Despite many decades of research being devoted to moms, fatherhood has only recently become an emerging science. And in 2017 the data reached peak dad. From how fathers offset the impact of maternal depression to what your age at conception has to do with your kid’s ability to make friends as a teenager, scientists have uncovered plenty of new clues as to why dads matter so much. Years to come will likely yield more discoveries about the unique role fathers play in their children’s lives. In the meantime, here are seven major discoveries about dad-hood the experts learned this year.
Present fathers significantly reduce their daughters risk of engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors in adolescence, and unique study of more than a hundred sisters confirms. Researchers looked at families where sisters between the ages of 18 and 34, at least four years apart, who had been separated by divorce. One sister had what was considered involved and quality relationships with their fathers compared to the others, which was more limited. Results showed that when dads were involved, daughters were significantly less likely to associate with sexually risky peers. If you don’t want to be chasing a horny teenage boy out of your house one day, spend more time there early on.
Later in the year the same research team published another study that included 4 separate experiments and suggested that it wasn’t enough for fathers to simply be there. When dads where present in daughters lives, but daughters reported more disappointing memories than positive ones, they were still set up to seek out that love in prematurely promiscuous ways. If you’re disappointing enough, you could become a grandfather sooner than you want, so make every moment count.
Research shows maternal depression can take a huge toll on a child’s health and development, but sensitive and non-intrusive dads can offset the impact on kids, a first of its kind study shows. Researchers found that depressed mothers displayed behaviors that were low in sensitivity and high intrusiveness with children, which caused them to withdrawal, but when dads displayed the opposite, the kids were alright. It might be hard to go high when they go low, but science says it makes
Dads who are involved in their kid’s lives reduce their chances of becoming obese throughout their childhood, data on nearly 4,000 kids shows. Specifically, dads who involved in everyday activities like playing outside or getting children ready for bed greatly reduced their risk of becoming obese between the ages of 2 and 4-years-old. And between all the running around and tiny human-lifting, your (dad) bod will benefit as well.
Men who become fathers later in life may appear to have less social kids, but it turns out their social development may be more of a slow burn, according to a study of 15,000 sets of twins suggests. The results indicated that children born to dads 25 and younger had kids who showed more prosocial behaviors in early development, compared to those born to men 51 and older. However, by the time they reached adolescence, kids with older dads passed up their peers with younger dads. And that’s when they’re going be more fun to hang out with anyways.
When children lose their fathers to either divorce, incarceration, or death, it shortens the protective caps at the ends of their chromosomes known as telomeres (which impact how cells age), research reveals. Telomeres, which helped Matthew McConaughey dilate time movie Interstellar and are often compared to the caps of shoelaces, could also increase the risk of kids developing a number of chronic diseases later in life. If you don’t stick around, their cellular structure can get a bit spacey.
Blended families are not uncommon and stepfathers shoulder many of the same responsibilities as biological fathers, scientifically speaking. Though research on stepdads is even more sparse than the data on dads in general, one study suggests that these relationships are both comparable and significant, they just take time to build. Regardless of whether you’re passing your genes on, what matters that you’re a present dad doing the best job you can. Everything else, scientists can tackle for you in 2018.