Dad: the male supermodel

Dad: a male supermodel
When we talk of models, many (okay, mostly men) will think about super-models.  

However, Mum and Dad are both models – and in terms of their degree of influence over their children, it might even be fair to describe them as ‘super-models’ for their kids.

One of the best predictors of how a child will turn out is to take a look at the Mum and Dad. 

Part of that prediction is based on genetics, but the other enormous part of that is based on environment. 

A child shares most of their time with their parents, especially in the formative first five to seven years. After this time, others such as teachers, peers and other social influences such as media and marketing begin to have some impact.

Take the examples of consumption, and especially sometimes socially undesirable products such as tobacco and alcohol. People are quick to blame marketing and media, but the biggest predictor of a child’s consumption of tobacco and alcohol is that of the parents. 

The influence of parents on tobacco and alcohol consumption is higher than peers, and higher than other influencers such as media and marketing. 

Those that take up smoking are much more likely than those that do not take it up to live in an environment where smoking is perceived positively and people around them smoke[i]. A child is about two times more likely to take up smoking if one or other parent smokes, almost three times more likely likely to take up smoking if both smoke.

Similar findings of the importance of parental and other family members alcohol consumption and history have been found to predict the age of uptake of alcohol and the likelihood of alcohol related problems[ii].

In short, parents are important models: "The importance of parents/caregivers as role models can never be over-estimated. They are the child's everything. And the older you get, the more you realise that it's not just your nose or eyebrows that mimic your parents, but also your behaviours."[iii]

Blaming media and marketing influences on children is easy, but more significantly, overlooks the profound influence of parents on their children.

Dads are particularly important for modelling manhood, to daughters and sons alike. She learns how to relate to good men, he learns how to be a good man.

Here’s a few of the particular ways in which Dads serve as models for their sons and their daughters[iv]:

   - Dads tend to offer more physical play than mothers, which increases the physical competency of their young children.
   - Fathers often think “out of the box” and offer alternative strategies for problem solving.
   Fathers teach sex roles: they are generally more physically active with their sons and more protective of their daughters.

When fathers model behaviours that are respectful to women, their sons are more likely to see women as human beings rather than “things” to manipulate. When men do not father at all, well then things get very ugly. 

Abusive fathers raise abusive children, and absent fathers raise lost children.

[i] J. Leonardi-Bee, M.L. Jere, J. Britton, (2011) “Exposure to parental and sibling smoking and the risk of smoking uptake in childhood and adolescence: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Thorax, 66(10):847-55. doi: 10.1136/thx.2010.153379,, accessed 3may2013
D.B. Buller,  R. Borland, W.G. Woodall, J.R. Hall, P. Burris-Woodall, J.H. Voeks, (2003) “Understanding factors that affect tobacco uptake” Tobacco Control, Supp 4, IV:16-25,, accessed 3may2013
[ii] L.B. Fisher, I.W. Miles, S.B. Austin, C.A. Camargo, G.A. Colditz (2007), Predictors of initiation of alcohol use among US adolescents: findings from a prospective cohort study.” Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine;161(10):959-66.
V. Johnson, L.A. Warner, H.R. White, (2007) “Alcohol initiation experiences and family history of alcoholism as predictors of problem-drinking trajectories” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs,68, 1(Jan) 56-65.
[iii] Andrew Whitehouse (2013) “Swearing at kids in supermarkets,” The Conversation, April 2,

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