Study Shows Benefits of Fatherhood
Special Report - July 16, 2008
Resident fathers who regularly engage in activities such as holding, feeding, dressing and reading to their infant children have a positive impact on their infant’s cognitive development, according to a new Child Trends study published in June in the online version of the Journal of Family Issues. The study, “Involvement Among Resident Fathers and Links to Infant Cognitive Outcomes,” analyzed data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Studya national survey of 10,000 children born in 2001to determine how father involvement affects infant cognitive development in two specific areasbabbling (defined as “communication through diverse nonverbal sounds and gestures”) and exploring objects with purpose (defined as “children’s purposeful exploration of objects”). The study’s authors, who noted that their results confirm the findings of earlier studies on father involvement, concluded that, “Early positive father-child interactions reduce cognitive delay.”
More specifically, the study found that four areas of “father involvement were consistently associated with a lower likelihood of negative cognitive outcomes”: cognitive stimulating activities (i.e., reading, singing, telling stories); paternal warmth (i.e., tickling and holding the child); physical care (i.e., changing diapers); and care-giving activities (i.e., dressing, washing the child). The study also found that the “positive benefits of father involvement for infant cognitive development” are greater for male infants and for infants with disabilities” (compared to female infants and infants without disabilities).
According to the authors, “Regarding fathering, our study provides continuing evidence that fathers are important to the well-being of very young children and suggests that any holistic policy or program to promote child and infant well-being should include fathers where and when feasible.”
Copyright © 2008. North Carolina Family Policy Council. All rights reserved.