A strong father-child resemblance equals greater health for babies: Study

Mother Nature must be a practical joker. 

Why else would it be that after nine months of intense physical transformation and emotional strain, the baby your body produced (with a little help) comes out looking like the father? 

According to one old wives' tale, the reason a baby will look more like dad is so that there is no doubt regarding paternity. 

If one Binghamton University study is anything to go by, the notion may hold more truth than myth. 

Sort of. 

The aptly named report, If Looks Could Heal: Child Health and Paternal Investment, found that a strong father-child resemblance equals greater health for babies

And the reason has a little something to do with vanity. 

Using data from a two-year-long study of 715 families made up of single, non-cohabiting parents, researchers found that "at-birth father-child resemblance enhances child health because a father invests more in a child that looks like him." 


Also see: Who will your baby look like?

Did your baby look more like mommy or daddy? Share your story with us and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.


Vanity, thy name is what now? 

On average, participating fathers spent 2.5 more days per month with their baby where there was a strong likeness. 

Looking at health records such as the number of doctor, hospital and emergency room visits since birth, the daddy-look-alike infants were found to be healthier one year later compared to babies where resemblance was less evident. 

Turns out, for babies, quality time equals health. 

"The main explanation is that frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for caregiving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs," explains study co-author Dr Solomon Polachek, who, along with fellow researcher Dr Marlon R. Tracey, strongly advocate for supportive and encouraging programmes for nonresident fathers. 

"It’s been said that 'it takes a village' but my coauthor, Marlon Tracey, and I find that having an involved father certainly helps."


Also see: Fathers make society better and 12 other facts from the first State of SA’s Fathers report


The South African context

The first-ever State of South Africa’s Fathers report mirrors these findings. 

Published in 2018, the study outlines the positive role fathers play as both breadwinners and caregivers, regardless of whether a man lives with his children or not. 

Identified as a key bonding time for father and child, the report highlights the utter importance of a father's presence in the first 1,000 days of a child's life. 

"The early recognition and acknowledgement of paternity and involvement in a young child’s life solidify fathers’ ties to their children. Involving fathers in their children’s lives during the first 1,000 days of life enables fathers to:

  • participate positively in the decisions to have children;
  • support women during pregnancy and birth;
  • come to know, care for and protect the children; and
  • stay involved with their children over the course of their development.

"Men’s own health and social connectivity also improve with involvement in infant care." 

Strong physical resemblance or not, paternity involvement is key in raising healthy, well-adjusted children. 

All it takes is time. 

Chat back:

What other wives tales have you heard about father-child resemblance? Does your child look more like mommy or daddy? Share your story with us and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.

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