Fathers’ Involvement and Health Outcomes of Children

by CAFE Research Volunteer Hyginus Ihemere

The role of fathers in the well-being of children in the family cannot be overemphasized. Their specific roles in relation to the health outcomes of children are worth exploring. One may wonder if it is really factual that fathers’ involvement has a significant role in the health outcomes of children. The author of the article will like to review some existing research to help understand the evidence behind the statement.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”¹ Health therefore goes beyond the common infirmities people in a population may have. Health outcome describes the changes in health status that may occur as a result of available policies, programs and practices². In the context of this article the change in health outcomes of children will be reviewed as it relates the presence or absence of a father in the home.

The contributions of fathers in the overall aspect of the health of their children have not been widely documented in literature; particularly their contribution in relation to long-term health conditions of children³. Notwithstanding the dearth of research in this area, there appears to have  been some progress, with available evidence supporting the positive impact of fathers’ involvement in the health outcomes of their children. Flouri notes that the absence of fathers in the lives of their children exposes children to increased psychosocial challenges⁴. Going by the definition of health as described above, one may infer that this may lead to unhealthy children with poor health outcomes. The reverse occurs in situations where there is father involvement, and as documented “….positive fathers’ involvement is seen to promote a positive health practice and coping strategy in youth, resulting in lower risk of negative health outcomes for the youth”⁵.

Fathers are known to promote healthy lifestyles through exercise⁶ and abhorrence of poor dietary choices which are linked to poor health outcomes such as childhood obesity⁷. In the emphasis on vaccine preventable diseases which helps to shape the health outcome of children, fathers’ involvement is known to encourage timely vaccine adherence in households. Groups such as Fathers’ Club which is available in some countries have been associated with increased health education, improved vaccination status of children and also proper growth monitoring⁸.

These important roles which a father may assume, leading to positive health outcomes, help to conclude the obvious which is that available evidence supports the fact that fathers’ involvement in the lives of children is indispensable in many ways, especially in the health of their children.

References:

  1. World Health Organisation (1946) ‘Preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization as adopted by the International Health Conference’, New York, 19-22 June, 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of the World Health Organization, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948 (Online). Available from: http://www.who.int/about/definition/en/print.html (Accessed: 07 November 2016)
  2. Canadian Institute for Health Information (no date) ‘Outcomes’, (Online). Available from: https://www.cihi.ca/en/health-system-performance/quality-of-care-and-outcomes/outcomes  (Accessed: 07 November 2016)
  3. Swallow, V., Macfadyen, A., Santacroce, S. and Lambert, H. (2012) ‘Fathers’ contributions to the management of their child’s long-term medical condition: a narrative review of the literature’, Health Expectations: An International Journal of Public Participation in Health Care & Health Policy Vol 15(2), Jun, 2012. pp. 157-175(Online). Available from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=44546112-1365-4ff3-b0a4-b125f888a9c0%40sessionmgr120&vid=2&hid=119 (Accessed: 11 November 2016)
  4. Flouri, E. (2005) ‘Fathering and child outcomes’, John Wiley & Sons Ltd., West Sussex, England
  5. Ball, J., Moselle, K., Pedersen, S. (2007) ‘Father’s Involvement as a Determinant of Child Health’, Paper prepared for the Public Health Agency of Canada, Population Health Fund Project: Father Involvement for Healthy Child Outcomes: Partners Supporting Knowledge Development and Transfer (Online). Available from: http://www.ecdip.org/docs/pdf/PH%20FI%20Final%20Full%20Report.pdf (Accessed: 07 November 2016)
  6. Zahra, J., Sebire, S. and Jago, R (2015) “He’s probably more Mr. Sport than me” – ‘a qualitative exploration of mothers’ perceptions of fathers’ role in their children’s physical activity’, BMC Pediatrics; Vol. 15 Issue 1, p1-9(Online). Available from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=3d9be256-f743-432d-ac3c-ebee3e888419%40sessionmgr102&vid=1&hid=119 (Accessed: 11 November 2016)
  7. Garfield, C. and Isacco, A. (2012) ‘Urban fathers’ involvement in their child’s health and healthcare’, Psychology of Men & Masculinity, Vol 13(1), Jan, 2012. Recent Research on Fathers. pp. 32-48(Online). Availabe from: http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=efe803da-c1ab-4aa3-9ccd-dfcdae191a56%40sessionmgr120&vid=0&hid=119 (Accessed: 11 November 2016)
  8. Sloand E., Astone N. and Gebrian, B. (2010) ‘The impact of fathers’ clubs on child health in rural Haiti’, American Journal of Public Health 100(2): 201-204(Online). Available from: http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/eds/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=a116184e-0fe3-4c4b-994d-66365b7eafb6%40sessionmgr4010&vid=1&hid=4111 (Accessed: 11 November 2016)