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An involved dad makes a difference

A father's interest in his children's schooling is a better predictor of educational success than poverty levels, research suggests.

Analysis of 40 separate studies also finds that low paternal interest is one of the greatest barriers to doing well at school.

UK think tank the Fatherhood Institute discovered several "reliable studies" showing that pupils did better in exams, enjoyed school more and behaved better, if their fathers showed a strong interest in their learning.

"And these outcomes do not derive from the school-involved fathers already being richer or better educated," it states in a report. "Whatever the father's socio-economic level, his high involvement paid off."

One "high-quality" study by the London-based National Family and Parenting Institute pinpointed a father's interest in his child's education as one of the most important factors determining the qualifications he or she would gain - more than family background, the child's personality, or poverty.

"It may well be that the time fathers actually spend with their children on homework and schooling could be more important for their eventual success than the money they bring into the household," the report states.

Similarly, low paternal interest in children's education, data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows, has a more negative impact on qualifications than poverty, family type, social class, housing tenure, personality and contact with the police.

The institute stresses the variable quality of the studies, but other findings include: a "significant relationship" between "positive father engagement" at age six, and IQ and educational achievement at seven; frequency of fathers' reading to children aged one and two leading to greater interest in books later in life; and a correlation between English fathers' involvement with children at ages seven and 11 and exam performance at 16.

American research, published by the National Center for Fathering in 2009, found that fathers had become more involved with their children's education in the previous 10 years, but no such longitudinal data exists in the UK.

A 2007 survey of 177 men in South Lanarkshire, however, did show high levels of involvement: 86 per cent read with their children at home and 60 per cent frequently helped with homework. Only 3 per cent rarely or never read their child's school reports, and 12 per cent rarely or never attended school shows.

The Fatherhood Institute, which published the findings on its website last month, took part in a Children in Scotland event on fatherhood in Glasgow last week. A similar event will be held in Aberdeen on March 9.


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