It might seem obvious that the amount of time parents spend with their kids is paramount for healthy child development. But for many children in the United States, quality time spent with mom and dad — especially dad — can come at a premium. In a recent study, researchers noted that children growing up in single-parent households are at a decided social, economic, and health disadvantage:

Time inputs of both parents appear to be even more important than money investments in producing quality children… In this regard, the prevalence of children currently living in low-income single mother homes is of concern. In 2016, 17.2 million (nearly 25%) children under age 18 were living only with a mother and 40% of those lived below the poverty line[…] These children are more likely to be food insecure[…] and have less access to parental investment especially from absentee fathers.


The simple study produced very interesting results. It turns out that infants who are perceived by both parents to look like their father are more likely to attract and keep their father’s attention. And that, apparently, is a healthy thing for the baby. Dana Dovey reviews the study’s methods:

A total of 715 unmarried mothers and fathers who did not live together were interviewed during the first three days after birth, and then at four follow-ups before the child’s first birthday. The researchers asked parents questions, including “Who does the baby look like?”  In addition, the child’s health during the first year of their life was noted. Health care indicators included number of asthma attacks, emergency room visits and how long these visits were.

Two thirds of the parents agreed on whether or not the child looked like their father. Of this group, 56 percent believed the child did look like the father and 44 percent agreed the child did not resemble the father.


When babies look like their fathers, their fathers spend significantly more time with them. Allen Cone says increased paternal attention improved child health in the study:

Researchers found a 2.7 percent lower probability of asthma episodes, 5.4 percent fewer visits to health practitioners for illness, 9.1 percent fewer visits to the emergency room and 22.3 percent reduction in length of hospital stays.

An extra day per month by a visiting father looking like their child appears to enhance infant health by just over 10 percent of a standard deviation.

One year after birth, fathers that look like their child spent an average of 2.5 more days per month with their babies than fathers who didn’t resemble their offspring, according to the research.

“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,” Polachek said.


Dovey gets one of the study’s authors to explain the findings:

“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,”  study co-author Solomon Polachek, a professor of economics at Binghamton said in a statement. “It’s been said that ‘it takes a village’ but my coauthor, Marlon Tracey, and I find that having an involved father certainly helps,” added Polachek.


In other words, two invested, caring, and loving parents are better than one.


(Google Images)