New study shows fathers’ influence on babies’ behaviour
Babies behave better when their fathers give them closer attention during the early months, a study indicates.
The study conducted by a team from Oxford University, studied 192 families and found that babies whose fathers engage positively with them at the age of three months old behave better at 12 months.
The study indicates that the relationship has more affect on boys than girls, suggesting that perhaps boys are more at risk to the influence of their fathers from a very early age
The researchers observed how fathers interacted with their babies at three months and then assessed the same children’s behaviour at a year, hence establishing that children whose fathers were more engaged had better outcomes whereas children whose fathers are less interactive develop behavioural problems.
The study indicates that the relationship has more affect on boys than girls, suggesting that perhaps boys are more at risk to the influence of their fathers from a very early age.
For the 12-month part of the study, parents had to complete questionnaires, including an internationally used child behaviour checklist.
The checklist includes questions on whether the child cries a lot, is easy to get to sleep and feed, how demanding or fearful the child is and how willing it is to try new things, to look others in the eye and to engage with other children. A high score on the checklist has been found to predict long-term behavioural difficulties.
The study draws on previous research suggesting that long-term behavioural problems often stem from poor parenting during very early childhood - but most of this research has focused on the mothers’ role.
The researchers also suggested that a father whose relationship with the mother is troubled could find it harder to engage with their baby, causing the child to behave badly in order to get attention.
In Rwandan society, the role of mothers in the healthy development of children garners a lot of attention while that of fathers is often perceived as simply that of a provider.
Some of the parents who talked to The New Times, said children who get more attention from their fathers develop more confidence.
They said each parent brings about unique gifts and strengths to the developmental process, especially with regard to behaviour. Responsible fathers become crucial role models through their behaviour towards both the children and mothers.
“Babies feel well protected and loved when both their mothers and fathers interact with them. The love of a mother is naturally there, but mostly father’s attention is needed more in areas of behaviour,” commented Fiona Mukabutera, a mother of three.
Another mother of four, Beatrice Bateta said: “Many of our most pressing social problems can be directly related to the absence of fathers. That alone should be enough to convince us that children are best served by having fathers who are actively engaged in their lives.”
A single mother of two said that though her children get motherly love, she believes they are psychologically affected due to the absence of their late father.
“I do believe that a father’s presence is vital to children because they are more secure with their fathers and this gives them more confidence in whatever they do while growing up,” she said.
According to Evelyne Mukandanga, a primary teacher at Group Scolaire Kagugu, children between the ages of three to ten months begin to adopt behaviour, especially from their fathers.
“The messages that fathers send through their words and, more importantly, their behaviour, sets the tone for much of their children’s future in terms of interpersonal relationships,” Mukandanga said.
Contact email: fred.ndoli[at]newtimes.co.rw