We’re the ones who carry them for nine months, so it can be a bit of shock when a baby is born looking nothing like us. It might even feel a bit unfair, but don’t take it too hard, mama. Science proves looking like dad has some big benefits for babies.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Health Economics, babies who resemble their fathers at birth are more likely to enjoy quality time with their dads. In turn, those kids who spend more time together with their fathers end up healthier by the time they reach their first birthday, researchers at Binghamton University found.
So why is there a correlation between resemblance and well-being? The researchers have one theory: “ Frequent contact likely provides more parental time to supervise children, manage harmful exposures, gather information and attend to their health needs, and share parenting tasks,” the study’s authors write.
“Fathers are important in raising a child, and it manifests itself in the health of the child,” says lead researcher Solomon Polachek.
His team looked at the interactions between babies and fathers who did not live in the same household. They discovered that fathers whose infants looked like them spent an average of 2.5 more days per month with their kids than those dads who didn’t perceive a resemblance to their children.
The babies who looked like their dads had fathers who were more engaged in the parenting process, so they had fewer emergency room visits and were less likely to suffer from asthma and illness, according to the findings.
It’s not surprising that the researchers identified a link between paternal involvement and improved child health. A 2016 Infant and Child Development study by Michigan State University researchers found that fathers play a large role in a child’s cognitive and language development during the toddler phase. In a separate study released that year, those same researchers also discovered a father’s mental health can have a tremendous impact on their kid’s social skills and behavior.
Researchers from Imperial College of London came to a similar conclusion. According to their study published in Infant Mental Health Journal last year, dads who were more engaged and active with their babies in the first few months of life had a positive impact on their little one’s cognitive development. More significantly, researchers found that all babies, boy or girl, performed better on cognitive tests at 2 years old, debunking the idea that dad-son time is more important.
In the end, the positive outcomes of dad-baby bonds aren’t the result of looking like dad, they’re the result of having an engaged and present parent. That role can certainly be filled by a father who sees himself in his child, but it can also belong to a dad who doesn’t see the resemblance, or to a mom or even a grandparent.
Whether a child has your nose or not matters a lot less than whether they have your attention.