If you’ve been watching the NBA playoffs, you’re no stranger to the Curry family. Riley Curry, two-year-old daughter of Warriors star Stephen Curry and his wife, Ayesha, became an instant celebrity a few weeks ago when she joined a post-game press conference with her famous father. Stephen brought Riley onstage, sat down, and then attended to her needs while simultaneously responding to a room full of reporters. As a researcher who studies early childhood, watching Stephen interact with Riley was the highlight of my day, but quite a bit of controversy was sparked by his decision to bring Riley to “work.” This is not the first time that a professional athlete has been criticized for their parenting. Curry joins a long line of celebrity fathers who are often questioned for their decisions, such as whether to be present for the birth of a child or how long their paternity leave should be.
As champions of child development and parental involvement, I think we should celebrate these moments – intimate, once-in-a-lifetime interactions between fathers and their children. LeanIn.org has created a new promotional message with NBA players supporting parenting and families, including a message from LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron, father of three, is actively involved in the LeBron James Family Foundation, engaging with children on a regular basis as they pursue their educational goals.
The NBA isn’t the only place to find famous fathers serving as role models for other dads. In 2010, President Obama launched the Fatherhood and Mentoring Initiative to draw greater visibility to the important role fathers have in their children’s lives. The initiative has focused on community-level change, including support for local fatherhood programs and town halls around the nation. Obama wasn’t the first president to include fathers in his policy agenda; in 1995, President Clinton issued a memorandum urging federal surveys to incorporate fathers. As part of this initiative, Child Trends facilitated a working group in the late 1990s to coordinate data collection on father involvement across six major surveys. One of them, the National Survey for Family Growth (NSFG), started surveying men ages 15-44 in 2002, including questions on how residential and non-residential fathers interact with their children. A report on father engagement using more recent NSFG data was published in 2013, showing that at least 90% of fathers who live with children younger than age 5 engage in regular activities with them, including eating, playing, and dressing, bathing, or diapering the child. Fathers who do not live with their children engage in these activities much less frequently, with roughly a third of non-residential fathers reporting engaging in the above activities on a regular basis.
It turns out, you don’t have to be a millionaire NBA player or the President of the United States to be more involved with your children – it’s the little things that matter. Activities such as reading bedtime stories, eating dinner as a family, or attending religious services together have been shown to positively relate to child development. If you need a little inspiration for ideas about what to do with your own children, you can check out these suggested activities for fathers, which are posted weekly. From Stephen Curry to Barack Obama, fathers everywhere will be celebrated on Father’s Day (June 21). So follow in the footsteps of these celebrity role models and engage with your children. And the next time you see Riley Curry “going to work” with her dad, remember that these little moments are ones to treasure.
Amy Blasberg, Senior Research Analyst