Berny Unruh: Fathers and kids connecting

Berny Unruh
Berny Unruh

Do you think Dads across Kansas got more neckties, shirts, or socks for Father’s Day? If we stood on the street corner and asked each Dad what they would most appreciate from their family, I believe that most would just love some time with their children.

There have been many studies over the years with mothers and their relationship with their children. Fewer studies have been completed with fathers. Let me share the findings from a study at the University of Georgia.

For this study, Geoffrey Brown, assistant professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and his colleagues worked with 80 father-child pairs when the children were about 3 years old. The team conducted interviews and observed father-child interaction in the home, shooting video that was evaluated off site and assigned a score indicating attachment security.

“Fathers who make the choice to devote their time on non-workdays to engaging with their children directly seem to be developing the best relationships,” said Brown. “And on those non-workdays, pursuing activities that are child centered, or fun for the child, seems to be the best predictor of a good father-child relationship.”

“However, fathers who spend lots of time helping out with child care-related tasks on workdays are developing the best relationships with their children. And men who engage in high levels of play with their children on workdays actually have a slightly less secure attachment relationship with them.”

“Relying too much on play during workdays, when your child/partner needs you to help out with caregiving, could be problematic. But play seems more important when there’s more time and less pressure. Ultimately, fathers who engage in a variety of parenting behaviors and adjust their parenting to suit the demands and circumstances of each individual day are probably most likely to develop secure relationships with their children,” said Brown.

All research studies aside, it makes sense that children will flourish if they have the opportunity to build a strong relationship with their father. Setting aside time to share child care responsibilities with a partner will also help build strong family relationships. Happy Father’s Day!

Berny Unruh is the Family and Community Wellness Agent for the Cottonwood Extension District.  She can be reached at 785-628-9430 or at