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Tips for New Parents: Dads Hold the Keys

Truth be told, a father cradles in his arms the very promise of happy marriage and healthy family life. Research shows that in couples with children, the extent to which a husband and father is engaged in or has been transformed by fatherhood, is the single most important indicator of whether a marriage will last. Dads who tend to munchkins also tend to marriages, deterring parental depression, anxiety, marital conflict, and divorce. Our mates are also the key ingredient in rearing healthy children who adapt and perform well in school.

In their landmark, long-term studies of married-with-children folk, authors of When Partners Become Parents Carolyn and Philip Cowan found that men who actively parent feel better about themselves, their wives feel more supported, marital conflict is reduced, and their children have fewer behavior problems. Wives of on-duty dads report they have better luck at solving problems in the marriage and feel happier with their unions. And happier couples are less likely to introduce dysfunctional throwbacks from their childhoods into their new families.

In the final trickle-down of this daddy domino effect, a closer relationship between parents, cultivated in part in the Cowans' couples groups, propelled children to significantly higher academic performance, starting in kindergarten and extending into grade school.

From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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