Straddling the fence between childhood and adulthood has never been easy. As the world around them becomes increasingly complex, teenagers continue to need guidance and support from both parents. Studies show that teens who have an active relationship with their fathers are less likely to involve themselves in risky behaviors, are more likely to succeed in school and tend to have higher self esteem.
It's not unusual for teens with absentee fathers to wonder whether it was something they did, or some way in which they are at fault, that caused their fathers' absence in their lives, while studies routinely show that teenagers whose fathers spend time with them tend to have higher self esteem. Ann Crouter, Dean of Health and Human Development at Penn State University, speculates that teens with involved fathers "may develop higher general self-worth because their fathers go beyond social expectations to devote undivided attention to them."
Peer pressure has always been a big part of the teen experience. Even the best father can't completely protect their kids from the growing influence of their peer group. However, studies show that teenagers whose fathers are engaged in their lives are more likely to resist the more harmful effects of peer pressure, such as drug abuse, risky sexual behaviors, gang involvement and criminal activity.
Teens may not like to admit it, but they look up to their parents and are likely to follow their example. The teenage years are a time of transition, when kids are beginning to make decisions that will have a lasting effect on their lives. Among other things, they are beginning to explore romantic relationships. Teenage boys will often treat girls similar to the way they've observed dad treating mom. Teenage girls' expectations about how they should be treated may also stem from watching their father's treatment of women.
Teenagers face a lot of tough choices, especially in their later teens. Fathers don't get to make those choices for them, but they can be influential. For example, teenagers can benefit greatly from their parents' input on what to do when they finish high school. Should they go directly to college and, if so, where? Should they consider trade schools, the military or looking for a job? A father's guidance brings a long term perspective that teens often lack to these important decisions.
- Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images