Some fathers who stay at home to take care of their children appear not to provide the same quality of intellectual stimulation to their young sons as the children's mothers do, a new study has found.
Scientists at Bristol University in Britain looked at the early childcare experiences of over 6,000 children born in the Bristol area in the early 1990s who lived at least their early lives in a household with both parents.
The scientists said there is strong evidence to suggest that boys who spent at least 15 hours a week in their fathers' care as toddlers perform worse on academic assessments when they start going to school, reported the online edition of Guardian Unlimited.
The study however finds no significant effects on children - either positive or negative - of paternal involvement in childcare in the first year of life. It is when children pass their first birthdays that parenting differences between mothers and fathers begin to matter.
A father may be more inclined to see his job as monitoring the child and be less inclined to devise creative activities that develop the child's intellectual skills, the researchers said. But the study found that girls seem immune to the ill effects of being looked after by their fathers. This may be because fathers may interact differently with sons and daughters, or daughters may simply be less sensitive to the degree of cognitive stimulation in the home environment.
Moderate amounts of paternal care of toddlers are associated with better behavioural outcomes at the start of school, and this is the case for both boys and girls, the scientists said.