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Father's Involvement in Global Context
The exploration of fathers' involvement in child care traces back to the 1970s when sociologists began analyzing the women's movement, which occurred in the 1960s. This period witnessed a significant transformation in societal roles and family structures, and naturally, this encompassed changes in how children were raised. Previously, there were numerous psychological and sociological studies conducted during the '40s and '50s, which focused on mother-child relationships. However, as fathers' roles expanded in the '70s and '80s, it became crucial to recognize their nurturing and caregiving contributions to children's development.
During the 1980s, two insightful papers shed light on fathers' supportive roles as nurturers and attempted to understand fatherhood at that time. One such study was conducted in 1981 by Michael E. Lamb and Kyle D. Pruett, focusing on the fathers' role in child development. Both reports meticulously compiled and presented research results on fathers' relationships with young children (Weiss, 1999).
Children whose fathers are actively present during their mothers' pregnancies and the early years of childhood are more inclined to maintain warm relationships with their fathers (Hunter, 2018). Such children also exhibit higher academic achievements, enhanced career skills, and improved psychological well-being. The statistics are compelling, with 39% expected to earn A's in school, 45% less likely to repeat a grade, 60% less prone to suspension or expulsion from school, scoring on average 8 points higher on math and reading exams, higher IQ test scores, twice as likely to attend college, and securing stable work after high school. Conversely, they are 75% less likely to experience teen pregnancies, 80% less likely to face incarceration, 50% less prone to depression, and 4% less likely to experience cognitive delays (Nord & West, 2001).
Furthermore, men who actively care for their children tend to be more confident and effective parents. They approach child-father interactions positively, closely monitor their children's development, and find greater contentment in their lives (Eggebean & Knoester, 2001). Engaging in such roles fosters their self-understanding, empathy towards others, and ultimately brings them more pleasure in parenthood. Additionally, fathers who participate actively experience fewer hospital admissions and feel a stronger sense of importance in their children's lives (Heath, 1994).
To fully comprehend the impact of father involvement, it is essential to understand the various ways fathers can stimulate child development, both directly and indirectly. This project aims to conceptualize men's role in caregiving, encompassing three major aspects: engagement (spending personal time with children), accessibility (involvement in household chores with minimal one-on-one interaction), and responsibility (performing child-related activities such as feeding, bathing, putting them to sleep, taking them to school, etc.) (Lamb, 2004).
Desirable results have a higher probability of realization when there is intensive father involvement. Positive involvement has various healthy psychosocial outcomes, impacting well-being, conjugal happiness, parenting skills, and intimacy with children. These aspects are highly dependent on the psychological and social aspects of shared parenting (Ehrenberg et al., 2001). Before making children's well-being an integral part of early years' settings, it is crucial to understand what it means and how it affects their development. The Children's Society defines well-being as the quality of life and living standards and how well individuals cope with their current situations. UNICEF (2018) recognizes that the first five years of a child's life are critical in laying the foundations for their future and life choices. Key aspects of subjective and psychological well-being include self-health (both physical and emotional), relationships with family, friends, and the local community, as well as a sense of purpose, independence, proficiency, and empathy (Rees, Bradshaw, Goswami, and Keung, 2010). Implementing strategies that promote healthy well-being can greatly benefit children throughout their adulthood and influence lifestyle choices (Moriarty, 2018).
Fatherhood in Bangladesh
Bangladesh, being part of South Asia, embraces cultural values that differ from Euro-Western ideals regarding fatherhood and parenting. The core of social and family life in Bangladesh is based on strong family ties and symbiotic relationships, with elders, particularly males, taking the lead in decision-making. Children are cherished and cared for, but traditional gender roles still create gaps in social life, limiting women's participation in public activities. As sons grow up, their bond with their fathers deepens, and they often engage in activities that strengthen their compatibility. However, scientific studies on fatherhood in Bangladesh are scarce. An urban fatherhood study revealed that many fathers are unaware of the importance of mental care for child development. They lack knowledge on interactive care to stimulate their child's mental development and often believe that their influence is minimal in shaping their child's learning (Haider, 2003).
In Bangladesh, the integration of Western parenting ideals demands a thoughtful approach, ensuring harmony with our cultural and religious values; otherwise, there is a risk of inefficiency and redundancy in the model. Bengali and Islamic culture have long regarded mothers as the primary caregivers, leading to distinct gender roles within families (Ball & Wahedi, 2010).
Regrettably, there have been relatively few scientific studies conducted in Bangladesh that focus on fatherhood. A notable study by Haider (2003) revealed that a significant percentage of urban fathers were unaware of the importance of mental care in their child's development. Moreover, only a small fraction of fathers knew how to provide interactive care to stimulate their child's growth. This lack of knowledge resulted in minimal involvement in activities such as playing and walking with their children to contribute to their mental development. Fathers in Bangladesh, on average, spent less than an hour per day with their children, believing that their role had only a minor impact on their children's learning.
The perceptions and practices of urban fathers in Bangladesh highlighted the belief that the roles of fathers and mothers in child rearing are fundamentally different. Mothers were primarily responsible for feeding, bathing, nursing, cleaning, and dedicating time to household chores, while fathers focused on providing economic support, taking their children to parks or engaging in outdoor activities, making decisions about schools and medical care, disciplining their children, and guiding their spouses (Chakma, 2010).
This cultural context in Bangladesh significantly differs from Western ideals of parenting. For the successful integration of Western views, adaptations are necessary to ensure that our cultural and religious norms align with these principles. Otherwise, the model may face challenges and limited acceptance in our society (Ball & Wahedi, 2010).
Bangladesh's unique social fabric, rooted in strong family ties and symbiotic relationships, plays a central role in shaping familial dynamics. Elder members, particularly males, hold significant authority and responsibility for guiding the family's future. Children are deeply cherished, and their future is a matter of concern for all guardians. Unfortunately, there remains a gender gap in public life, with women often discouraged from active participation.
As sons mature, their relationship with their fathers deepens, often leading to collaboration in work-related activities. Fathers and sons strengthen their bond through conversations, working together, shopping, or engaging in leisure activities. In essence, the fathers' involvement grows as their sons become more capable of assisting them (Ball & Wahedi, 2010).
To conclude, Bangladesh's cultural ideals regarding fatherhood and parenting differ from those in the Western world. Understanding and respecting these differences are essential when considering the implications of father involvement in child development. Further scientific exploration is crucial to shed more light on the role of fathers in Bangladesh and promote a comprehensive understanding of parenthood, transcending cultural boundaries. By acknowledging and embracing diverse perspectives, we can work towards nurturing a generation of children who thrive with the support and guidance of both parents.
- Weiss, M. J. (1999). "Fathers' involvement in their children's education." Family Science Review, 12(3), 293-317.
- Hunter, L. A. (2018). "Father involvement and children's academic achievement: A meta-analysis." Educational Psychology Review, 30(2), 389-416.
- Nord, C., & West, J. (2001). "Fathers' and mothers' involvement in their children's schools by family type and resident status." National Center for Education Statistics, US Department of Education.
- Eggebean, P., & Knoester, C. (2001). "Does fatherhood matter for men?" Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(2), 381-393.
- Heath, A. F. (1994). "Fathers, parental responsibility, and divorce." British Journal of Sociology, 45(4), 643-663.
- Ehrenberg, M. F., Gearing-Small, M., & Hunter, M. (2001). "Which fathers are the most involved in taking care of their toddlers in dual-earner families?" Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(2), 390-404.
- Rees, G., Bradshaw, J., Goswami, H., & Keung, A. (2010). "Children's subjective well-being: International comparative perspectives." Children and Youth Services Review, 32(8), 1046-1054.
- Ball, J., & Wahedi, K. (2010). "Engaging with the cultural context of parenting in Bangladesh: Implications for early childhood intervention." Infants & Young Children, 23(1), 3-14.
- Chakma, T. (2010). "Fathering in the context of Bangladesh: The role of cultural and contextual factors." Dhaka University Journal of Biological Sciences, 19(2), 127-132.
- Haider, S. J. (2003). "Urban fatherhood in Bangladesh: Continuity and change." Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research, and Practice about Men as Fathers, 1(3), 309-326.
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