Good fathers essential to having healthy, well-balanced children, primate research finds

A recent study published in PLOS ONE has revealed that common marmosets born to responsive fathers have a greater likelihood of surviving during their first 30 days and are more likely to exhibit better weight gain after weaning from their mother’s milk. The study, carried out by a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, focused on the behaviors of 24 marmoset fathers toward recorded distress calls of infant marmosets.

According to the study, 60 percent of marmoset fathers responded to the distress calls by searching for their sources. The results showed that 87 percent of infant marmosets born to responsive fathers were able to survive their first 30 days, compared to only 45 percent of those born to inattentive fathers. Likewise, the research team has noted that young marmosets with responsive fathers gained weight at a faster pace than their counterparts with unresponsive fathers.

The experts also observed that marmoset fathers take an active role in introducing baby marmosets to solid foods after weaning off their mother’s milk. According to the scientists, more responsive fathers appear to exert greater effort in transitioning their offspring from milk to solids. Researcher Dr. Toni Ziegler discussed that father marmosets appear to be do “food calls” to encourage the young to come over and taste the food they have. The expert noted that this relationship produced a better predictive weight gain.

“These are the fathers that are really motivated to take care of their offspring’s essential needs early on. And that shows in the step up the infants get. Meet their early, basic needs, and they’re likely to be better off. Whether that’s nature or nurture, and whether it’s something that gets passed down, those are the kind of questions we hope we’re able to work on down the road,” Dr. Ziegler has told Daily Mail online.

Human study shows link between paternal attention, pediatric development

The findings of the recent animal study are reflective of a 2014 human research that highlighted the positive effects of paternal attention on a child’s developmental stages.

As part of the study, researchers at The Norwegian Centre for Child Behavioural Development interviewed fathers and mothers of up to 1,157 children and observed certain markers as the children grew up. The results showed that a very low percentage of fathers enforced negative engagement and interaction with young children, suggesting that fathers tend to be more patient and pay greater attention to what a child needs.

The study has also found that while both fathers and mothers are equally positively engaged with their children, fathers appear to be more positively engaged if the child is a boy. The researchers have also observed a positive correlation between the time and quality of a father’s attention and his child’s development. The findings should have practical implications about including fathers in daily child care, a researchers has stressed. (Related: Fathers’ diets and health found to influence offspring’s obesity, insulin resistance.)

“Being a sensitive and attentive dad doesn’t help if you don’t spend enough time with your child. However, time isn’t enough in itself. It’s the combination of time and quality that has an impact… What I can establish, however, is that more time with dad seems to have positive effects on the child’s social development as long as this time is characterised by positive interaction. Thus I would claim that fathers should be entitled to spend more time with their children, and they should be entitled to guidance in order to enhance the quality of the interaction between father and child,” researcher Kristin Berg Nordahl has stated in a Science Daily article.

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