The Family System
Social scientists often emphasise the role of fathers in the family system, and how their actions affect the entire environment and context in which a child grows. One of the most important ways a father influences that environment is in his interaction with his children's mother. This is because the relationships which children observe and experience at an early age influence their own relationships later in life. It is also because family relationships are interrelated-the way that mothers and fathers interact affects the mother-child relationship as well as the father-child relationship. Because of this interrelatedness, parents who have a strong and happy relationship have a head-start to being good parents. 
Statistics about children who do not live with their fathers can be grim. On almost every outcome that has been tested, including educational achievement, self-esteem, responsible social behaviour, and adjustment as adults, children do better when they live with both of their parents. Family instability and financial problems do contribute to the poor outcomes for children from broken homes. However, as one scholar who reviewed 28 studies of father absence states: 'the major disadvantage related to father absence for children is lessened parental attention'. 
Non-resident fathers can face special challenges in contributing positively to their children's development. Fathers who do not live with their children simply are less available to nurture, guide, and provide for their children. In cases of divorce, some mothers limit the time children have with their fathers. Fathers who were never married are even less likely than divorced fathers to keep in contact with their children. Moreover, the large geographic distances that exist between some children and their fathers make close relationships difficult to maintain. Either parent or both may form new relationships and have children with other people. In many cases, the entire family enjoys a lower standard of living when they live apart.
Despite these disadvantages, non-resident fathers can still make a difference for their children. The most obvious route of influence is by providing adequate financial support. Studies show children whose fathers pay child support do better in school and have fewer behaviour problems.  Children who feel close to their non-resident fathers also tend to do better. And, when non-resident fathers are able to use their time with their children wisely by helping with homework, setting and enforcing rules, and supervising their children, children can benefit a great deal. 
Married or Cohabiting Fathers
The role of marriage as a foundation for family life has become controversial. More and more people are cohabiting or living together before marriage or as an alternative to marriage. More couples also are having children without marrying. Some people say that marriage is 'just a piece of paper' and does not make any difference to the couple or their children. For some couples, this might be the case. However, studies have shown that the majority of cohabiting couples are less committed than married couples, even if they have children. In fact, only 36% of children born to cohabiting couples are likely to live with both their mother and their father for their entire childhood, compared to 70% of children born within marriage.  It is for this reason that many supporters of the father's role in raising children also support marriage for fathers. 
Good Fathering is Good Parenting
Most children do best when their mothers and fathers engage in what developmental psychologists call authoritative parenting. This style of parenting involves spending time with children, providing emotional support, giving everyday assistance, monitoring children's behaviour, and providing consistent, fair and proportionate discipline.  This can be contrasted with permissive parenting, in which parents avoid setting standards and limits, and authoritarian parenting, in which parents are harsh and rigid in their discipline and fail to respect their child's point of view. Neither of these parenting styles have as positive an influence on children's development as authoritative parenting. Authoritative, or 'good parenting', may be expressed in different styles. While mothers tend to provide more emotional warmth for their children, fathers provide a strong sense of security. While children usually can depend on their mothers for unconditional love, they often must earn their father's approval. While mothers soothe their children more often, fathers often provide more stimulation. All parents-both mothers and fathers-have important roles in rearing their children. Better appreciation of where fathers fit in will lead to happier and more productive children.
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