Education & Family

Confident fathers have happier children, says study

father and son Image copyright Thinkstock

Confident fathers who embrace becoming a parent are less likely to have children who display behavioural issues before the teenage years, a study says.

The Oxford University research stresses the importance of a man's attitude to fatherhood soon after birth.

This can influence later behaviour more than undertaking childcare and chores.

The study assessed if fathers were confident with their child, formed a strong bond and felt closer to their partner as a result of parenthood.

Writing in the journal BMJ Open, the researchers concluded: "The findings of this research study suggest that it is psychological and emotional aspects of paternal involvement in a child's infancy that are most powerful in influencing later child behaviour and not the amount of time that fathers are engaged in childcare or domestic tasks in the household.

"How new fathers see themselves as parents, how they value their role as a parent and how they adjust to this new role, rather than the amount of direct involvement in childcare in this period, appears to be associated with positive behavioural outcomes in children."

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'Good outcomes'

The data for the research was taken from a long-running programme in the south-west of England - the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

The parents of 10,440 children, who were living with both their mother and father at the age of eight months, were asked to complete a questionnaire about their and their child's mental health.

They were also asked about issues such as attitudes to parenting, time spent on childcare, child behaviour and development.

Information was also available on more than 6,000 children when they were aged nine and 11.

The results showed that fathers who scored well on having an emotional response to their child and feeling secure in their role as a parent had children who were up to 28% less likely to suffer behavioural problems in their pre-teen years than fathers who scored lower.

Image copyright Thinkstock

The researchers said: "Positive parenting by fathers may contribute to good outcomes in children in a number of ways.

"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' wellbeing and parenting strategies may then lead to better outcomes in children.

"There is evidence that fathers' involvement can also alleviate the impact of factors such as maternal depression, which are known to increase children's risk of behavioural problems.

"Greater paternal involvement may also lead to, or be a manifestation of, a happy and cohesive family, and this may bring about better outcomes in children."

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