The Long-term Effects of Early Paternal Presence on Children’s Behavior
A father’s presence in the family is important for promoting adaptive behavioral functioning in children. It is unknown however, if there is a critical time during infancy and childhood for such paternal presence and involvement to affect behaviour. Using data from the Auckland Birthweight Collaborative (ABC) study, we examined the amount of paternal presence children experienced through their first 11 years of life (measured as fathers’ time spent in the same household as their children) and its effect on their behavioral outcomes at 11 years of age. After controlling for potential confounds, children who whose fathers were minimally present (left between 0 and 3.5 years of age) were twice as likely to report clinically significant behavioural difficulties as those whose fathers were present throughout childhood. Those whose fathers were present for early childhood (left between 3.5 and 7 years of age) exhibited no significant differences in their behaviour at 11 years of age when compared to their peers whose fathers remained present. Mothers reported no significant changes in their children’s behavior. Findings suggested that paternal presence early in a child’s life might be most important with regard to promoting adaptive behavioural functioning as they age.
The initial study was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The 12 month postal questionnaire was funded by Hawkes Bay Medical Research Foundation. The 3.5 year follow-up study was funded by Child Health Research Foundation, Becroft Foundation and Auckland Medical Research Foundation. The 7 year follow-up study was funded by Child Health Research Foundation. The 11 year follow-up was funded by Child Health Research foundation and the Heart Foundation. The genetic component of this study was funded by Child Health Research Foundation. EA Mitchell and JMD Thompson are supported by Cure Kids. The 7 year follow-up study was conducted in the Children’s Research Centre which is supported in part by the Starship Foundation and the Auckland District Health Board. We acknowledge the assistance of Gail Gillies, Barbara Rotherham and Helen Nagels for contacting or assessing the participants. We sincerely thank the parents and children for participating in this study. This is an original paper and there are no copyright issues. There is no material that has appeared in other publications.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
- Bronfenbrenner, U. (1994). Ecological models of human development. International Encyclopedia of Education, 3(2), 37–43.Google Scholar
- Cassidy, J., Shaver, P.R. (Eds.), 1999. Handbook of attachment: Theory, research and clinical applications. New York, NY: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Castillo, J., Welch, G., & Sarver, C. (2011). Fathering: the relationship between fathers’ residence, fathers’ sociodemographic characteristics, and father involvement. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 15(8), 1342–1349. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10995-010-0684-6.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20848169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Dunst, C. J. (1984). The family support scale: reliability and validity. Journal of Individual, Family, and Community Wellness, 1(4), 45–52.Google Scholar
- Elley, W. B., & Irving, J. C. (2003). The Elley-Irving socioeconomic index: 2001 census revision. New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 38, 3–17.Google Scholar
- Goodman, R., Meltzer, H., & Bailey, V. (1998). The strengths and difficulties questionnaire: a pilot study on the validity of the self-report version. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 7(3), 125–130. https://doi.org/10.1007/s007870050057. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9826298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Grace-Martin, K. (2012). When the assumptions of ANCOVA are irrelevant. http://www.theanalysisfactor.com/assumptions-of-ancova/.
- Cohen, S., & Williamson, G. (1988). Perceived stress in a probability sample of the U.S. In S. Spacapam & S. Oskamp (Eds.), The social psychology of health: Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology (pp. 31-67). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Knibiehler, Y. (1995) Fathers, patriarchy, paternity. In M. C. P. van Dongen, G. A. B. Frinking & M. J. G. Jacobs (Eds), Changing Fatherhood: An Interdisciplinary Perspective (pp. 201–214) Amsterdam, Netherlands: Thesis Publishers.Google Scholar
- Lamb, M. E. (2004). The role of the father in child development. 4th ed. Hoboken, NJ [u.a.]: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Lamb, M. E., Pleck, J. H., Charnov, E. L., & Levine, J. A. (1987). A biosocial perspective on paternal behavior and involvement. In J. B. Lancaster, J. Altman, A. S. Rossi, & L. R. Sherroa (Eds.), Parenting across the lifespan: Biosocial dimensions (pp. 111–142). New York: Aldine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Pleck, J. H. (2010). Father involvement: revised conceptualization and theoretical linkages with child outcomes. The role of the father in child development. 5th Ed. (pp. 459–485). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Sarkadi, A., Kristiansson, R., Oberklaid, F., & Bremberg, S. (2008). Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing. 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2007.00572.x. http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/bpl/apa/2008/00000097/00000002/art00006.Google Scholar
- Thompson, J. M., Clark, P. M., Robinson, E., Becroft, D. M., Pattison, N. S., & Glavish, N., et al. (2001). Risk factors for small-for-gestational-age babies: the auckland birthweight collaborative study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 37(4), 369–375. https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1754.2001.00684.x. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11532057.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Vaden-Kiernan, N., Ialongo, N. S., Pearson, J., & Kellam, S. (1995). Household family structure and children’s aggressive behavior: a longitudinal study of urban elementary school children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 23(5), 553–568. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01447661. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8568079.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar