Tag Archives: infant

Dad’s Role In The Family

Dads matter.

That seems like a no-brainer these days, but for much of the 20th century, the role of the father in family life, especially the rearing of children, was assumed to be minimal.

Note that word there — assumed. There really wasn’t much in the way of research done on the effect a dad has on his children’s growth and development. After all, Freud Himself enshrined the role of the mother as vastly important to the personality of the child so who were they to argue?

More recently, researchers have been turning their gimlet eye to dadsdads_best_1 and finding out what I’ve known all along: Dads matter.

Did you know that a healthy father can ease the impact of a mother’s depression on the children, while a depressed father is a risk factor for excessive crying in infants? That fathers can suffer from hormonal postpartum depression?

Or that fathers’ early involvement with their daughters leads to “a reduced risk of early puberty, early initiation of sex and teen pregnancy”? We’re not sure exactly why, but Bruce J. Ellis, of the University of Arizona, has noted that exposure to fathers’ pheromones can slow down pubertal development.

In a review of Paul Raeburn’s “Do Fathers Matter?” in the New York Times, Mark Oppenheimer reports that numerous researchers are finding that fathers have some surprising effects on their children.

Older fathers are more deeply involved with their children’s schools, more likely to attend ballet classes or know their children’s friends. On the other hand, the children of older fathers seem to have stronger genetic predispositions toschizophrenia and autism — so much so that older dads should get genetic counseling, Mr. Raeburn argues, just as older moms hear about the risk of Down syndrome.

On yet another hand, the children of older dads are taller and slimmer. So there’s that. (Nobody knows why.)

That nobody knows why there at the end is a familiar refrain in a lot of sociological research of this type. We’re able to find the effects, but because the initiating incidents are so intertwined with multifarious actions by multiple actors, it’s difficult to sort out which cause is the, well, cause.

For instance, research shows that dads are the dudes who have a bigger effect on their children’s vocabulary than do moms. One prevailing theory for this has to do with vicious stereotyping. Because, the theory goes, the mothers are around the little dudes and dudettes more (because women stay home and men work outside the house of course), they tend to tailor their vocabulary to words the kid already knows. Fathers, however, because they’re absent for more time, don’t know their kids as well and so introduce words that are novel to the child.

Does it surprise anyone to think I might disagree with this theory. I know the reason my young dudes have great vocabularies (and they do. No question.) is because I actively worked at it. I wouldn’t use baby talk with them and didn’t dumb down my vocabulary when I talked to them.

I did explain a lot of words, but I made sure to expose them to the variety of vocabulary victuals I liked to serve up on the plate of life. Even when the metaphor is horrifically strained because of atrocious alliteration.

Dads matter. We’ve always known it, but now it’s up to science to start letting us know how and why. And it’s up to dads like us to make sure we matter because of our presence, rather than our absence.

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Do You Remember This?

Memory is a fickle thing.

You might remember the phone number of your girlfriend from high school, but not be able to remember the phone number you just looked up on the computer and have forgotten it by the time you get your cellphone out of your pocket.

You might remember that horrifying time you accidentally ordered sheep’s brains in a French restaurant three decades ago, but not remember what you had for breakfast this morning.

Students, of course, have the most contact with the fickle side of memory. I’m sure every single kid has studied their butts off the night before a test and gone to sleep confident they know everything there is to know about the subject. However, when they sit down in class to actually take the test, the answers remain frustratingly out of reach.

I wish I’d remembered to take that sort of thing into account when my young dudes were, in fact, young. I would have saved a lot of money I spent at Walt Disney World, I’ll tell you that.

Latest research talks about childhood amnesia or infantile amnesia, which means we remember nothing before we’re about 2 years old. The more sporadic holdover takes us up until about age 10 and, from those years, we retain fewer memories than we should, based merely on the passage of time.

And, yet, still we took the young dudes to Walt Disney World because we wanted them to have great memories of the place from when they were younger. We knew about childhood amnesia, but thought we’d be different.

Which explains why I was in Walt Disney World last December, accompanied by Hyper Lad and his mom, my wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Hankering For More Mickey. See, we talked with Hyper Lad and he said he had never been to Disney World before. We begged to differ. He stood firm and we realized he just didn’t remember it.

Which led to me asking his older brothers and I found they didn’t really remember any of their trips with a great deal of clarity, only bits and bursts. Hyper Lad, though? Nothing.

At least, that’s what we thought until we got there.

We were walking through one of Disney’s resorts on our way to a dinner when Hyper Lad had a flash of memory. He stopped still and pointed to the window sill on a room we were walking by.

“That,” he said. “I remember that. We stayed here.”

No, actually, we hadn’t. We had, however, stayed at a hotel where our room was right next to the pool and there had been a windowsill like that outside of our room. He remembered something, but it required some visual and tactile reminders to trigger it.

You might want to keep that in mind the next time you’re considering an expensive vacation with a young dude or dudette. Or even a massively expensive birthday party for one of your spawn.

Which reminds me. . .  Let’s talk more about this on Wednesday, yeah?

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Possible SIDS Breakthrough

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is just about the scariest thing I can imagine.

Your little dude goes to sleep, perfectly healthy, and then just doesn’t wake up. The doctors have no reason for what happened. There is no explanation. He just. . . died.


SIDS is just what it says in the name. An infant, usually under the age of 1, will go to sleep (which is why another name for SIDS is crib death) and then die during the night of no perceptible cause. In fact, doctors can’t definitively diagnose a death by SIDS. It’s a diagnosis by exclusion. That is, once all other alternatives have been crossed off the list, only then will doctors consider SIDS as a cause of death.

Despite not knowing what causes SIDS, a correlation has been found between SIDS and babies sleeping on their stomachs, which led the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend that babies under the age of 1 should sleep on their backs. No one is sure why sleeping on a stomach could increase the likelihood of SIDS.

So. Unknown horror and no real idea what causes it.

Until now. Maybe.

Dr. Daniel Rubens, a physician and researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital recently published a study that calls into question one formerly popular suspicion that SIDS children have a brain malformation that could lead to their deaths.

Instead, Dr. Daniel Rubens’ research has indicated that problems with hearing and the inner ear may be linked to SIDS.

His newest study, published in a journal called Neuroscience, shows that inner ear dysfunction in mice results in an inability to wake up and move away from a suffocating environment.

The theory is that babies can move into positions that restrict their breathing while asleep, and those with hearing impairment in at least one ear don’t have the automatic survival mechanism to rouse and reposition themselves.

Rubens has previously published work, based on research he did with Rhode Island newborns. Babies that went through SIDS often had been found to have a hearing impairment during their birth screenings, his report said.

Of course, this study, while intriguing especially when paired with Rubens’ other work, still is in the very early stages. The next step is a large-scale study and Rubens still is looking for funding for such a research project.

If these results pan out, it could be a major step forward in the prevention of SIDS. That said, however, it’s not time to panic if your little dudette was marked as having some sort of hearing issue in her newborn assessment.

Don’t panic, but definitely don’t leave this alone. I really believe you need to contact your pediatrician, reference this study and ask about any concerns regarding what to do about SIDS and your child.

Once again, the AAP recommends your child sleep in his or her back in a plain crib. That is, don’t lightly cover your child with a blanket or have a lot of stuff in the crib with the child. Empty out the crib come nap or sleep time and, if a cover is needed, swaddle the little dude tightly and lay him on his back.

Once again, don’t panic. But do take deliberate action to inform yourself and your pediatrician. Heck, it might turn out that Rubens ‘ work won’t come up as causative or even correlative in a large-scale study of humans. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to be on the lookout.

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