as fathers (or his surrogate) is essential for cognitive and socio-emotional development.

Generally, mothers and fathers have distinct styles of communication and interaction, and may play different roles in the upbringing of their children. The mother experiences a bond with the baby from the very first months of life. Her care makes the child feel the centre of attention. This set of attitudes allows the mother-baby relationship to becomes close.

As time goes by, the father figure becomes equally important for the child. The father's active and constant presence in this relationship can help children to feel increasingly secure as they expand their experiences in the world. Parents challenge children to push their limits and can contribute to their development and knowledge about justice and law when talking about social rules.

One of the main roles of fathers or male caregivers is to provide a model of appropriate behaviour for boys and girls. Boys learn from their fathers or male caregivers what behaviours they should adopt as adult men, how to deal with emotions and conflicts, all in a healthier and more adaptive way. Girls learn from their fathers or male caregivers what to expect from male figures throughout their lives.

In addition, the presence of a father or male caregiver can help strengthen the emotional bond between the son or daughter and the male figure. This connection can help the child feel secure and confident in his or her gender identity and develop social skills.

Bowlby also reinforces the importance of parents providing a secure base from which a child or adolescent can explore the outside world and return to it, certain that they will be welcomed, nurtured physically and emotionally, comforted if there is distress and encouraged if they are threatened. The consequence of this attachment relationship is the construction, by the age of three, of a feeling of trust and security of the child in relation to himself and, mainly, in relation to those around him, whether these are parental figures or other members of his social circle.

Finally, the presence of the male figure also helps to promote a healthy and balanced family dynamic. Fathers or male caregivers can provide a counterbalance to the feminine qualities of the primary caregivers, helping to balance family dynamics and create a safe and stable environment for child development.

In short, the male figure plays a crucial role in child development, helping to shape behaviour, gender identity, social skills and family dynamics.

In society, with all the changes that have occurred and that still continue, related to the male figure, the figure of caregiver, of provider of affection, is then added. Socially, fathers are increasingly participating actively in the lives of children, playing with them and acting in their education and training.

This new father has increasingly participated, in an equal way, in the children's play and care. One can consider that the father's presence in the life of a child is as fundamental as the mother's presence.

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