Book review: A re-examination of the father’s role in the family

Book Cover

What you need to know:

  • Title: Myths and Lies About Dads
  • Release date: March 1, 2023
  • Reviewer:
  • Available at: Amazon
  • Cost: About Shs99,000

Linda Nielsen, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University in the US, takes aim at the conventional wisdom that considers mothers the mainstays of child rearing and relegates fathers to a supporting role as breadwinners and child care assistants who can be dispensed with after a divorce. 

On the contrary, she asserts that fathers are essential, and children raised with their father in the home are healthier and better adjusted, have higher graduation rates, and are less prone to delinquency, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, depression, and anxiety.

Fathers’ hands-on parenting is just as important as the income they provide, Nielsen contends.

The author further reports that babies and toddlers with attentive fathers sleep better and receive cognitive benefits from a father’s tendency to engage in play that is more stimulating and challenging and that fathers provide reality checks that hold children accountable and teach them to overcome problems and cope with frustration and failure. 

She offers proposals for shoring up fathers’ positions, including increased paid paternity leave, 50-50 shared custody arrangements, and a plea for wary mothers to embrace a more integral parenting role for fathers.

The author cites a wealth of sociological statistics and scientific studies but also probes the cultural conventions we apply to fatherhood, exploring everything from the caricature of uncommunicative, emotionally clueless husbands in pop-psychology books such as Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus to the parade of incompetent, absentee, and deadbeat fathers in movies. 

She writes in a lucid, down-to-earth style that is free of academic cant and replete with tart wisdom (“The main reason most husbands do less of the work in and around the home is the same reason they do not get to spend as much time with the children as their wives; their jobs….[T]hat does not justify villainising men as lazy bums who do nothing more than lift their legs off the floor so their wives can vacuum”).

Fathers and mothers alike will find much to ponder here.