… In other words, Dads believe exposing their children to risk is absolutely key to their role. This article agrees:
In one experiment… toys were placed at the top of a flight of stairs. The researchers noticed that the dads tended to follow their children at a greater distance than the moms and this seemed to encourage more exploration.
“We found that fathers are more inclined than mothers to activate exploratory behavior by being less protective,” says the study’s lead author, Daniel Paquette, a professor at the university.
“[Dads] respond to the child’s need to be encouraged, to overcome limits, and to learn to take risks in contexts in which they are confident of being protected from potential dangers.”
Interestingly it appears this influence continues beyond childhood, and can actually guide children away from risky behaviours:
Other recent studies have shown that dads have a more powerful influence than moms when it comes to convincing kids to steer clear of cigarettes and sex.
There's also some research which suggests gender differences in reactions to risk taking:
Parent reactions to risk taking by sons focused on discipline but reactions to the same behaviors by daughters focused on safety. Mothers, in particular, reacted to sons with anger and daughters with disappointment and surprise. Parents attributed risk taking to personality for sons but situational factors for daughters, and judged daughters could be taught to comply with safety rules more than sons.
I wonder if there are any studies on parental response to injury resulting from risk taking? It's not necessarily risk taking, but in the context of football I see Dads every week (including me) grabbing their injured, crying boys under the armpits and hoisting them up with a 'come on mate, run it off, you'll be fine'. I would say that 99% of the time we're right, and that we're deliberately trying to teach that rolling round on the floor is very rarely necessary or helpful. (I'm not sure my sister would agree: when she was about two and I was around 15, she had a fall and I employed the 'it'll be fine' waggling technique on her wrist, which turned out to be broken).
I'd love to hear about any other research on this topic, and views from any Dads (or Mums) out there.