Skip to main content

Parental Mental health and child well-being. African Fatherhood


Many studies have been directed towards the influence of mothers over their children and the effects of mothers’ mental health on the wellbeing on their children. Today however, attention has also been drawn to fathers and how children’s wellbeing go hand in hand with their fathers’ mental health. This study has recorded a lot of success in America and Europe; and has proved to be helpful to counsellors and health practitioners in understanding and helping children who are going through one form of depression or the other.

Fathers have a strong influence on their children

The mental health of fathers and the quality of their parenting duties have a great impact on child development. The father that has cultivated a loving and caring relationship with the child influences the child in a powerful way. Strong attestation supports the fact that a caring, sensitive and supportive father influences the child to develop better social skills and language, regardless of social economic status, race and ethnicity.

Having a good mental health is important for fathers especially in the early years of marriage and child rearing. Fathers in their co-parenting roles cannot afford to lose their mental health to pressures and influences around them, for it will reflect in their relationship with their children. We also know that in order to thrive, develop well and sail relatively smoothly through to maturity, children need parents who feel confident, supported and equipped with the right skills to navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters of parenting.


Is the African father’s influence on the child very strong?

Is the African father’s influence on the child very strong? Yes and No. Yes it is, because of the influence of the father in an average African family in terms of the patriarchal figure, economic sustenance, discipline and decision making.

This influence is not strong enough in terms of loving care, attention, physical and emotional support, and sensitivity. The presence of these two sides does not create a holistic fatherly influence in African families.

The areas of high influence do not greatly affect the formative health and wellbeing of the child. The higher risk of behavioural and emotional difficulties of the child does not reside per say in these areas. More so the interactions between the father and the child in these areas are not so close and cordial to foster much emotional attachment.

The areas of loving care, attention, physical and emotional support, and sensitivity were the father is quite wanting, are the core areas where bonding, influence and transference of quality parenting values are carried out. This is why mothers will always have the greatest influence in Africa

Scroll to Continue

Reviewing social context, mental health and the attending relationship

A review of 24 international studies conducted in African identified that poverty, economy stress, low social support, domestic violence, low paternal education, poor parental health, poor child health, child gender (e.g. female child in a culture where there is a strong preference for male children) and large number of young children at home are risk factors for parental depression.

Outside child gender which is mostly directed to the female folks, most of the factors for depression comes with the bad economic state. Bad economy connotes less wealth and hardship; and a host of African families are taken care of by the fathers. This is the main cause for depression.

However, this depression is usually transferred from the man to his wife who is the nearest and closest family member, the mother suffers directly, while the children suffer from the implications that arises due to the lack of funds…such as education, health social support etc.

In Africa, fatherhood is considered both detrimental and rewarding, as having children can enhance social and psychological resources while at the same time increasing demands and daily strains. In an unfriendly economy, the main focus for the man is achieving economic stability, thus devoting most of the time to work.

More so, the African culture sanctions the father’s authority over the family and its resources, but fails to specify his child care role. African fathers are not as caring as those in developed countries. The economy terrain and the social context have struggled and wrestled with the disposition to be so caring. The mother is the primary caregiver and as such the most influential person in early childhood.

Fathers play an important role in disciplinary rules within the home. He is the lawgiver, the judge and the one who carries out the sentence. The Father-Child relationship is often vertical rather than horizontal. Therefore the father’s absence may lead to a lesser home discipline, which in turn may result in a faster transition to sexual and peer group initiation.


One area of deep concern and emotional instability for the child as a direct consequence from the father is paternity. Not having a paternal link, or not residing with the father has a great effect and it is a cause for concern for children. This is the main area in Africa where the child is directly affected by the father. Here, his absence, the loss of belonging and no paternal affiliation is really the cause. The child wants a father figure, a name and an identity to fall back to.

However, we cannot but agree that the mental health of the father has a significant influence on the whole family for it affects his relationship with the mother of his child which will eventually affect the child too; and it affects his participation and quality in child rearing and the healthy development of the child.

It is important that we highlight the contribution of fathers in areas of social capital provision, emotional support, and most importantly, love and care. The world is a global village and interactions occur every day. With a better economy and the knowledge of emotional mental health demands, African fathers will surely achieve quality child care.

It is a good thing to secure and enhance African father’s involvement with their children and families. A considerable research effort have focused on teasing out the relative contribution that fathers make to the outcomes of their children and that accumulated evidence support the hypothesized role of fathers involvement in positive outcomes for children.

Related Articles