An active father improves a baby’s cognitive development: study

A new study has suggested that a father's involvement in a baby's life is vital to childhood development

A team of researchers from King’s College London, Oxford University and Imperial College London recently conducted a study that brought to light the imperative role of a father in the first few months of a baby’s life.

According to the study, which was published in the Infant Mental Journal, an active father improved the child’s cognitive performance and development, with signs of this evident as early as three months after birth.

In the first phase of the study, 128 fathers were filmed playing video games with their three-month-old babies on a mat for approximately three minutes. The second phase involved the same fathers were again filmed reading to their children, who were then aged two.

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Based on the footage, the fathers were given scores on how interactive and engaged they were during these sessions. The cognitive development of the babies was also measured using different tests and tasks.

Babies who had fathers who were more engaged and involved scored higher on the tests.

“It is likely that remote fathers use fewer verbal and non-verbal strategies to communicate with their infants, thereby reducing the infant’s social learning experience. More withdrawn fathers also may provide a less stimulating social environment, which may thus have an impact on the child’s cognitive skills, the study read.

Fathers’ parenting is likely to mirror the parenting that they had received, so interventions at an individual and policy level offer the potential to be of benefit across generations

The study’s lead author, Prof Paul Ramchandani, says that the positive effects of an active father possibly extend years further into the child’s life.

“Even as early as three months, these father-child interactions can positively predict cognitive development almost two years later, so there’s something probably quite meaningful for later development, and that really hasn’t been shown much before,” said Ramchandani, reports the BBC.

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The study concluded by suggesting that a lot more support should be offered to fathers, not only from an individual level, but also from a policy one, as this could benefit generations to come.

“The association between paternal interactions and cognitive outcome is evident at a very early age; therefore, putting preventive measures in place in early infant to support fathers to better interact with their children is of immense importance,” the study concluded.

“Moreover, fathers’ parenting is likely to mirror the parenting that they had received, so interventions at an individual and policy level offer the potential to be of benefit across generations.”

Additional source: BBC