While child care was traditionally seen as women's work, fathers play a vital role when it comes to effective early childhood development as well. This is all the more true as a growing share of America's families rely on mothers in the workforce. In Shelby County, for example, close to sixty percent of mothers of infants (babies under a year of age) are in the work force (American Community Survey, 2007).
There is no doubt that children can thrive in a wide variety of family types and situations. However, active involvement of a devoted father offers infants and toddlers an exceptional source of the caring interplay and stimulation that feeds the developing brain. In fact, careful scientific studies have found that high-quality, active fatherhood is good for young children - it can lead to improved child mental health, better coping skills and even higher academic achievement (Hoffman, 2008).
In our community, many children cannot count on regular access to their fathers, leaving these children without an important input to healthy early brain development.
Fast Facts (www.kidscount.org):
- From 2002 to 2006, the number of births to unmarried Shelby County women increased by thirteen percent.
- In the city of Memphis, 52% of children are being raised by single mothers. Only 36% of children reside in a married couple household (2007).
-Support and encourage the active and regular involvement of fathers in the lives of their children. (This is the goal of programs such as Parents' Fair Share and Father/Male Involvement Preschool Teacher Education Program). Both programs provide family support and parent education during early childhood.
For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, please visit The Urban Child Institute and The State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County: Data Book.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT Data Center, www.kidscount.org.
Hoffman, J. (2008). Daddy I need you: A father's guide to early brain development. Father Involvement Initiative- Ontario Network.