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Child’s behaviour linked to father-infant interactions, study shows… children need their fathers

July 24, 2012


NCFM NOTE: Here’s another study showing the importance of fathers in their children’s lives. Boys without their biological fathers, if they are lucky grow into men, will be men with the highest probability of being imprisoned and costing our society the greatest. Interestingly, perhaps by design, those systems that educate, discipline, identify, intervene, re educate, police, legislate, adjudicate, and imprison such men are staffed or overseen primarily by women or chivalrous males with little or no respect for their own gender. Think about that for awhile. Or, this: if there were more responsible fathers permitted to remain in their families of choice, their offspring would have a higher probability of growing up to be contributing members of society and have a substantially lower probability of being imprisoned. But, then, what happens to all the soft jobs which would be otherwise and primarily filled by all those independent women taught that they don’t need a man? The horrendous outcomes of fatherless homes are not simply “unintended consequences”. If they were accidents, they would already be fixed. And, if you believe their is no war against men, fathers, and families, the next time you see the Tooth Fairy please tell shim the rest of us say “Hey”.


Child’s behaviour linked to father – infant interactions, study shows

19 July 2012

Children whose fathers are more positively engaged with them at the age of three months have fewer behavioural problems at the age of twelve months, according to new research funded by the Wellcome Trust. The study suggests that interventions aimed at improving parent-child interaction in the early postnatal period may be beneficial to the child’s behaviour later in life.

Behavioural disorders are the most common 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. Research suggests that the roots of enduring behavioural problems often extend back into the preschool years.

Epidemiological studies have identified several risk factors for the onset and continuity of behavioural problems. Among these, parenting characteristics and patterns of parent-child interaction seem to be particularly important. However, studies of parental factors usually focus on the role of the mother.

In a study published today in the ‘Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry’, 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 behaviour.

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 three months and compared them against the child’s behaviour at the age of twelve months.

The researchers found that key aspects of the father-infant interaction, measured very early in children’s lives, were associated with an increased risk of behavioural problems in children at an early age. This is the first time that this apparent influence has been demonstrated for observed father-infant interaction and such early onset behaviour problems.

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

The researchers believe there are several possible explanations for the association. The lack of paternal engagement could reflect wider problems in family relationships, with fathers who are in a more troubled relationship with their partner finding it more challenging to engage with their infant.

Alternatively, it may reflect a broader lack of supervision and potentially care, for the infant, resulting in an increase in behavioural disturbance. Another possibility is that the infant’s behaviour represents its attempt to elicit a parental reaction in response to an earlier lack of parental engagement.

Dr Ramchandani adds: “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.

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

Image: A father and child playing. Credit: Anthea Sieveking, Wellcome Images.


Craig Brierley
Media Relations Manager
Wellcome Trust
+44 (0)20 7611 7329

Notes for editors

The Academic Unit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is jointly housed by Imperial College London and Central North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

Ramchandani P et al. Do early father-infant interactions predict the onset of externalising behaviours in young children? Findings from a longitudinal cohort study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 2012 (epub ahead of print).

About the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry
About the Wellcome Trust
Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.




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