It’s not rocket science that children pick up on verbal cues from their parents, but dads in particular may have a big impact on their kids — and it all comes down to their moods and mental health.
In a recently resurfaced 2016 study out of Michigan State University, researchers found that stressed-out behavior from a father had a negative effect on their toddler-aged children’s language development, “even when the mothers’ influences were taken into account,” explains an article on the university’s website.
To reach this conclusion, researchers including lead author Tamesha Harewood (from MSU’s Department of Human Development and Family Studies) surveyed more than 700 families in Early Head Start programs across the country.
“The study found that fathers’ parenting-related stress had a harmful effect on their children’s cognitive and language development when the children were 2 to 3 years old,” the article says, pointing out that this type of influence from dads was more likely to affect sons than daughters.
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Both parents’ mental health, the study suggests, have a “significant effect” on behavior in their toddlers — namely, more negative behavior was associated with things like stress or depression.
Symptoms of depression in dads was also found to be more prominent than moms’ in researchers’ data about long-term effects, with kids’ social skills being affected as a result.
Associate professor Claire Vallotton, who was the main investigator on the paper, said of the findings, “There’s this whole idea that grew out of past research that dads really don’t have direct effects on their kids, that they just kind of create the tone for the household and that moms are the ones who affect their children’s development.”
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“But here we show that fathers really do have a direct effect on kids, both in the short term and long term,” Vallotton added in the article for MSU.
“Times have changed. More fathers are staying at home with their kids, or becoming more involved in parenting,” said Harewood, according to HealthDay News.
“You’re important to your children, so you need to take care of yourself,” she further advised dads. “Fathers shouldn’t feel like they’re ‘less manly’ because they need help.”