Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 27, Issue 11, pp 3544–3553 | Cite as

The Long-term Effects of Early Paternal Presence on Children’s Behavior

  • Angus G. Craig
  • John M. D. Thompson
  • Rebecca Slykerman
  • Clare Wall
  • Rinki Murphy
  • Edwin A. Mitchell
  • Karen E. WaldieEmail author
Original Paper


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.

Supplementary material

10826_2018_1206_MOESM1_ESM.docx (20 kb)
Supplementary Tables


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Angus G. Craig
    • 1
  • John M. D. Thompson
    • 2
  • Rebecca Slykerman
    • 2
  • Clare Wall
    • 3
  • Rinki Murphy
    • 4
  • Edwin A. Mitchell
    • 2
  • Karen E. Waldie
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of PsychologyThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of PaediatricsThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  3. 3.Discipline of Nutrition and DieteticsThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  4. 4.Department of MedicineThe University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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