Men who hold fond childhood memories of their father are better able to cope with the day-to-day stresses of life, according to a new study.
“The message is that father-son relationships are incredibly powerful. When they’re healthy, it’s hugely protective for boys”, said Prof Melanie Mallers who led the research.
Prof Mallers, of California State University, commented: “Most studies on parenting focus on the relationship with the mother.
“But, as our study shows, fathers do play a unique and important role in the mental health of their children much later in life.”
Last July research published by New Scientist magazine suggested fathers and mothers each play a valuable but different role in a child’s emotional and social development.
In 2008 a University of Newcastle study found that children are likely to do better at school and in later life if their fathers take an active role in their upbringing.
Children whose fathers played and read with them had higher IQs and went on to achieve greater social status than those whose fathers had little involvement.
The latest study from California involved interviews with more than 900 men and women aged between 25 and 74.
Participants completed short daily interviews about their stress levels over eight days.
Researchers asked participants about the quality of the relationship they had with their parents as children.
Those reporting a poor relationship with parents also reported experiencing more day-to-day stress.
Conditions such as age, childhood and current family income were taken into account.
Prof Mallers, commenting specifically on the results regarding the relationship between sons and fathers, said more research was needed to form a concrete theory as to why the relationship had such an influence on their emotional reaction to stress.
She said: “The role of fathers has changed dramatically from the time the oldest participants were children.
“We do know that fathers have a unique style of interacting with their children, especially their sons.”
Prof Mallers presented the findings at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in San Diego.