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A lot of dads are struggling now to provide for their families in the way they best know how: economically. Everyone knows unemployment is bad, but there's another story behind those figures.

More than four out of every five unemployed workers are men -- and many of these men are fathers. And unemployed or not, fathers are struggling to have their families get by on less.

For many men, being a father means being the provider -- the economic provider. And being unable to provide means being a failure. For men, self-worth often equals net-worth; a "real" man, and "real" father, is a breadwinner.

But dad as "breadwinner" is just a quaint notion of the past. Today, most homes with kids are two-income households. Still, that notion dies hard. The truth is, fathers provide for their families in many ways. And when it comes to kids, a father's income isn't what's important.

In fact, there's lots of debate among social scientists about whether family income has any effect on kids' development. But there isn't any debate about father involvement. Research shows enormous benefits when fathers are involved in their children's lives. These kids do better behaviorally, cognitively, psychologically and socially.


If there's a father in a child's life, he's playing a critical role in that child's development -- employed or not.

So, if you know a dad who's struggling economically, let him know that. If you're a dad yourself, take pride knowing you're making a huge contribution to your kids' well-being. Recognize the most important thing you provide, is time spent together. What's important for kids, and their development, are simple things -- like reading a book, throwing a ball, cooking together or helping with homework.

And while you're hanging out with your kids -- whether you just got home from work or just sent off another resume in hope of work -- take a moment to realize that simply being there is one of the best things you could do. You're being the best dad in the world your child could ever hope for, and the very father your child needs most.

With a Perspective, I'm Dr. Will Courtenay.