Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Dads play key role in child development


Public Release: 14-Jul-2016
Dads play key role in child development
Michigan State University

Fathers play a surprisingly large role in their children's development, from language and cognitive growth in toddlerhood to social skills in fifth grade, according to new findings from Michigan State University scholars.

The research provides some of the most conclusive evidence to date of fathers' importance to children's outcomes and reinforces the idea that early childhood programs such as Head Start should focus on the whole family, including mother and father alike. The findings are published online in two academic journals, Early Childhood Research Quarterly and Infant and Child Development.


Using data from about 730 families that participated in a survey of Early Head Start programs at 17 sites across the nation, the researchers investigated the effects of parents' stress and mental health problems such as depression on their children. Parental stress and mental health issues affect how parents interact with their children and, subsequently, childhood development.

The study found that fathers' parenting-related stress had a harmful effect on their children's cognitive and language development when the children were 2 to 3 years old, even when the mothers' influences were taken into account. This impact varied by gender; fathers' influence, for example, had a larger effect on boys' language than girls' language.

Another key finding: Fathers' and mothers' mental health had a similarly significant effect on behavior problems among toddlers. Further, fathers' mental health had a long-term impact, leading to differences in children's social skills (such as self-control and cooperation) when the children reached fifth grade. In fact, fathers' depression symptoms when children were toddlers were more influential on children's later social skills than were mothers' symptoms.


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