Children of hands-on dads are better behaved

By Faeza
02 December 2016

Pre-teen children whose fathers adjusted well to parenthood have been found to have less behavioural problems.

In a study published in the online journal BMJ Open, researchers from Oxford University found that men who embraced their role as a father and felt confident early on raised children who had less chance of being troubled as they approached their teenage years.

And the findings suggest it’s not about how much time a dad spends with his child that has the most impact, but rather how he sees himself as a parent.

Parents of more 10,440 children from south west England were questioned for the study, answering a survey when their kids were eight months old, covering topics including their and their child's mental health, their attitudes to parenting, time spent on childcare, their child's behaviour and development, as well as details of household income/education.

When the children were nine and 11 the families were questioned again, with 6,898 children still in the study at nine years old and 6,328 at 11.

It was found that dads who had scored highly for their emotional response were 21 per cent less likely to have a child with behavioural problems at nine years old, and 19 per cent at age 11. The dad’s who scored highly for their security in their role as a parent saw even less chance of problems, with a 28 per cent lowered risk of pre-teen trouble for both ages.

“Positive parenting by fathers may contribute to good outcomes in children in a number of ways,” researchers wrote. “Involved fathers may influence children indirectly by being a source of instrumental and emotional support to mothers, who provide more of the direct care for children. The potential positive effect of this on mothers’ well-being and parenting strategies may then lead to better outcomes for the children. There is evidence that fathers’ involvement can also alleviate the impact of factors such as maternal depression, which is known to increase children’s risk of behavioural problems.”

They add that greater paternal involvement may also lead to or be a manifestation of a “happy and cohesive family”, which may bring about better outcomes in children.

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