Giving birth and breastfeeding mean that biologically the mother is the prime nurturer of a child. However, this doesn't mean that fathers shouldn't be involved...
If you're a new father, spending plenty of time with your baby could boost their mental development, a new study suggests.
British researchers looked at how 128 fathers interacted with their infants at three months of age. When the kids turned two, the researchers measured their mental development.
The study was published in Infant Mental Health Journal.
Gender not important
Infants whose fathers were more engaged and active when playing with them in their first few months of life did better on thinking skills tests at age two than other infants.
Many factors have a major influence on a child's development, and this study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. But these findings suggest that father-child interactions at a young age are an influencing factor, the researchers said.
According to a Health24 article the foetus in the womb also benefits from experience as an essential component of prenatal brain development. A prenatal child's specific experiences determine which connections are strengthened and expanded, and which connections are eliminated.
The researchers didn't see any differences based on the gender of the baby. Dad's interactions had a positive influence on thinking skills for both boys and girls.
Better cognitive development
"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," study leader Paul Ramchandani said in an Imperial College London news release. He is a professor at the school's department of medicine.
Study co-author Vaheshta Sethna said, "We also found that children interacting with sensitive, calm and less anxious fathers during a book session at the age of two showed better cognitive development, including attention, problem-solving, language and social skills." She's with the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King's College London.
"Our findings highlight the importance of supporting fathers to interact more positively with their children in early infancy," Sethna said.
She added that sharing positive emotions and reading activities seem to be linked to bigger boosts in the child's thinking skills.