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Can you stick with a task? On Father's Day, you might thank Dad

June 16, 2012|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / For the Booster Shots blog
  • Researchers at Brigham Young University found that fathers' parenting style was associated with persistence in kids.
Researchers at Brigham Young University found that fathers' parenting… (Jaren Wilkey / BYU )

Often, Father's Day finds children -- adult and younger -- reflecting on fatherly talents such as hot dog-grilling, tent-pitching and ball-throwing.

But psychologist Laura Padilla-Walker and colleagues at Brigham Young University in Orem, Utah, suggest that a more important debt we owe Dad might have little to do with barbecues on a Sunday and a lot to do with persistence: learning how to tough it out when things get rough.

In a multiyear study of more than 300 families, the researchers sifted through self-reported data and found that an "authoritative" style of parenting in fathers -- in which they "listen to their children, have a close relationship, set appropriate rules, but also grant appropriate freedoms," as Walker put it in an email -- was significantly associated with persistence in their adolescent children. 

Mothers' parenting was not.

"These findings suggest that persistence may be another behavior that is more clearly influenced by fathers than it is by mothers, and indeed, may be one of the mechanisms through which fathers help to protect their children,” the team wrote, in a study describing the research released Friday in the Journal of Early Adolescence.

They also found that persistence was negatively related to delinquency -- that is, kids who had the ability to stick with a task, even when it was hard, were less likely to get into trouble down the road.

“This study joins a growing body of research suggesting that fathers are uniquely important for things like self-regulation and the avoidance of behaviors like delinquency,” Walker said in an email.

The research shows that "First, fathers matter," she continued.  “Second, persistence is an important character trait to teach to our children.... We focus so often on things like genetic intelligence that I think it’s refreshing to be reminded that good old-fashioned ‘sticking with it’ is really important too.”

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