In this article, we explore the different kinds of fathers, the important role they have in our lives and why we must celebrate them.
As there are hundreds of trees, there are fathers in greater numbers. We sometimes feel the need to categorise. With trees, there are either deciduous – that is hardwoods that typically shed their leaves in autumn (like oak, elm and willow) or coniferous, mostly evergreens that have greenery year-round (like pine, spruce and cedar).
Placing fathers in categories is trickier. Based on your own experiences, you could choose from 'good', 'bad', 'ugly' or 'meh' categories.
What kind of Dad are you? What kind of Dad do / did you have?For some people, fatherhood is seen as two sides of a coin -- either on the one hand you have the responsible, thoughtful, nurturing, affectionate, interactive, sharing, providing dad; or you have the divorced, addicted, distant, critical, rejecting, neglecting, unfaithful, seductive, abandoner, deceased, taken or narcissistic dad.
As modern families evolve, even sociologists find it challenging to put fathers into boxes, with fascinating titles based on whether they are biological or not, and their levels of motivation:
- Motivated biofathers, who are biological fathers and are also committed to social relationships with their children.
- Unmotivated biofathers (also called deadbeat dads), who participate little or not at all.
- Motivated non-biofathers such as stepfathers, foster, adoptive fathers, same sex fathers who play an active role in caring.
- Unmotivated non-biofathers who are in romantic relationships with mothers, but who do little childcare.
Furthermore categories of fathers can be found on a continuum between breadwinner and caregiver, and so there are:
- Provider Dads who perform the traditional male role of being primary breadwinners, do not actively interact with their children take parental direction from the caregiver, who is not working or is working part-time; while
- Super-Sub Dads are primary breadwinners, but with a more care-giving mindset at home, being equal care-givers outside of working hours, and willingly take on more traditional female tasks. Finally there are
- Carer Dads, the primary caregivers with a partner working full-time or part-time, and they like staying at home with the children and see themselves as pro-active and hands-on.
Why are fathers so important?
There may be little value in splitting hairs over categories of fathers. Just as different types of trees have different strengths and benefits under different conditions, so do different types of fathers. Deciduous trees shade your home in the summer and let sunlight filter through their bare branches during the winter to warm your home after they drop their leaves, while evergreen trees shade your home in the summer and provide a windscreen to block harsh winter breezes as well as act as a privacy fence to block unwanted views.
It's clear from research that fathers matter: father figures and fathers have a crucial role to play in children's emotional development, and children need fathers - just as they need mothers - to love them, be interested in them, and respond to their needs, making them feel valuable and understood.
Furthermore, fathers matter because they are important to their partners, and can model healthy relationships for their children. Children take on board their parents’ relationship, so the success or failure of their own future relationships will be deeply influenced by how their parents manage things.
As Gregory E. Lang in his book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, puts it: "A daughter needs a dad to be the standard against which she will judge all men.”
Let's celebrate fathers
Some fathers are like oaks - steady, strong, durable, and others not quite so. They like us need some encouragement, reassurance and replenishing from time to time.
Whatever type of Dad you are, have or have had, where possible, let's celebrate the strengths of Dads, and allow ourselves to forgive where we need to.
Association of Child Psychotherapists (2020) Fathers - Understanding the Vital Role That Fathers, & Father Figures, Play in Children’s Emotional Development
Fransozo E. (2018) Types of Damaging Fathers and How They Influence Who We Are
Lewis C. and Lamb M. (2007) Understanding fatherhood A review of recent research. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Nickelodeon (2017) Wait Until Your Father Gets Home
Robles M. (2020) Peace Corps Volunteer Story
Support for Fathers (2021) Seven types of Dad