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Mouse Study Shows Value of Dad Helping Raise Kids

Mouse Study Shows Value of Dad Helping Raise Kids In today’s society more than 30 percent of American families — or over more 13 million families — are single-parent families, with 80 percent headed by a female.

These staggering statistics have led researchers to wonder if it is still important for both parents to raise a child.

Many studies have outlined the value of a mother, but few have clearly defined the importance of a father, until now.

New findings from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) show that the absence of a father during critical growth periods can lead to impaired social and behavioral abilities in adults.

This research, which was conducted using mice, is found in the journal Cerebral Cortex. It is the first study to link father absenteeism with social attributes and to correlate these with physical changes in the brain.

“Although we used mice, the findings are extremely relevant to humans,” said senior author Dr. Gabriella Gobbi. “We used California mice which, like in some human populations, are monogamous and raise their offspring together.”

“Because we can control their environment, we can equalize factors that differ between them,” said first author Francis Bambico, Ph.D.

“Mice studies in the laboratory may therefore be clearer to interpret than human ones, where it is impossible to control all the influences during development.”

Gobbi and her colleagues compared the social behavior and brain anatomy of mice that had been raised with both parents to those that had been raised only by their mothers.

Mice raised without a father had abnormal social interactions and were more aggressive than counterparts raised with both parents.

These effects were stronger for female offspring than for their brothers. Females raised without fathers also had a greater sensitivity to stimulant drugs.

“The behavioral deficits we observed are consistent with human studies of children raised without a father,” said Gobbi, who is also a psychiatrist at the MUHC.

“These children have been shown to have an increased risk for deviant behavior and in particular, girls have been shown to be at risk for substance abuse. This suggests that these mice are a good model for understanding how these effects arise in humans.”

In pups deprived of fathers, Gobbi’s team also identified defects in the mouse prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that helps control social and cognitive activity, which is linked to the behavioral deficits.

“This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring,” said Gobbi.

Source: McGill University Health Centre


White mice in corner of pen photo by shutterstock.

Mouse Study Shows Value of Dad Helping Raise Kids

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Mouse Study Shows Value of Dad Helping Raise Kids. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 5 Dec 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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