Father contribution to human resilience

Ruth Feldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Fathers have been an important source of child endurance and prosperity since the dawn of civilization, promoting adaptation to social rules, defining cultural meaning systems, teaching daily living skills, and providing the material background against which children developed; still, the recent reformulation in the role of the father requires theory-building. Paternal caregiving is rare in mammals, occurring in 3-5% of species, expresses in multiple formats, and involves flexible neurobiological accommodations to ecological conditions and active caregiving. Here, we discuss father contribution to resilience across development. Our model proposes three tenets of resilience - plasticity, sociality, and meaning - and discussion focuses on father-specific contributions to each tenet at different developmental stages; newborn, infant, preschooler, child, and adolescent. Father's style of high arousal, energetic physicality, guided participation in daily skills, joint adventure, and conflict resolution promotes children's flexible approach and social competence within intimate bonds and social groups. By expanding children's interests, sharpening cognitions, tuning affect regulation, encouraging exploration, and accompanying the search for identity, fathers support the sense of meaning, enhancing the human-specific dimension of resilience. We end by highlighting pitfalls to paternal contribution, including absence, abuse, rigidity, expectations, and gender typing, and the need to formulate novel theories to accommodate the involved dad.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2402-2419
Number of pages18
JournalDevelopment and Psychopathology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 11 Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press.


  • fatherhood
  • neurobiology of attachment
  • parent-child relationship
  • parental brain
  • resilience


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