Apparently becoming a father is a motivating factor for men to get their act together and straighten up.
In a new study, researchers found that after men become fathers for the first time, they show significant decreases in crime, tobacco and alcohol use.
As a part of a 19-year longitudinal study, researchers evaluated more than 200 at-risk boys annually from the age of 12 to 31. They then examined how men’s crime, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use changed over time.
While previous studies showed that marriage can change a man’s negative behavior, they had not isolated the additional effects of fatherhood.
“These decreases were in addition to the general tendency of boys to engage less in these types of behaviors as they approach and enter adulthood,” said Dr. David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University and lead author of the study. “Controlling for the aging process, fatherhood was an independent factor in predicting decreases in crime, alcohol and tobacco use.”
However, age and/or maturity was also associated with behavioral change. Investigators discovered that when men in their late 20s and early 30s became fathers, they showed greater decreases in crime and alcohol use, compared to those who had their first child in their teens or early 20s.
Men who had children at a more developmentally expected time could have been more able or willing to embrace fatherhood and shed negative lifestyle choices, Kerr said.
“It is hopeful that for both older and younger men, tobacco use tended to decrease following the birth of a first child,” Kerr said. “This kind of change could have important health consequences for men and for their families.”
Kerr believe the study adds to a growing body of research that targets key periods when men from disadvantaged backgrounds may be ripe for intervention.
“This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high-risk behavior,” he said.
“This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”
The study may be found in the Journal of Marriage and Family.
Source: Oregon State University