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Involved Dads Make a Difference for Disadvantaged Teens

MONDAY, Dec. 21, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Dads matter: New research shows how attentive, involved fathers can really boost the mental well-being and behavior of teens from low-income families.

The study looked at 5,000 U.S. children born between 1998 and 2000, and their fathers' involvement with them between ages 5 and 15.

That included activities such as feeding, playing, reading, helping with homework and providing non-cash items, such as clothes, toys, food and other necessities.

The researchers also assessed behavioral and emotional problems among the children, including crying, worrying, fighting, bullying and skipping school.

Teens whose fathers paid more attention to them had fewer behavioral and emotional problems, according to the Rutgers University-New Brunswick study published recently in the journal Social Service Review.

The findings suggest that more engagement by fathers in low-income families could help boost their kids' mental well-being to levels similar to those of kids from wealthier families.

"On average, children in lower socioeconomic status families tend to have more behavior problems and their fathers have lower levels of overall involvement than those in higher socioeconomic status families," said study lead author Lenna Nepomnyaschy, associate professor of social work.

Fathers with lower levels of education, less-skilled jobs and lower wages may find it difficult to play a significant role in their children's lives due to social and economic changes over recent decades, she said in a university news release.

Those changes have led to the loss of manufacturing jobs, a decline in union power and criminal justice policies associated with higher rates of imprisonment, particularly among men of color, the study authors noted.

Policymakers, researchers and the public need to push for wage, employment and criminal justice policies that give low-income men more opportunities to spend time with their children and improve their well-being, the team concluded.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers parenting tips.

SOURCE: Rutgers University-New Brunswick, news release, Dec. 9, 2020

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