Cross-cultural research indicates that a father’s warmth plays an important part in a child’s long-term healthy development. Expressions of love and nurturance—such as verbal expressions of love, hugging, cuddling, comforting, praising, and playing—predicted healthy social, emotional, and cognitive development in children.

In one study, fathers who joined their toddler’s initiated play by adapting their play to the child’s abilities and emotional expressions positively affected secure internal models of attachment. Through play, fathers seemed to transfer a sense of confidence to their child as well as a sense of parental support. This internal sense of confidence and support is viewed as a building block that strengthens a child’s ability to master challenges later in life.

So what exactly constitutes paternal warmth? The research done in diverse cultures suggests it is time spent together and involves both quantity and quality. The amount of time fathers spent near infants and toddlers along with their expressions of care, concern, and affection are the keys.

This research, conducted in virtually all cultures and ethnic groups, clarifies the power of a father’s affection. Men who take time to nurture their children are making a difference to their children and the world.

More to consider: A father’s play . . .

Fathers are more likely than mothers to engage in arousing physical play with bursts of excitement. This kind of play—with stimulation and surprise increasing as the play progresses—may help babies prepare to approach new situations more confidently.