New research from London shows that fathers who interact with their children at an early age promote better mental development in their kids.
We know that infants need connections, and that those connections play an integral part in the development of appropriate neural wiring.
Researchers from Imperial College London, King’s College London, and Oxford University looked at the interactions of fathers with their babies at three months of age, and then assessed their cognitive development over a year later. What they found was that the babies whose fathers were more active when playing and engaged with them in their newborn months scored better on cognitive tests when they were two years old, compared to their peers who did not have the same interaction.
Professor Paul Ramchandani, lead researcher from the Imperial College Department of Medicine, said that the father-child interactions as early as three months can be positive predictors of cognitive development in the child two years later. Based on that, he predicts that the interaction would most likely provide meaningful input for later development as well, and that’s something that hasn’t been looked at or shown quantitatively before.
Dr. Vaheshta Sethna with King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience said that reading activities with fathers also support cognitive learning and brain function in their children. The research showed that fathers who calmly and sensitively interact with their two-year-old children while reading a book had children who, when assessed, had better cognitive development, attention, and problem-solving, language and social skills.
The researchers admit that the parents and children who took part in the study were mostly those of higher socio-economic and education statuses, and the measurement of the father-child interactions were taken from short video clips and may not fully and accurately show how the interaction is at other times.
Still, the news is encouraging when it comes to simple things we can do to best help children’s brains grow and develop, and researchers now want to work on helping parents with those interactions so they can incorporate strategies for positive parenting when there is challenging behavior from their children later.