Dads may help youngsters deal with the outside world

Sometimes it seems dads get the short end of things. I generally enjoy helping out with me kids giving baths, brushing hair, cooking meals and I am the best at getting our 7-month-old down for a nap or bed. But often it’s mom who the girls look to at key moments – my oldest daughter almost always has mom finish her bedtime rituals, I’m just the play-games-with-to-delay-lights-out guy.

So it’s nice to have a medical study affirm the worth of dads in the order of things, even if it is a small study in a journal I hadn’t heard of before.

Here’s a brief article my colleague Don Sapatkin wrote that appears in Monday’s Health & Science section:

Children tend to be closer to one parent or the other — usually mom — but get different benefits from each. And their comfort level with strangers has a lot to do with Dad.

The small study analyzed the reactions of 31 toddlers as they played peek-a-boo games individually with their mother and father — the order was random — and then with a female stranger. The 12 girls and 19 boys were all healthy, first-born and 12 to 18 months old.

As expected, the children were most competent playing with their mother and least with the stranger. But their social proficiency with the stranger depended more on interactions with their father.

Previous research has found that fathers interact with their infants in a more unpredictable way, according to the paper in the journal Infant Behavior & Development. This may help prepare children for the outside world.

One implication of the findings “may be the importance of inclusion of paternal style characteristics by mothers,” writes author Sari Goldstein Ferber, a psychologist at Tel Aviv University, “especially in the case where the father is absent.”