Children with fathers in their lives are less likely to commit suicide, engage in early sexual activity or abuse alcohol and drugs.
This is the view of two internationally renowned parenting experts visiting Tauranga. They say it's backed up by research.
Ian Grant, one of New Zealand's foremost family advocates, told the Bay of Plenty Times that fathers needed to acknowledge their children.
"A child needs to be seen by its dad. If a rugby-playing father has two sons, one a rugby player and the other a musician, that second child needs to feel just as valued. If he doesn't, he will go looking for that attention elsewhere and that leads to issues with drugs, alcohol and sex. Each child needs to be seen as unique.
"For girls, they get their self-esteem from their dad and learn to take calculated risks. You only succeed in life by taking risks. If girls don't have a dad around, they end up taking stupid risks."
Mr Grant - who presented Fathers Who Dare Win at Tauranga's Trinity Anglican Church on Saturday - said much research supported the standpoint.
The US Department of Health and Human Services stated 63 per cent of teen suicides came from fatherless homes. Its Survey on Child Health concluded: "Fatherless children are at a dramatically greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, poor educational performance, teen pregnancy, and criminality."
The US Department of Justice said 90 per cent of all runaways and homeless children were from fatherless homes.
Speaking alongside Mr Grant is American psychiatrist, neuroscientist and author, Dr Curt Thompson. He said the role of fathers had an enormous societal impact.
"We're not just talking about better relationships in the household, it goes way beyond that. It impacts on a child's future personal relationships, business practices, their attitudes generally.
"It has huge cultural implications for 20, 30 years down the line."
Behavioural outcomes often stemmed from a desire for recognition.
"We talk about initiation. A child comes out of its mother's womb looking for someone that is looking for them. Mothers are biologically inclined to do that, but fathers are less so.
"There is a longing in all of us for someone to pursue us who has a choice in the matter. If a father initiates that, it is hugely important for a child."
Dr Thompson, a father of two, said he had learned these lessons through personal experience. "I'm a pretty selfish guy, really. I'd rather be off riding my bike or reading my book, but I learned over the years the pay off of this: the benefits of initiating this sort of interaction with my own children."
Father factor highlighted
Having a father around helps children form better future relationships, says Mike Faulkner, a 43-year-old software developer from Tauranga.
"The way the father treats the mother impacts on the way a son will go on to treat girls in relationships.
"With girls, if they haven't had a father in their life they tend to go through more relationships earlier on in their lives. They seek that male attention they haven't had and in the wrong way by starting to date earlier."
Mr Faulkner, who has a 10-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter, split from the children's mother in 2003.
They enjoy an amicable relationship with 50/50 access and he says his children have benefited.
"We had some emotional issues with the youngest in the beginning and it took a number of years to overcome that.
He was very young at the time of the split."
A mix of parenting styles was important for all children said Mr Faulkner. "Fathers bring a different role to parenting than mothers.
"Mothers are more nurturing, more emotional, whereas fathers can give better boundaries. Children can sometimes get away with things with a mother, when a 'no' might not really mean 'no'.
But if a father says it, it's something about the tone. They tend to listen more and understand it means 'no'. One parent is not more important than the other. Children are better for having both involved."
Sheila Ewart is a trustee at Kidz Need Dadz Tauranga, which has been supporting fathers in the area since September 2007. The organisation runs a small refuge in Fraser St, Tauranga.
"There are a lot of statistics and studies backing up the fact that children do better with fathers around," she said.
"Even if a father is around 50 per cent of the time it's better than nothing. It's hard to overstate how important fathers are in children's lives and I don't believe a lot of women understand that sometimes."
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