What's in the look of a baby? Aren't they all pretty? They are, but some babies have an edge in terms of attracting attention and deriving health benefits, especially if they look like their father, say researchers.
The findings, published in the Journal of Health Economics, suggest that infants who resemble their fathers at birth are more likely to spend time together with their father and, in turn, be healthier when they reach their first birthday.
"Fathers are important in raising a child, and it manifests itself in the health of the child," said one of the researchers Solomon Polachek, Professor at the Binghamton University in New York.
"Those fathers that perceive the baby's resemblance to them are more certain the baby is theirs, and thus spend more time with the baby," Polachek added.
The findings are based on an analysis of data on 715 families in which babies live with only their mother.
The research indicated that infants who looked like their father at birth were healthier one year later, suggesting that father-child resemblance induces a father to spend more time engaged in positive parenting.
Non-resident fathers spend 2.5 days more per month with children they resemble, the findings showed.
The study has implications regarding the role of a father's time in enhancing child health, especially in fragile families, said the researchers.
"We find a child's health indicators improve when the child looks like the father...The main explanation is that frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for care-giving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs," Polachek said.
The researchers said that this study supports policies for encouraging non-resident fathers to engage in frequent positive parenting to improve early childhood health.