Posts Tagged ‘
Wednesday, March 7th, 2012
A new 15-year study shows that the ways parents play with their children at age 2 has a direct correlation with how well they perform academically throughout their school years. Researchers from Utah State University’s department of Family, Consumer and Human Development (FCHD) followed 229 children from low-income families. Mothers, fathers, or both parents played regularly with the children, and some of the children also received Early Head Start educational experiences.
The study isolated four types of play that had a direct effect on later academic performance:
- Encouraging and engaging in pretend play
- Presenting activities in an organized sequence of steps
- Elaborating on the pictures, words, and actions in a book or on unique attributes of objects
- Relating play activity or book text to the child’s experience
The role of each parent also was a factor. The researchers looked at two different family types, those who lived with biological fathers and those who didn’t. They found that in both these family situations, children perform better academically when mothers teach more during play with their toddlers. When live-in biological fathers teach during play with their toddlers, they make an additional positive contribution to their child’s 5th grade math and reading performance.
Image: Mother and daughter playing with blocks, via Shutterstock.
Wednesday, December 7th, 2011
In families where mothers are in the workforce, 32 percent of fathers are regular sources of child care, and one in five fathers are the primary source of child care, a new study released by the Census Bureau has found. The report, a series of tables called “Who’s Minding the Kids? Child Care Arrangements: Spring 2010,” tracked a typical week, during which 61 percent of all American children under age 5 had some kind of child care arrangement.
The changing economy accounts for some of the heightened involvement of fathers, researchers say.
“A recession may force families to adjust their child care arrangements, “ Lynda Laughlin, a family demographer at the Census Bureau, said in a statement. “It can trigger unemployment or changes in work hours, thus increasing the availability of fathers to provide child care. It also can reduce available income to pay for child care outside of the home.”
Other highlights from the report include:
- In households with working moms, family members continue to serve as an important source of child care for preschoolers. In spring of 2010, 30 percent of preschoolers were regularly cared for by their grandparents, 29 percent were cared for by their fathers, and 12 percent received care from a sibling or other relative.
- Preschoolers with employed black and Hispanic mothers were more likely to be cared for by their grandparents than their fathers. Twenty-nine percent of black preschoolers were cared for by their grandparents, while a quarter (22 percent) were cared for by their fathers. A third of Hispanic preschoolers were regularly taken care of by their grandparent, compared with 29 percent who received care from their fathers.
- Among preschoolers of employed non-Hispanic white mothers, 30 percent were cared for by their fathers and 29 percent were cared for by their grandparents.
- Of the 21 million mothers who were employed in the spring of 2010, one-third reported they paid for child care for at least one of their children.
- Families with an employed mother and children younger than 15 paid an average of $138 per week for child care in 2010, up from $81 in 1985 (in constant 2010 dollars), the first year that these data were collected.
Image: Father playing with his child, via Shutterstock.
Monday, November 7th, 2011
A study that will be published in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics shows that children whose fathers show signs of depression are 70 percent more likely to develop emotional or behavioral problems themselves.
The new research builds on earlier findings that show correlation between maternal depression and child depression. This is the first major study that examines paternal depression and its effect on children.
“For years we’ve been studying maternal depression and how it affects children, but the medical community has done a huge disservice by ignoring fathers in this research,” said the study’s lead author, Michael Weitzman, a professor of pediatric medicine at New York University, in New York. “These findings reinforce what we already assumed — that fathers matter, too, and they matter quite a lot.”
The situation is predictably worse if both parents are depressed. Just 6% of children with two mentally healthy parents have serious emotional or behavioral problems, such as feeling sad or nervous, acting out at school, or clashing with family and peers, the study found. But that proportion increases to 11% if the father is depressed, 19% if the mother is depressed and 25% if both parents are depressed — a strikingly high number, Weitzman says.
Although the study doesn’t prove that a parent’s depression directly causes problems in children, rather than vice versa, previous research on mothers and children has clearly shown that it’s generally mothers who influence kids’ mental health, not the other way around.
Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
The first longitudinal study of testosterone levels in fathers has found that the longer a man has been a father–and the more involved with the daily care of his children he is–the lower his testosterone level drops.
The study measured testosterone levels in 21-year-old men before they became fathers, and then again 5 years later. Those who became fathers had more than double the drop in testosterone than non-fathers (all men experience a drop in testosterone as they age). And those men who spent more than three hours caring for their children each day had the lowest level of all.
The New York Times reports on the study, which was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
“The real take-home message,” said Peter Ellison, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who was not involved in the study, is that “male parental care is important. It’s important enough that it’s actually shaped the physiology of men.”
“Unfortunately,” Dr. Ellison added, “I think American males have been brainwashed” to believe lower testosterone means that “maybe you’re a wimp, that it’s because you’re not really a man.
“My hope would be that this kind of research has an impact on the American male. It would make them realize that we’re meant to be active fathers and participate in the care of our offspring.”
The study, experts say, suggests that men’s bodies evolved hormonal systems that helped them commit to their families once children were born. It also suggests that men’s behavior can affect hormonal signals their bodies send, not just that hormones influence behavior. And, experts say, it underscores that mothers were meant to have child care help.
“This is part of the guy being invested in the marriage,” said Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who also was not involved in the study. Lower testosterone, she said, is the father’s way of saying, “ ‘I’m here, I’m not looking around, I’m really toning things down so I can have good relationships.’ What’s great about this study is it lays it on the table that more is not always better. Faster, bigger, stronger — no, not always.”
(image via: http://www.hfihouston.org)
Thursday, September 1st, 2011
Canadian researchers say that having an actively engaged dad makes a child more intelligent and less prone to behavior problems, The Montreal Gazette reports.
A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science followed 138 children over several years. The children took intelligence tests and their mothers completed questionnaires about their home environment.
The researchers found that a positive, hands-on dad benefits his children even if he does not live with them, Erin Pougnet, a PhD candidate in psychology at Concordia University in Montreal and the study’s lead author, told the Gazette.
“Regardless of whether fathers lived with their children, their ability to set appropriate limits and structure their children’s behavior positively influenced problem-solving and decreased emotional problems, such as sadness, social withdrawal and anxiety,” Pougnet said.
The researchers also stressed that children can do well even if their fathers are absent. From the Gazette:
“While our study examined the important role dads play in the development of their children, kids don’t necessarily do poorly without their fathers,” stresses co-author Lisa A. Serbin, a professor in the Concordia Department of Psychology and a CRDH member.
(image via: http://www.lessonsofadad.com)