Examining the cases of more than 10,000 sons and daughters revealed how a cold or distant father can damage a child's life, sometimes for decades to come.
The review of 36 studies from around the world concluded that his love is at least as important to youngsters as that of their mothers.
The study comes just ahead of Father's Day which is observed on the third Sunday of June.
Researcher Professor Ronald Rohner said that fatherly love is key to development and hopes his findings will motivate more men to become involved in caring for their offspring, the Daily Mail reported.
"In the US, Great Britain and Europe, we have assumed for the past 300 years that all children need for normal healthy development is a loving relationship with their mother," he said.
"And that dads are there as support for the mother and to support the family financially but are not required for the healthy development of the children," Rohner said.
"But that belief is fundamentally wrong. We have to start getting away from that idea and realise the dad's influence is as great, and sometimes greater, than the mother's," he added.
His conclusions came after he examined data from studies in which children and adults were asked how loving their parents were.
Questions included if they were made to feel wanted or needed, if their parents went out of their way to hurt their feelings and if they felt loved.
Those taking part also answered questions about their personality. These ranged from "I think about fighting or being mean" to "I think the world is a good, happy place".
Tallying the results showed that those rejected in childhood felt more anxious and insecure as well as hostile and aggressive.
Many of the problems carried over into adulthood, reported the study published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review.
Crucially, a father's love was often just as important as a mother's. In some cases, it was even more so. One reason for this may be that rejection is more painful when it comes from the parent the child regards as more powerful or respected.
Rohner's research shows a father's input is particularly important for behaviour and can influence if a child later drinks to excess, takes drugs or suffers mental health problems.