A father’s connection with his child during infancy reduces the risk of behavioural problems creeping up later in his life. That’s according to a new study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
This was the conclusion reached by British researchers, who studied 200 families and found that children whose fathers were more positively engaged with them at age 3 months — experienced fewer behavioural problems by their first birthday.
Researchers from the University of Oxford found that the association between higher levels of interaction and fewer subsequent behavioural problems was strongest in sons. This suggests that boys are more susceptible to the influence of their father at 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,” said the study leader Dr. Paul Ramchandani.
Behavioural problems among children
According to researchers, behavioural problems are the most common psychological issues found amongst most children. These are associated with a wide range of problems during the teen years and in adulthood. The effects involve poor performance at school, delinquent behaviour, poor social skills – leading to difficulty in making friends, as well as poor mental and physical health.
The new findings suggest that efforts to improve parent – child interaction early in life may help to prevent behavioural problems, the researchers said.
“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,” Ramchandani said.
“As every parent knows, raising a child is not an easy task,” he added. “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.”
Although the study showed an association between involved parenting and reduced risk of behavioural problems, this cannot be regarded as a cause-and-effect relationship.