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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

What Kind of Father Are You?

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Oct 23rd 2006

The University of Cincinatti recently completed and published a study having to do with the influence of the father on their son's behavior once the sons became adult. The study found a direct connection between male children observing and/or experiencing abuse at the hands of the father and themselves becoming abusive with their wives and children. While there is nothing new about this finding what is significant about the study is what was learned about male adults and their attitudes and memories about fathers who were not abusive.

Those sons who did not experience or witness abusive behavior on the part of either parent reported having warm and friendly relationships with their father. The father was reported as being supportive and encouraging. These adult sons stated that their fathers expressed feelings of love very easily. They were not aloof, cold, indifferent or violent.

The article concluded that men who come from abusive families need to learn about abuse and how to end abuse that moves from one generation to the next.

I certainly agree with this conclusion but wish to expand on it to include all men, whether or not they came from abusive families. The fact is that, in American culture, men are encouraged to hide their emotions and to be strong, aggressive and assertive. Expressing emotion continues to be viewed as weak and female. Little boys are taught by both mothers and fathers that real men do not cry. Instead, values about masculinity are taught through Middle and High School football, Ice Hockey, Wrestling, Boxing and other competitive and aggressive sports. While these activities are important, it would seem that there is little or no room for boys to learn how to be good husbands and fathers. The only exception is if these boys had the good fortune to grow up in very stable, steady and intact households. With more than a fifty percent rate of divorce in the United States, few children experience anything like ideal parenting. How will boys learn to be good family men and parents?

I was recently in a restaurant on a Saturday night when a young woman with a baby in a portable carrier walked past our table. It was pointed out that it was not a real baby but a robotic and computerized artificial baby. The young woman was a High School Student. Today, there are many schools that provide classes for girls on how to mother babies. In many of these schools, digital dolls are programmed to behave like real babies. The girls take this home and are responsible for them in the same way as if they were living babies. These infant type computers record everything the student is doing. This is a useful exercise for teenage girls who, in the future, will be raising real babies. Are there any similar classes for boys to learn how to be husbands and fathers?

It is my suggestion that the High Schools offer classes to teenage boys and girls designed to teach parenting and married life. Classes need to be mixed; other wise classes made up of boys alone will not be taken seriously. In defense of their masculinity, boys are likely to joke and negate any such class. The same boys, in the company of girls, will behave very differently.

For those of us who are already in the role of father there are several questions that you must ask yourself:

1. Do you easily lose your temper with your wife and child?

2. Are you a patient person who tries to understand?

3. Do you spend quality time with your family?

4. Do you spend quality time with your children:

5. Do you go comping with them,

6. Do you play sports with them,

7. Do you go to open school night for parents?

8. Do you take an interest in their schooling and homework?

9. Do you insist on being strict instead of being warm and understanding?

10. Do you do all the talking or do you take time to listen to your children and to your wife?

11. Were you and/or your mother and siblings abused when you were a child?

What is your opinion about this issue and what have your experiences been like. Readers are encouraged to respond.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

Reader Comments
Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

I've been Abuse my whole Life - Mar - Aug 18th 2010

I've been abuse sexualy phisically and emotionaly also.

Sexually is the worst thing can happened to a little 6 years old girl.

phisically and emotionally  by my grandmother, her daughter  and my just right now ex boyfriend.

Being told such a nasty words and hit anytime they want, treated me like their servant and my exboyfriend hitting me when he knew I was pregnant.

I have a history of abuse: My mom was abuse phisically and emotionally by my dad, she would go away she tried too but then she came back because of us. I just wished my mom left my dad  when my first brother was born, so I wouldn't be born.

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