According to a recent study conducted by Genevieve Bouchard of the School of Psychology at the University of Moncton in Canada, fathers who are married are more involved with their newborns than those who cohabitate with the mothers. Paternal involvement has become an increasingly interesting area of research in recent years because of how much it affects a child’s development. Factors that have been examined with respect to paternal involvement include being married to versus cohabiting with the mother, as well as the father’s experience with his mother. The level of maternal affection, warmth, and involvement that the father received during his childhood has been of particular interest. Researchers theorize that a father will parent similarly to how he was parented. If he received emotional support, love, and attention from his mother, he will be more inclined to demonstrate those to his children.
To test this theory and examine how marital status affects this behavior, Bouchard evaluated 158 men several weeks before their children were due and again when their children were six months old. She assessed the level of involvement that the fathers exhibited during the pregnancy and after and found that the men who received little maternal support and warmth growing up were less involved in their child’s care than those who received more. They were also less engaged during the pregnancy. But this was the case only among the men who lived with their partners and were not married. “By comparison, for men who transitioned to fatherhood in married relationships, maternal physical affection is unrelated to postnatal engagement,” Bouchard said.
This finding was critical, as it demonstrates that even if men were neglected during their youth, they can avoid acting the same way toward their children by learning prevention strategies and enhancing their parenting skills as they transition to parenthood. These men may also benefit from strategies to fortify their commitment to the mothers of their children.
Bouchard, Genevieve. Intergenerational transmission and transition to fatherhood: A mediated-moderation model of paternal engagement. Journal of Family Psychology 26.5 (2012): 747-55. Print.
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