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Massive Study Finds Active Fathers are Essential for Well Adjusted Children:
20-year review finds children have fewer psychological and behavioral problems

Active father figures play a key role in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women, according to a review published in the February issue of the peer-reviewed journal Acta Paediatrica.

Swedish researchers also found that regular positive contact reduces criminal behaviour among children in low-income families and enhances cognitive skills like intelligence, reasoning and language development. Children who lived with both a mother and father figure also had less behavioural problems than those who just lived with their mother.

The researchers are urging healthcare professionals to increase fathers' involvement in their children's healthcare and calling on policy makers to ensure that fathers have the chance to play an active role in their upbringing.

The review looked at 24 papers published between 1987 and 2007, covering 22,300 individual sets of data from 16 studies. 18 of the 24 papers also covered the social economic status of the families studied.

"Our detailed 20-year review shows that overall, children reap positive benefits if they have active and regular engagement with a father figure" says Dr Anna Sarkadi from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at Uppsala University, Sweden.

"For example, we found various studies that showed that children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes.

"Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16."

However, the authors point out that it is not possible to conclude what type of engagement the father figure needs to provide to produce positive effects. "The studies show that it can range from talking and sharing activities to playing an active role in the child's day-to-day care."

Governments and employers also have an important role to play in ensuring that men can spend quality time with their offspring, stress the authors. "Public policy has the potential to facilitate or create barriers to fathers spending time with their children during the crucial years of early development" says Dr. Sarkadi.

"Unfortunately current institutional policies in most countries do not support the increased involvement of fathers in child rearing. Paid parental leave for fathers and employers sympathetic to fathers staying at home with sick children is still a dream in most countries.

"We hope that this review will add to the body of evidence that shows that enlightened father-friendly policies can make a major contribution to society in the long run, by producing well-adjusted children and reducing major problems like crime and antisocial behaviour."

[Acta Paediatrica, 2/08; STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 13, 2008,]



TEEN RISK FACTORS TIED TO EARLY SEX.Things like the lack of a close relationship with parents, lots of television and low self-esteem were linked to earlier sexual experiences by teenagers, a recent study found.

University of Wisconsin-Madison psychologists Janet Shibley Hyde and Myeshia Price co-authored the study which examined the sexual activity of 273 youth.

“It isn’t any one thing. It’s cumulative, and the more risks there are, the greater the chances that they’ll begin sex early,” Hyde told USA Today.

The study found that each risk factor pinpointed in the lives of the young teens raised the odds of sexual activity by 44%. With regards to television, Price said that the more television a teen watched the greater were the odds that he or she would start having sex between the ages of 13 and 15.

One encouragement for parents: A close relationship with parents provided some protection from kids who felt pressured to start having sex early.

“Warmth from parents and clear, firm guidelines can make a big difference to kids this age,” Hyde said. [, 11/13/07;, 1/08]

VIOLENT TV LINKED TO BOYS' AGGRESSION. A new study says watching a single hour of television violence per day is enough to increase the likelihood that young boys will exhibit antisocial behavior later in life.

Published in the November issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the study examined the viewing habits of 330 children ages two to five, and then evaluated their behavior five years later.

Study author Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute told Reuters that about 14% of the boys in the study later had “serious problems with aggression and for each hour on average per day they had watched violent TV, they were three times more likely to be in that group” than those who did not watch on-screen violence.

While finding that exposure to violent television programming was associated “with an increased risk for antisocial behavior for boys,” no such increased risk appeared for girls who watched such programming.

As an explanation for this dichotomy, Christakis said it might be because boys were more genetically predisposed to aggression, “so the same level of exposure brings out aggression in them where it doesn’t in girls. It also could be boys are socialized to respond aggressively,” he told Reuters. [Pediatrics, 11/07;, 11/5/07;, 1/08]