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Three Ways Dad Makes a Difference in Baby’s First Year of Life

Three Ways Dad Makes a Difference in Baby’s First Year of Life

The importance of a father figure in a child’s life simply cannot be overstated. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (another great place to visit about the importance of fatherhood), homes with a father’s presence are at lower risk for a variety of poor outcomes) such as:

  • Infant mortality
  • Low birth weight
  • Emotional and behavioral problems
  • Neglect and abuse
  • Injury
  • Obesity
  • Poor school performance
  • Criminal activity
  • And more

In this article, we’re going to focus specifically on the benefits of a father’s presence in the first year of life.

The first year of being a father could be described in so many ways. It’s wonderful, stressful, fulfilling, hectic, joyful, depressing (at times)—the list goes on. To put it in one common phrase, it’s a lot! Keep up the fight though, dads, because you’re fighting the good fight! When it comes to early childhood development, in the first year specifically, there are numerous benefits to a father’s presence or involvement.

I’m going to be mentioning Father’s involvement several times throughout this blog and in many future blogs as well. Because of this I think it is important to clarify what this is generally understood to mean in the context of research that is out there.

Dr. Susan Yoon from Ohio State University mentions fatherhood involvement can be measured in the quantity of time a father spends with his child, and the quality of that time. Quantity being the day-to-day things that a father may be involved in such as going to a museum, or grocery store or park. Quality of time refers to the lasting impression those events or others may have on a child.

LEARN MORE: E409–The Difference a Dad Makes


Dads Help their Kids Reach Developmental Milestones

According to Rainforest Learning Center, a 6-month-old with an involved father tends to score higher on the Bayless Scale of Infant development. This assessment is an instrument designed to measure motor, cognitive, language, social-emotional and adaptive behavior development in babies and young children. It involves interaction between the child and examiner and observations in a series of tasks.

Some other studies suggest the toddlers may have higher IQ levels as well. So, remember when you’re 6-month-old is upset because you won’t let him stick his finger in a wall outlet, stay in there! Your involvement may make your kid smarter!


Dad-Baby Bonding is Real

Forming secure attachments is something else a father can greatly influence in the first year of life. According to this Motherly article, past research had suggested that infants attach to only one caregiver, but more recent research shows this is not the case. The father can also establish a strong attachment with the baby and be an effective caregiver as well.

Even fathers who may need to spend extended time away from their baby can still have a good bond, which is certainly encouraging for fathers who may not always get to be with their baby. Society is fortunately beginning to understand and view the father not as a “babysitter” but rather an instrumental caregiver in the household.


Dads Bring Fun into the Equation

A result of this strong attachment is the child’s improved ability to regulate emotions.  This article suggests dads that tend to be more active in play with their child. It goes on to say that the more intense feelings associated with this way of play allows children to explore these feelings in a safe and controlled environment.

Another important point this research brings up is that “suggest that the combined influences of attachments to each parent provide a stronger prediction to children’s ER in the preschool (than do either parent alone), which is consistent with an integrative approach.” This further solidifies the role of a father in this crucial stage of life.

To further show this point, when fathers are physically or emotionally distant from their newborns this article suggests these children were found to be more aggressive with their peers when they reached preschool age. This was truer with boys and occurred independently from how the mother had treated the infant.

All this research further emphasizes the importance of a Fathers role in the life of their child from infancy, not just later in the child’s life. When it comes to emotional regulation and stability, fathers have a very important and unique role to play to improve the life of their child.


You are much more than a “babysitter” for your child. You have a unique role that only you can fulfill. That is an encouraging thought! Just keep this statement in mind like a mantra for when the baby is crawling around the house putting everything in their mouth.     

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