Arab fathers have a significant role to play in shaping the self-esteem and educational success of their children, according to a new study unveiled by the Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research.
The findings of the research were presented at the Foundation’s ‘Global Trends in Parental Involvement’ symposium held in Dubai on Wednesday and Thursday. The study highlights the benefits that Arab fathers’ involvement can have on their child’s self-esteem and educational outcomes, calling for a less constricted definition of the paternal role and for more fatherly involvement.
In the Arab world and especially in the Gulf, fathers have a distinct and central role in the family. Fathers in the region are often regarded as the family’s key ‘breadwinner’ as well as the moral role model. However, the study shows their influence is far greater than that.
According to the research, children had greater self-esteem and better academic performance if they perceived their fathers as being more positively and responsibly engaged in their lives, more emotionally responsive, did household chores, were accessible, and showed paternal affection than those who did not.
The lack of paternal involvement was also associated with poor self-esteem as well as academic performance, especially among male children in the Gulf. Participants rated their fathers highest on the family’s financial provider role but ranked them lowest on the responsible paternal engagement role on a scale of different parental involvement behaviours. GCC fathers were perceived by their adult children as good providers and moral role models, however they were less involved in their schooling and in their day-to-day life.
According to the study, 49 per cent of GCC fathers showed a strong interest in their children’s schoolwork, compared to 56 per cent of other Arab fathers and 61 per cent of western fathers. Furthermore, only 28 per cent of GCC fathers attended school activities regularly, compared to 40 per cent of other Arab fathers and 55 per cent of western fathers.
Dr Natasha Ridge, Executive Director at the Foundation, said that parents play an incredibly decisive role in the socio-emotional wellbeing and self-esteem of their children.
“From our research, we know that higher self-esteem is linked to higher educational outcomes. Despite this, there is limited research measuring the impact of parental involvement in children’s development and educational outcomes in the Middle East. In an effort to address the shortage of research on this topic, the Al Qasimi Foundation and our partners have curated this symposium to provide a platform for academics, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to share a deeper understanding of parental involvement and discuss solutions,” added Ridge.
Survey findings also suggested that Emiratis were more likely than non-Emirati Arabs to feel close to their fathers during childhood and adolescence. Emiratis also reported that their fathers took them on activities and to doctors’ appointments more often than non-Emirati Arabs.
The study also sheds light on the different forms that paternal involvement takes for GCC fathers in the family setting. This includes 83 per cent of fathers in the GCC are mostly or always present around their family. In the home, 33 per cent of GCC fathers are reported to regularly help clean the house compared to 28 per cent of other Arab fathers and 25 per cent of western fathers. In the home, 44 per cent of GCC fathers are reported to regularly cook meals compared to 32 per cent of other Arab fathers and 28 per cent of western fathers.
The symposium underscored various aspects of parental involvement, including stimulating children’s development in early childhood and supporting parents in the 21st century; caregiver perceptions of early childhood socio-emotional development: cultural attitudes towards parenting; developmental screening; creating an accepting environment for 21st century parents; engaging parents in school programmes; connecting school programmes with student employability; parental involvement in building resiliency: enhanced emotional and academic support utilising a range of techniques.