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The BBC's James Westhead
"Researchers believe that father's role in parenting is undervalued"
 real 56k

Is the traditional family still best?
Writer Bea Campbell and Ian Mackay of Families need Fathers debate the issues
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Tom Beardshaw, Fathers Direct
"The world of parenting is very mother centred"
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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 23:56 GMT 00:56 UK
Fathers help pupils achieve
Mother and father with baby
Fathers are now the main carer when the mother is at work
Children whose fathers take an active role in their upbringing achieve better GCSE results and are less likely to get a criminal record before the age of 21, research suggests.

And the offspring of fathers who spend time playing with their children before they are of school age are often more sociable when they go to nursery school.

Charlie Lewis
Professor Lewis says fathers' input can be neglected
A team of academics from the University of Lancaster examined up to 700 British and international reports - spanning 20 years - on the impact of fatherhood.

"In families where fathers offer kindness, care and warmth during the primary school years, their children are likely to do well at secondary school," the report said.

"The involvement of the father with the child at the age of 7 and 11 has been shown to predict the number of national examination passes at age 16."

Important role

Professor Charlie Lewis, who led the research, said fathers were now the main carers for children when the mother was at work.

"We now know how positive fathering can be right from the start, providing crucial support to new mothers and contributing to many aspects of child development.

If we want children to thrive emotionally, educationally, socially and physically, we must make the most of dads

David Bartlett, Fathers Direct
"Our report also demonstrates that the old picture of most fathers simply being breadwinners is inaccurate, as dads step in more and more to take over the tasks left by mothers at work," Professor Lewis said.

While fathers must not be put on a pedestal, their role has often been neglected, he said.

But the research also suggests that fathers face problems in fulfilling their caring role, because they work the longest hours in Europe and often lack self-confidence, he added.

David Bartlett, of Fathers Direct, said the research meant no-one could take refuge in "discredited stereotypes" suggesting fathers were insignificant.

"If we want children to thrive emotionally, educationally, socially and physically, we must make the most of dads," Mr Bartlett said.

Present at birth

The researchers also found nine out of 10 fathers now attended the delivery of their babies and fathers usually felt this brought them closer to their partner and to the child.

The study found no difference between men's and women's emotional response with regard to their new-born babies - a crying or smiling baby had the same effect on both parents' heart rate and blood pressure.

Fathers and mothers were found to give their babies the same amount of affection and babies usually "bonded" as easily with their fathers as with their mothers.

The research was sponsored by four charities: Working with Men, Fathers Direct, National Family and Parenting Institute and Newpin Fathers Support Centre.

It is hoped the findings will stimulate debate on the role of fathers.

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