Many studies suggest that when a parent shows their child physical warmth and affection, that child will have higher self-esteem, better parent-child communication, and fewer psychological and behavioral problems. Even with these positive outcomes, parents, especially fathers, show their children less physical affection as they grow up: According to Child Trends Data Bank, over 90 percent of both moms and dads hug their kids under age three once a day, but only 74 percent of moms and 50 percent of dads hug their children ages 10 to 12.
It's particularly interesting to look at this trend between fathers and sons, as society traditionally demands males fit into their gender role by being less affectionate. To explore how often fathers and sons hug, Redditor xenogenx asked, "When was the last time you hugged your dad?" in the AskMen subreddit.
The responses shed light on the ways fathers and sons express their love, and teach us a valuable lesson about the importance of this particular family bond.
Of the 79 men who responded so far, 45 said they hugged their fathers the last time they saw them and/or hugged them regularly.
"Yesterday … I give him a hug every chance I get." - brixdaddy
"I hug my dad every time I see him and every time we part ways … I never really thought anything of it until my friend pointed it out. She said her parents never hugged her, and it broke my heart a bit. So I sent my dad a text telling him he's ace and that I love him. We had an extra hug next time we saw each other." - timaldinho
"Last time I saw him. We usually always do every time we see each other."- amphetaminesfailure
"I come from an overbearing lovey-dovey hippie family, so I will just say that I hug and kiss (cheek) my dad all the time. We all live in the same city in the same neighborhood, so I see my parents almost every other day ... I probably hug him like six or seven times a week ... my dad is genuinely my best friend and the best guy I know, so
I don't really mind I love it." - lanksi_
In contrast, 34 people said, despite having good relationships with their fathers, it’d been years since they’d last hugged. Some couldn't even remember when the last time was — if ever.
Others noted a huge gap between how often they hugged their moms versus their dads.
"Mother will be around Xmas. Dad. I have no idea. We don't really hug. I'd say at least 10 years." - nickachu_
"I don't know. I normally hug my mother and shake hands with my father." - SalamanderSylph
"It might have been three years ago at my graduation, but I don't think I hugged him, just my mom. It's super awkward hugging my dad so I probably would have remembered it if I had. Honestly it's likely been closer to 8-10 years." - orangepeeling
"My high school graduation. I'm in my early-mid 20s now so it's been a number of years. I hug my mum multiple times every time I see her in contrast." - BombersJetsJays
"I was just thinking that I can't remember the last time I hugged him. My dad is still alive and he's in alright health... And we are on pretty good terms, it's just... not something we do. I do give my mom a hug every time I see her though." - xenogenx
But that doesn’t mean dads don’t want their sons to hug them. They might just not know how to ask.
"My mom once told me he asked her why I only hugged her. I always hug my dad now when I come home or feel like it. I think he really appreciates it and it feels good man." - Timh37
Luckily, they've raised sons willing to take matters into their own hands.
"When I was in my early 20s he started to offer me the handshake, as a way to be more formal, but after a few 'get outta here with that' type comments and big bear hugs from me, he got the picture. I see him about twice a year and a hug hello and hug goodbye are essential." - Mizzyaxp
"Last time I saw him — although he's of the boomer generation where man hugs are painfully awkward, I still make him." - japrufrock72
And others are even making up for their fathers’ lack of physical affection by hugging their own children every day.
These responses show how important it is to give and receive physical affection. So, hug your dad whenever you get the chance. It might feel a little awkward at first, but soon enough, it'll become second nature.
The more you hug, the better you'll feel and the stronger your bond will become.
Cover photo via Flickr