Babies who look like their father when they were born are more likely to spend additional time with their father. As a result, these babies are healthier when they celebrate their first birthday contrary to those who did not look like their father.
The findings reported in the Journal of Health Economics on March 5, are based on a new study that involved single-mother families.
Children Who Live In Single-Mother Families Have Poorer Health
Earlier studies suggest that children who live in single-mother families are more likely to have poorer levels of health. A 2008 study, for instance, found that children born to unmarried parents are at greater risk of being diagnosed with asthma.
Now, researchers have found one factor that may possibly improve the health of these children. Solomon Polachek from Binghamton University and colleagues analyzed data from Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study that include 715 single mothers and their babies.
More Time For Babies Who Resemble Their Dads
The researchers found that infants who looked like their father at birth tend to be healthier a year later. Babies who resemble their father enjoy 2.5 more days per month with their father compared with their counterparts who did not look like their father.
The findings suggest that the father-child resemblance can induce the father to spend more days per month and become more engaged in positive parenting.
Frequent Parental Visits And Baby’s Health
The researchers explained how frequent visits from a non-resident father can influence the health of a young child.
“Frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for caregiving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs,” Polachek said.
Why Fathers Spend More Time With Babies Who Look Like Them
Polachek said that the baby’s resemblance to the fathers is a cue that the baby is theirs, so they tend to spend more time with the child.
“The idea is that, due to paternity uncertainty, a man assesses genetic relatedness based on whether the child resembles him and uses this information to direct investment resources to the child,” the researchers wrote in their study. “This data is appropriate since paternity uncertainty is more likely to prevail among fragile families.”
Non-Resident Fathers Should Engage In Frequent Positive Parenting
Researchers said that the findings support policies that encourage non-resident fathers to be engaged in frequent positive parenting to boost early childhood health.