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How dads affect kids’ brain function

Science

The absence of a father during childhood development may cause defects in a child’s brain structure that can lead to social and behavioral impairments, according to a new study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Quebec.

The current research supports more traditional family values, or at least the necessity of a father, reported ScienceDaily. This news is important for a culture in which nearly 22 million children are being raised by single mothers. The new and astonishing finding in this study is that the absence of a father not only negatively affected behavior, but the brain actually showed physical evidence of impairment in an area that helps control social and cognitive activity.

Although mice were used in the study, senior research author and psychiatrist, Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, told Science Daily the findings are “extremely relevant” to humans. The mice used are monogamous and raise their offspring together.

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Studies using mice are easier to interpret than research using humans because in a lab setting it is easier to control all the variables that may influence development.

The researchers discovered mice raised without the father not only had impaired social interactions and increased aggressiveness, but also showed changes in brain anatomy compared to mice raised by both parents. In addition, female mice were more sensitive to the stimulant drug amphetamine and showed greater disturbances in social behavior.

The behavioral deficits observed are consistent with human studies of children raised without a father, according to Gobbi. “These children have been shown to have an increased risk for deviant behavior and, in particular girls, have been shown to be at risk for substance abuse,” she said in a statement.

The findings align with the Christian view of marriage and family. As psychologist and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said on Family Talk: “The family was divinely instituted and sanctioned in the beginning, when God created one man and one woman, brought them together, and commanded them to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ This is where we begin, and this is where we must stand.”

Julie Borg
Julie Borg

Julie is a clinical psychologist and writer who lives in Dayton, Ohio.

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