However the authors point out that it is not possible to conclude what type of engagement the father figure needs to provide to produce positive effects.
The studies show that it can range from talking and sharing activities to playing an active role in the childs day-to-day care.
The researchers believe that more research is needed to determine whether the outcomes are different depending on whether the child lives with their biological father or with another father figure.
However, our review backs up the intuitive assumption that engaged biological fathers or father figures are good for children, especially when the children are socially or economically disadvantaged says Dr Sarkadi.
Children who lived with both a mother and father figure had less behavioural problems than those who lived with just their mother. However, it is not possible to tell whether this is because the father figure is more involved or whether the mother is able to be a better parent if she has more support at home.
The researchers feel that it is important that professionals who work with young children and their families explore how actively fathers are involved with their children from an early age.
Involving them in healthcare visits and explicitly seeking their opinions when making decisions could be a good way to promote high levels of engagement says Dr Sarkadi. Stressing that fathers have an important role in promoting their childs social and emotional development is another good strategy.
Governments and employers also have an important role to play in ensuring that men can spend quality time with their offspring, stress the authors.
Public policy has the potential to facilitate or create barriers to fathers spending time with their children during the crucial years of early development says Dr Sarkadi.
Unfortunately current institutional policies in most coun
|Contact: Annette Whibley|
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.