The study found that fathers from low-income families support their teenagers in ways that result in greater optimism, self-efficacy, and, ultimately, higher achievement at school.
This is even true for men with low levels of education or those who were not proficient enough in English to help their children with their homework.
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“Low-income fathers affect their adolescents’ beliefs about themselves and their future, and these beliefs influence their achievement by increasing their determination…,” said Marie-Anne Suizzo from the University of Texas in the US.
These positive effects extend to both sons and daughters, albeit in different ways, the study said.
Experiencing their father’s warmth first influences daughters’ sense of optimism and then spills over into their feeling more determined and certain about their academic abilities. This in turn leads to better math grades.
There is a more direct link between the father’s involvement and teenage boy’s belief in their ability to succeed on the academic front.
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Fathers’ involvement with teenage boys’ belief in their ability to succeed on the academic front, results in heightened self-confidence and their success in English language, arts classes, the researchers explained.
Counselors and educators should encourage fathers to communicate warmth and acceptance to their children, because of the positive influence these emotions have on their well-being, Suizzo suggested.
In the study, published in the journal Sex Roles, the team analysed 183 sixth-graders from low-income, ethnic minority families. They asked about how optimistic and motivated they were about their schoolwork, and how their experiences were with their fathers.