The nuclear family has been one of the most iconic social institutions in our collective history; and this popular family structure, consisting of two parents and their children, is still widely acknowledged as being a beneficial environment for childhood development. Although the committed dyad remains to be an ideal parenting situation, due to societal and economic changes in recent decades, there has been significant transformation between the gender roles in parenting within our society. Fatherhood may no longer require a biological basis because of the current non-traditional roles that have been emerging in our culture, such as fathers who are divorced, unmarried or remarried, incarcerated, and men who stay at home as primary caregivers. I've found there is a considerable amount of research available regarding the positive affects of secure parental attachments and family life on childhood development, and yet much of the focus appears to be on the maternal role or the relationship between parents. Given that the father's role has changed quite a bit from older generations, this paper will discuss the influence a father may have in childhood development, both positive and negative outcomes.
Early theories proposed that a mother was biologically equipped to be a source of nurture and support for her children, suggesting that the mother's role as primary caregiver was essential to the wellbeing of the child (Feldman, 2010). While the mother's role is extremely important to a child's overall development, a study in Childhood Development found that roughly a third of the infant participants developed multiple relationships that could be considered primary attachments; additionally, most infants had been able to establish attachments to adults other than their mother by 18 months of age (Feldman, 2010). One such attachment could be found in the growing number of fathers who have begun to actively participate with child-rearing, as well as in families where the fathers have chosen to assume the primary caregiver role.