“Maternal and child health programs and professionals have become increasingly more cognizant of how fathers, specifically, affect their children’s health and development,” says NICHQ President and CEO Scott D. Berns, MD, MPH, FAAP. “Moving this conversation forward, and highlighting strategies that support father engagement and involvement, is a critical opportunity to improve children’s health outcomes in the decades to come. This is not because fathers matter more than any other primary caregiver; rather, it is because they do matter but there are barriers getting in the way of their involvement—barriers that can be overcome.”
Evidence demonstrates that fathers play a critical role in children’s health and development, beginning in the prenatal period and continuing through early childhood and adolescence. When fathers are involved during pregnancy, mothers are 1.5 times more likely to receive prenatal care in the first trimester, which has positive implications for both maternal and infant health. During infancy, fathers can support mothers in breastfeeding and in following safe sleep guidelines, both of which can reduce infant deaths. Fathers also play an important role in supporting children during early childhood, in terms of executive function and social emotional development. And during adolescence, father involvement translates to better outcomes in school and a reduced risk of teen pregnancies.