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Fathers matter

As paediatricians we deal more with mothers than we do with fathers. Even in these days of greater sex equality, fathers may appear only when things aren't going well. But is there any evidence that greater paternal involvement in everyday childcare is of any benefit to the child? Researchers from the long-running Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) mined their vast database to try and answer this question (Opondo C, et al. BMJ Open 2016. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2016-012034). They identified over 10 400 children from their cohort born in 1991–2 who were living with both parents at age 8 months. Of these, around 6 500 had follow-up data available. From parental questionnaires, they were able to classify fathers' involvement with their infants in 3 domains: emotional response to the child; involvement in domestic and childcare activities; fathers' feelings of security in their parental role. The Strength and Difficulties questionnaire (SDQ) allowed behavioural outcomes to be graded at ages 9 and 11 years.

They found that children of fathers with high scores for favourable emotional response and security had small but significantly lower likelihoods of behavioural difficulties (at 11 years OR 0.89; 95% …

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