Bathtime with dad boost for babies

6 November 2001

Fathers Direct, the national information centre for fatherhood, today welcomed a study from University College, London, demonstrating how the emotional health of teenagers can be damaged by a poor early relationship with their fathers.

The study by Dr Howard Steele, a psychologist at University College, London, found that babies who were not given regular care by their fathers often experience significant and long-term relationship problems in later life. Dr Steele found that children who as babies did not spend quality time with their fathers – particularly those not regularly bathed by dad, experienced friendship and relationship difficulties three times above the national average.

Jack O’Sullivan, spokesman for Fathers Direct said:
“Bathing of babies is a indicator for a father’s involvement with his children. The study supports existing research which shows that, where fathers are actively involved, their children become more socially competent, are more successful at examinations at 16 and less likely to have a criminal record by the age of 21*

“High father involvement in a child’s life is an important predictor of social mobility, of whether a child will outstrip the employment achievements of their parents. Among adults, the strongest predictor in both men and women of an individual’s altruism – the ability to care for others – is the level of care taken by the father in their childhood.

“There are also lots of negatives that may be avoided by good fathering. For example, a common feature among anorexic girls is a distant or punitive relationship with their fathers. It has been found that 80 per cent of women who feel emotionally distant from their partners have had bad experiences with their fathers. There are now lots of studies indicating that where children continue to have a positive relationship with their father after divorce or separation, both sexes do better.”

“The policy implications of this research are that we must encourage father involvement from an early age. Studies show that men want to be involved. However, support for fathers is thin on the ground. According to the largest ever survey of new fathers, published last year by the NCT and Fathers Direct, 96 per cent of fathers attend the birth, yet half of all dads receive no paid paternity leave and the rest average about three days. New British fathers work the longest hours in Europe – 47 hours per week – and their hours lengthen after the birth so they can make up lost family income and pay for the baby.”

*According to “What Good Are Dads?” a review of 20 years of research on fatherhood, by Charlie Lewis, Professor of Psychology at Lancaster University and published in June 2001 by Fathers Direct, NFPI and other parenting charities:
· Involvement of dads with children aged 7-11 predicts success in exams at 16
· Where dads are involved before the age of 11, children are less likely to have a criminal record by the age of 21
· Pre-schoolers who spend more time playing with their dads are often more sociable when they enter nursery school
· Nine out of ten dads attend the birth

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