Engaging with Fathers Makes Happier Babies

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Babies that bond with their fathers at age three months have fewer behavioral issues when they grow into a toddler, a study conducted at the University of Oxford shows.  The research suggests that improvements in parent-child interactions will be beneficial to the child’s behavior later on in life.

Behavioral disorders are the commonest psychological problem affecting children. They are associated with a wide range of problems in adolescence and adult life, including academic failure, delinquency, peer rejection and poor psychiatric and physical health, The Times of India reports.

Researchers at the University of Oxford studied 192 families recruited from two maternity units in the UK to see whether there was a link between father-child interactions in the early postnatal period and the child’s behavior.

Dr Paul Ramchandani, a researcher and clinical psychiatrist, now based at the Academic Unit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London, led the study, which assessed father-infant interactions in the family home when the child was aged 3 months and compared these against the child’s behavior at age 12 months.

It was found that the measure of father-infant interaction were associated with an increased risk of behavioral problems in children.

“We found that children whose fathers were more engaged in the interactions had better outcomes, with fewer subsequent behavioral problems. At the other end of the scale children tended to have greater behavioral problems when their fathers were more remote and lost in their own thoughts, or when their fathers interacted less with them,” explains Dr Ramchandani.

“This association tended to be stronger for boys than for girls, suggesting that perhaps boys are more susceptible to the influence of their father from a very early age.

“We don’t yet know whether the fathers being more remote and disengaged are actually causing the behavioral problems in the children, but it does raise the possibility that these early interactions are important,” he said.

The researchers believe there are a number of possible explanations for the association.  A lack in father-infant interaction could reflect larger problems in family relationships.  Fathers who are in a troubled partner relationship may find it more challenging to interact with their baby.

As a result of a lack of interaction, a child may lash out with intent to elicit a parental reaction.

“Focusing on the infant’s first few months is important as this is a crucial period for development and the infant is very susceptible to environmental influences, such as the quality of parental care and interaction,” Dr Ramchandani said.

“As every parent knows, raising a child is not an easy task. Our research adds to a growing body of evidence which suggests that intervening early to help parents can make a positive impact on how their infant develops” he added.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

Source: The Times of India

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