Babies That Look Like Their Dads Are Healthier Because They Get More Attention

A new study from Binghamton University in New York found that children who more closely resemble their fathers are likely to spend more time with him. In turn, they may end up healthier because of it. The researchers hope this finding will help better identify newborns who may be in need of an intervention.

The study, published online in the Journal of Health Economics, used data from the Fragile Families Child Wellbeing Study to understand how fatherly resemblance affected a child’s health. This study looked at children born between 1998 and 2000 to unmarried parents in large U.S. cities.

A total of 715 unmarried mothers and fathers who did not live together were interviewed during the first three days after birth, and then at four follow-ups before the child’s first birthday. The researchers asked parents questions, including “Who does the baby look like?”  In addition, the child’s health during the first year of their life was noted. Health care indicators included number of asthma attacks, emergency room visits and how long these visits were.

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Two thirds of the parents agreed on whether or not the child looked like their father. Of this group, 56 percent believed the child did look like the father and 44 percent agreed the child did not resemble the father.

03_05_babe Having a father in life early on is important for a child's health. STEFANIE GLINSKI/AFP/Getty Images

Results revealed that children whose parents agreed that they looked like their fathers spent on average 2.5 more days per month with their father. And these children had overall better health, according to the indicators included in the interviews.

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"The main explanation is that frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for care-giving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs,”  study co-author Solomon Polachek, a professor of economics at Binghamton said in a statement. “It's been said that 'it takes a village' but my coauthor, Marlon Tracey, and I find that having an involved father certainly helps," added Polachek.

Of course, not much can be done to make a child look more like their father, and the study suggests that interventions be made when this is not the case. The researchers highlight a number of possible interventions, including parenting classes and health education.