Babies Who Look Like Their Fathers Are Healthier, According To New Research

Though it's probably not because they hear more dad jokes.

According to new research out of Binghamton University, babies who look like their fathers are healthier.

Distinguished Research Professor of Economics Solomon Polachek and his institution colleagues analyzed data from 715 families where infants only lived with their mothers, in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing (FFCW) study. Using private interviews with both parents, they measured how much babies resembled their dads. Additionally, they gauged fatherly investment based on each mother's report of financial investment, time spent with the baby, and shared parental responsibilities. 

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Finally, to assess each child's health the researchers relied upon mothers' reports of indicators, such as the number of doctor visits for sickness since birth. The results suggest that father-child resemblance causes a dad to spend more time engaged in positive parenting, with fathers spending an average of 2.5 more days per month with their babies than dads who didn't resemble their offspring.

That additional attention, Polachek and his team believe, explains why those same children were considered healthier at their first birthdays. While that may sound like a bit of stretch, Polachek measured that each extra day a father invested time in their baby decreased that child's probability of having reportedly poor health by two percentage points. 

"We find a child's health indicators improve when the child looks like the father," he noted in a statement on his research. "The main explanation is that frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for care-giving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs." 

This makes sense, scientists reason, as it is in the biological best interest of men who can visibly see evidence of their paternity in a tiny version of themselves to help ensure they are healthy and live long enough to pass their genes on to the next generation. While data shows that involved dads benefit a child's physical health through reducing the risk of obesity, they also have an important impact on their psychological health as well. Fathers who are active caretakers reduce the risk of aggression and delinquency in their children.

While this is great news for children with present, active fathers (regardless of who they look like), this study is limited by its dependency on self-reported findings. Polachek also acknowledged the difficulty in discerning if dads were less likely to spend time with their babies because they were in poor health based solely on the available dataset. 

Overall, the researchers concluded that their study supports policies, like parenting classes, health education, and job training, that would encourage nonresident fathers to participate in frequent positive parenting to improve early childhood health.

(H/T: Fatherly)

Cover image via Cultura Motion I Shutterstock

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