Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Are fathers a good substitute for mothers? Increasing proportion of father’s care shows negative associations with children’s weight and BMI velocity

Are fathers a good substitute for mothers? Paternal care and growth rates in Shodagor children. K. E. Starkweather, M. H. Keith, S. P. Prall, N. Alam, F. Zohora, M. Emery Thompson. Developmental Psychobiology, June 4 2021.

Abstract: Biparental care is a hallmark of human social organization, though paternal investment varies between and within societies. The facultative nature of paternal care in humans suggests males should invest when their care improves child survival and/or quality, though testing this prediction can be challenging because of the difficulties of empirically isolating paternal effects from those of other caregivers. Additionally, the broader context in which care is provided, vis-à-vis care from mothers and others, may lead to different child outcomes. Here, we examine the effects of paternal care on child growth among Shodagor fisher-traders, where fathers provide high levels of both additive and substitutive care, relative to mothers. We modeled seasonal z-scores and velocities for height, weight, and body mass index (BMI) outcomes using linear mixed models. Our evidence indicates that, as predicted, the context of paternal care is an important predictor of child outcomes. Results show that environmental seasonality and alloparental help contribute to a nuanced understanding of the impact of Shodagor paternal care on child physiology.

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