Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Modern family relationships can be complicated. It can include multiple extended family members, divorces, and more. Delving into this theme, a new study found that children whose fathers showed more positive engagement before three months of age tended to not have as many behavioral problems when they turn one-year-old. As such, researchers believe that it’s important to have parent-child interaction in the early post-natal period to impact a child’s behavior later on.
The research, supported by the Wellcome Trust, looked at behavioral disorders of children and how psychological problems could affect them early on in their preschool years. Children could possibly have a number of problems as adolescents and adults, such as academic failure, delinquency, peer rejection, as well as poor physical and mental health due to early development interactions. Various other epidemiological studies have also looked at the risk factors that initiate and continue bad behavior habits, including parenting traits and parent-child interactions.
“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,” remarked Dr. Paul Ramchandani, a researcher and clinical psychologist at the Academic Unit of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric, Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, in a prepared statement. “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.”
The study, published in a recent edition of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, featured 192 families from two maternity units in the United Kingdom. The team of investigators studied father-infant interactions at the child’s home when the infant was at three months. They then compared these behaviors to the behaviors of when the child was 12 months old. Early on, the investigators saw that father-infant interaction could impact important parts of the child’s behavioral problems.
“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,” commented Ramchandani in the statement.
Based on the results, the scientists proposed a few different explanations for the link between father-infant interactions and behavior attitudes. Those infants who had les interaction with their parents could have also been impacted by other problems, such as difficulty in other family relationships or minimal supervision and care for the child. Lastly, the child could have acted out to initiate a parental reaction as it was lacking beforehand.
“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,” concluded Ramchandani in the statement. “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.”