Day 5: How can fathers impact children's mental health?
Thirty years ago, fathers spent just 15-30 minutes a day with their children. Today, it is more like two hours. However, fathers’ increasing involvement with their children is not always well represented in developmental research and family policy. With changes in family roles, fathers may have a crucial role to play in improving child wellbeing. Alex Martin, Research Associate at the IoPPN, explores some of her research in this area and explains the protective role fathers can have in her Children's Mental Health Week blog.
Her team at the Developmental Psychopathology Lab investigated whether the relationships between fathers and their partners (father-mother relationship), and fathers and their children (father-child relationship), can reduce the risk of adverse mental health outcomes in children when mothers are experiencing postnatal depression symptoms.
They found both the father-mother and the father-child relationships were important; when both relationships were strong, risk of emotional and behavioural outcomes in children was reduced by around 10%. But what do these findings mean? Read more about Alex's research, the role of father's in child wellbeing, and what needs to be done to improve children's mental health in her blog.
Understanding very early brain development with the Brain Imaging in Babies Study
Did you know that in the first year of life your brain triples in size?
The Brain Imaging in Babies Study (BIBS) aims to improve understanding of how a baby's brain develops from before birth, up until 3-4 years of age. Working with children from a variety of backgrounds and communities, they use a combination of state-of-the-art diagnostic tools such as MRI scans alongside traditional behavioural assessments to capture the earliest information on infant brain development.
The BIBS team are focusing on how brains develop in babies who go on to have conditions such as autism spectrum conditions (ASC) and ADHD, and how different factors might influence brain development, such as levels of vitamin D, stress and infections (such as COVID-19) in mothers. To date, they have recruited 470 families, and aim to collect data at the very beginning of children’s lives. They have conducted 21 fetal scans, 234 neonatal scans and 128 six month scans.
The study is being co-led by Professor Grainne McAlonan, Theme Lead for Child Mental Health and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the NIHR Maudsley BRC and Professor of Translational Neuroscience at the IoPPN. It is part of the EU-AIMS project - the largest mental health study in Europe.
Watch a short video about the project below: