Findings: Fathers make teens happy

April 18, 2003

Adolescents feel that paternal involvement during their turbulent teenage years has a more positive effect on their happiness than maternal involvement, according to Oxford University researchers, writes Natasha Gilbert.

Eirini Flouri and Ann Buchanan of Oxford's department of social policy and social work studied 2,722 British adolescents aged between 14 and 18 to see if active input from father figures could protect against low levels of wellbeing.

They found that teenagers felt their happiness depended more strongly on their fathers rather than their mothers spending time with and talking to them, showing interest in their school work and helping them plan for the future.

Dr Flouri said that this effect did not depend on whether the father figure was biological or social.

"Both mothers and fathers play a significant factor in teenagers' lives," Dr Flouri told The THES . "But it seems that fathers may be more important."

She said that protective and authoritative father figures might make growing adolescents feel more secure. However, an alternate effect may be seen for different age groups.

The study says that disruption of the family unit does not weaken the association between the father's involvement and teenage happiness. It also says the link is not stronger for sons than for daughters - contrary to previous assumptions.

The researchers said that it was not clear from this study whether father figures caused the happiness or if happy adolescents elicited higher levels of involvement from fathers.

The findings are published in The British Journal of Social Work .

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