Fathers play a decisive role in the development of their children but particularly a son.
A father is equally important to sons and daughters, but for a boy the father is his first male role model – and may be the only adult male present in his life for some time. Almost all children grow up among women, first their own mothers and then from kindergarten through primary school where female teachers are in the majority.
This makes a male presence in a child's life all the more important, and especially so when a boy enters puberty.
In the first years of life children develop what psychologists call attachment, which is defined as a relationship based on intense feelings. But even if this attachment doesn't occur, it can't be made up for later, says child and adolescent psychologist Holger Simonszent, who is also Director of the German Institute for Psychological Sciences.
“A child can attach to both mother and father if they are present in that early phase. Fathers, however, typically are away from the home working. In some cases they work even longer hours because the family has an extra mouth to feed and is probably doing without the mother's pay cheque.
“But quality time spent together is more important than the amount of time.”
Dr Simonszent says for fathers who fail to establish a relationship with their child when an infant can still build a functioning relationship later.
"Shared experiences, rituals, weekends spent together - without mum - and common hobbies are a good basis for this."
A prerequisite for the engagement of the father is the cooperation of the mother, who must give the father enough room to manoeuvre. It is important that she trust him to take care of the child when it is an infant and that he build his relationship with the child differently than she.
While time spent with a daughter is equally important, all activities that fathers and sons do together have an additional function. The father is both a model and a rival for a son who learns his own strengths by jousting with his father, according to Dr Simonszent.
This is especially easy when the relationship is close. If the relationship is missing, the boy seeks an alternative role model, usually today in a computer or video game.