Mom Break: Study Shows the Benefits of One-on-One Time with Dad

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash


In recent decades as traditional values have eroded, so has the traditional family unit comprised of a mother, father, and children.

But countless studies have proven the importance of both parental roles in the mental well-being of their children.

Much of this research has now been poured over by a new, more comprehensive study that shines a bright light on the impact of a father’s presence.

Research from more than four decades on the role of fathers and their impact on child development was studied in depth by a team from several academic centers, including the University of Cambridge.

We all know that men and women parent differently, and that fathers are usually known for being more involved in physical play with their children – roughhousing, sports, and chasing them around.

This still holds true, according to research, and this physical play has a surprising – and life-long – benefit.

While physical play in the first years of life between both parents and their children is vital to social, cognitive, and communication development, studies have rarely delved into the differences between playtime between mothers and fathers.

The Cambridge researchers collected and analyzed data from the late 1970s to the present in order to really focus on how playtime with dad impacts a child’s development.

They looked into frequency of playtime with dad, as well as the type of play — often the fun, active, “rough-and-tumble” physical play mentioned above.

There was an overall consistency in the data which showed that physical play with dad aids in the development of self-control in children.

Frequent quality playtime with their fathers was shown to decrease hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and aggression, while increasing impulse control and emotional maturity.

Researchers believe that the type of rough-housing play typically done between father and child is the perfect way to develop skills that assist children in regulating their emotional responses.

They believe this play – done in an environment that is safe and secure – helps them to understand boundaries (wherein both father and child can express when things are getting too rough) and helps them to learn proper social responses.

A team from the LEGO Foundation that participated in analyzing the data also suggested this combined research may help to facilitate a cultural shift in how we perceive the role of fathers.

They are often less likely to participate in playgroups with other parents, suggesting that more father-child classes and groups should be organized — rather than only the typical “Mommy and Me” groups.

It was also found that physical play with dad is particularly important in the early childhood years and decreases between the ages of six and twelve.

But then, it becomes important for fathers to become involved in sports activities their children participate in or make efforts to continue physical play at home by playing catch, hiking, fishing, and the like.

The authors of the study by no means exclude playtime with mom as vital to childhood development and moms, of course, can engage in all types of play to help build vital skills.

But the more physical play often done with dad has shown an overwhelming benefit in helping kids manage challenges they may encounter at school – such as conflict resolution on the playground.

And even more importantly, early childhood physical play with dad may help children to prevent bullying by teaching those limits of preventing physical contact from going too far and allowing children to learn to express when it does.

So, go ahead and roughhouse with the little ones, dads.  You’re teaching your kids valuable skills that will last a lifetime!

And it gives mom a much-needed break!