Studies show involved fathers have positive effect

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Studies show involved fathers have positive effect

Jung Dae-geun, 38, is the best friend to his three young children, ages 5, 7 and 9. Each day they wait for their father to return home and think up new games to play with him.

For a few hours daily, he plays and has conversations with them. He also bathes them and puts them to bed, and even participates in the school steering committee at his son’s elementary school.

“My children even tell me their secrets that they don’t tell anyone else,” he boasted.

But three years ago, Jung was a busy, tired father like many others. A huge fan of baseball, he used to lie on a sofa and watch the games when he was home. “Then one day, I was shocked to see my children sitting there watching TV as blankly as I did,” he said. “I started to worry that my carelessness could spoil my children.”

After realizing that he should take more interest in their lives, he threw out his TV and attempted to focus more on his daughter and sons. When he had a lot of work to do, he would put his children to sleep first and then return to his tasks.

“I think my daughter and sons have become more active, stable and confident since I started participating more in childcare,” Jung said.

Experts on child education would agree. And fathers who put more effort into childcare, they say, can have an overall positive effect on their children’s development.

According to a five-year panel study on 1,505 Korean children born in 2008 conducted by the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education (KICCE), the more fathers participate in childcare, the more their children show pro-social behavior and engage in positive social interactions.

Children whose fathers are more active in childcare also tended to express their thoughts more efficiently, have higher concentration rates and lower rates of anxiety, depression, anxiety and aggression.

“Mothers and fathers give different stimuli to their children. While mothers tend to use more emotional words and play emotional and linguistic games with their children, fathers tend to use logical words and play more physical, active games with their children,” said Lee Young-hwan, a child education professor at Chonbuk National University. “Children who are influenced by both, therefore, tend to develop in a balanced way.”

But many Korean fathers already know their efforts can have a positive influence on their children and want to participate more in childcare.

According to a survey by the JoongAng Ilbo, conducted Aug. 2 to 4, which targeted 500 working fathers with children younger than 12 years old, 98.4 percent answered that fathers should put more time into childcare.

Additionally, more than half, 58.9 percent, also said fathers could have a positive influence on their children when asked to explain their reasons.

Yet, nearly half of respondents, or 48 percent, answered that their wives take on all the childcare responsibilities, which stands in stark contrast to their thoughts.

They added that they spend two hours total during the week with their children, and 10 hours total when weekend time is factored in.

Notably, 86 percent of the 500 respondents attributed long working hours as the primary reason for their lack of participation in child-rearing.

Two years ago, 37-year-old Yoo Hyun-soo appeared to be like any of the fathers in the survey. He felt uncomfortable around his two daughters, and most of the childcare was done by his wife. “I began to feel this sense of crisis because my children were standoffish toward me,” he said.

Since then, he has started spending more time with his children, taking them to day care in the morning and making more of an effort to have a better relationship with his daughters.

Each morning, he tells them he loves them, and often takes them around town in his spare time.

“My daughters used to scream and cry whenever I told them not to do something,” he said. “But now they’ve stopped crying. I was surprised to see that such a small devotion resulted in such big changes in my children.”

According to Do Nam-hee, a KICCE researcher, the longer fathers spend with their kids, the more impact it has. “Small efforts, like driving their children to day care or schools, reading books out loud to them and hugging them are enough for children to feel paternal love,” Do said.

BY LEE ESTHER, KIM DA-HYE [koo.yurim@joongang.co.kr]

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