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When we think about the father-child relationship, we often think about it regarding metrics: how affectionate is the father, does the father put in the time. However, these questions completely miss the mark when it comes to defining how important the father-child relationship truly is.

According to University of Delaware Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences, Rob Palkovitz, what is most important is the quality of the relationship “across time and contexts.” In return, what happens, is that we have fathers who are skilled, informed and enthusiastic, who raise children who grow up to be better-parented people.

Palkovitz says that when he is asked by men how they can be the best fathers, he always refers them to the ABC of fatherhood.

What is the ABC of Fatherhood?

A- is the affective climate. It is when your child feel supported, cared for and as though they can truly depend on their father.

B- is the father’s behaviors. This is where the father shows up for bath times, homework, games and puts in the work otherwise. Palkovitz says if the father is positively engaged in these areas, kids tend to be better in school, have better social relationships, and are far less likely to end up using drugs.

C- C stands for connection. This is how attuned a father is with his children, how well he can read his child, and how well a father understands his child.

When Palkovitz asks fathers what their biggest moments are with their kids, the ones in which they felt they truly shined, their response is almost always one that ties into the ABCs.

What is the effect this has on the present father?

Palkovitz writes, “Studies have demonstrated that involved fatherhood improves a man’s cognitive skills, health, and capacity for empathy. It builds his confidence and self-esteem while enhancing emotional regulation and expression.” Not only that, but fathers who are more interactive and present also are more prone to be able to control their anger, and these benefits carry into other relationships.

What is the effect on the child?

“When fathers are actively involved with their children, children do better,” explains Paul Amato, Ph.D, a sociologist whose work centers around the parent-child relationship. “There needs to be a minimum amount of time spent together, but the quality of time is more important than the quantity of time,” he continues. “Just watching television together, for example, isn’t going to help much.”

Quality time with kids results in happier, more secure children who are confident and less likely to make poor choices. Additionally, children who have truly present and caring fathers are less likely to end up with a substance abuse disorder or other mental illnesses rooted in emotional neglect.