Infants who look like their father at birth are likely to be healthier by their first birthday according to a new US study, as fathers are more inclined to spend time with children who look like them.
Co-conducted by researchers from Binghamton University, State University of New York, the team looked at 715 families in which babies lived with only their mother.
The team assessed the health of the infants using reports from the mothers, who were asked to classify the child's health status as poor, fair, good, very good, and excellent, and by looking at data on four specific health outcomes, including whether the child had experienced an asthma attack since birth; the number of visits to a health care professional for illness since birth; number of emergency room visits since birth; and the longest stay in hospital.
After analyzing the data, the team found that infants who looked like their father at birth were healthier one year later.
The team suggested that father-child resemblance induces a father to spend more time with their child, with these fathers spending an average of 2.5 more days per month with their babies than fathers who didn't look like their offspring.
"Those fathers that perceive the baby's resemblance to them are more certain the baby is theirs, and thus spend more time with the baby," explained one of the study's authors, Dr. Polachek, adding, "Fathers are important in raising a child, and it manifests itself in the health of the child."
The team believe the findings highlight how important it is for fathers to spend time with their children, especially in families where the children may not live with both parents, with Polachek noting that, "frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for care-giving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs."
In addition, the team believe fathers living away from their children should be given support to engage in frequent positive parenting.
"Greater efforts could be made to encourage these fathers to frequently engage their children through parenting classes, health education, and job training to enhance earnings," said Polachek.
- The findings can be found published online in the Journal of Health Economics.