A father's love is as crucial as a mother's in the development of a child's personality, the results of a new study show just in time for Father's Day.
According to an article in the Daily Mail, researchers reviewed the cases of 10 000 children and noted the damaging effects an unloving or cold father could have on children. They concluded that a child’s loving relationship with a father is just as important as the relationship with the mother for their healthy development.
Published in the Personality and Social Psychology Review, both children and adults were asked how loving their parents were, and were asked to rate statements relating to their personality such as, "I think about fighting or being mean" or "I think the world is a good, happy place".
The study found that feeling unloved by a father made children feel particularly rejected, and it concluded that childhood rejection has a "strong and consistent effect on personality and development".
These feelings of rejection carried over into adulthood, resulting in aggressive, insecure, hostile and anxious grownups.
Lead researcher Professor Ronald Rohner explained: "Children and adults everywhere – regardless of race, culture, and gender – tend to respond in exactly the same way when they perceived themselves to be rejected.
"Unlike physical pain, however, people can psychologically relive the emotional pain of rejection over and over for years."
Rohner warned that these feelings of insecurity and anxiousness could lead to a low self-esteem and in turn could negatively affect future social and romantic relationships.
His research shows a father’s input is particularly important, and can influence if a child later drinks to excess, takes drugs or suffers mental health problems.
Rohner says he hoped these findings would encourage fathers to play a more active and loving roles.
"In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother," he said.
"And that dads are there as support for the mother and to support the family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children.
"But that belief is fundamentally wrong. We have to start getting away from that idea and realise the dad’s influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother’s."