Skip Navigation

The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families


Society has slowly acknowledged fathers' unique, vital contributions to child development. An infant only eight weeks old can tell whether a male or female is interacting with them. This diversity alone gives children a broader, richer experience than children raised by one gender. Generally, mothers and fathers parent differently so consider the information below as generally accepted by child development experts, realizing exceptions can and do occur.

Fathers play differently.

Mothers cuddle babies while fathers bounce them. Fathers roughhouse within limits while mothers soothe. One style encourages independence, the other security.

Fathers push limits.

Fathers encourage children to take risks. Mothers protect and exercise caution. Together, they balance out and help children remain safe while building confidence.

Fathers communicate differently.

Mothers use simple words and effectively speak on the children's level. Fathers challenge a child to expand his vocabulary and linguistic skills, vital to academic success. Child will experience both styles in life.

Fathers discipline differently.

Educational psychologist Carol Gilligan points out that fathers stress justice, fairness, and duty teaching objectivity and consequences, while mothers stress sympathy, care, and help. To exercise one over the other is not enough; using them together creates a healthy, proper balance.

Fathers prepare children for real life.

Most mothers primarily see the outside world as potentially harmful to their children and want to shelter them (i.e. accidents). Fathers focus on preparation for the world's harshness and the consequences evoked by displaying certain attitudes and behaviors. Developing both views is necessary.

Fathers teach respect for women.

Girls growing up with positive, involved dads are more likely to develop healthier relationship with boys in adolescence and men in adulthood. Having witnessed and experienced proper behavior from men in their lives helps young women build emotional security and protects against predatory males. Fathers also help weed out bad candidates for suitors and potential husbands. Boys raised with fathers are more likely to be good husbands if they emulate their fathers' successes and learn from their failures.

Adapted from Palmetto Family Council "How Daddies Make a Difference: The unique Contributes of Fathers to Proper Child Development" Palmetto Perspective November 1999