NUMBER 583• 2 SEPTEMBER • THE IMPORTANCE OF FATHERS
Whilst professional practice and many of the assumptions on which it is based fail to properly engage with men, there is an increasing recognition of the role dads play in child rearing (Lamb, 1997). Burgess (1997) describes a range of benefits to children of positive paternal involvement in families, including better educational achievement. A boys distance from his father can cause or aggravate any behavioral problems he might display (Pleck, 1996) . Indeed, the importance of men in raising boys is seen to be important in the growing literature highlighting concern about the difficulties growing up faced by boys. (e.g., Bidduiph, 1997, Gurian, 1999, Pollack, 1999) . The symbolic importance of fatherhood is also acknowledged (e.g., McXeown, Ferguson, & Rooney, 1997. This may be particularly important during adolescence when children will need a realistic image of their dad to come to terms with their own identity (Daniel & Taylor, 2001). The intergenerational dimension emerged powerfully in our own research. These men stressed the importance of their own fathers, however imperfect they might have been, in facilitating their rites of passage to adulthood (Cavanagh & Smith, 2001). Several of the young men in our second study in particular defined their approach to fatherhood in contrast to their own experiences of being fathered. The hope of one was "To be a better dad than my own." Another said, "Didn’t want to be like my dad and didn’t want to get married because it just caused upset and unhappiness." He said relationships were about using people, and it was better to use and not get hurt rather than trust anyone.
A strong message is that young men need to be provided with positive yet realistic images of what it is to be a dad. For many of those interviewed, the images they did have were based upon negative impressions of their own experiences growing up. The oft- repeated desire to be a better dad than their own may be laudable, but it may not have much substance to it unless based on real rather than idealized alternatives.
Smith, M. (2004) What about the Dads? Issues and Possibilities of Working with Men from a Child and Youth Care Perspective. In Garfat, T. F. (Editor) A Child and Youth Care Approach to Working with Families (2004). NY: The Haworth Press
Lamb, M. E. (1997). Fathers and child development: An introductory overview and guide. In Lamb, M. E. (Ed.). The role of the father in child development (3rd ed., pp. 1-18). New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Burgess, A. (1997) Fatherhood reclaimed; the making of the modern father. London: Vermillion.
Pleck, J. H. (1996) Paternal involvement: levels, sources and consequences. In M. E. Lamb (Ed.), The role of the father in child development. New York: Wiley.
Biddulph, S. (1998) Raising boys. London: Thorsons.
Gurian, M. (1999). A fine young man: what parents, mentors and educators can do to shape adolescent boys into exceptional men. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putman
Pollack, W. (1999). Real boys: rescuing our sons from the myths of boyhood. New York: Henry Hold.
McKeown, K., Ferguson, H., & Rooney, D. (1998). Changing fathers? fatherhood and family life in modern Ireland. Cork: Collins.
Daniel, B., & Taylor, D. (2001). Engaging with fathers. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Cavanagh, B., & S,otj, M. (2001), “Dad's the word” Edinburgh: Family Service Unit.