Psychology – Life With (or Without) Father

What was the purpose of this study? This study had three purposes. The first purpose of this study was to better understand the effects of fathers’ antisocial behaviors have on their children while differentiating between those fathers who have very antisocial behavior with those that have very little. The second purpose was the find out if the effects of a father’s being in his child’s life was the same in every family. The third purpose in this study was to find out whether the children of antisocial fathers were going to develop behavioral problems from both genetic and environmental risks.

What hypothesis or hypotheses did the authors test in this study? The author’s felt the father’s antisocial behavior would affect the results in whether the father was present or not. For example, if a father is only a little antisocial and he spends very little time living with his children his children could have a lot of behavior problems.
However, if the father is very antisocial and he lives with his children his children can also develop a lot of behavior problems. Even though logically it seems that having a father living with the child would be beneficial for the child if the child observes that his father has antisocial behaviors it can create unwanted problems. Those conducting this
study hypothesized that the most extreme cases of behavior problems would be found could they pass on traits that would cause antisocial behaviors genetically but the constant observing of their father’s misbehaving could create environmental factors as well.
What was the prior research that motivated these hypotheses? Briefly describe the studies that have been done in the past that cause the authors to propose these hypotheses. There has been research done that children who have been raised with both parents living with them behave better than those children who live with only one parent.
A theory stemming from evolutionary psychology indicated that men’s promiscuous sexual behavior lessoned their drive to stick with their family and hence the reason why there are a lot more single mothers than fathers. This caused some lawmakers and researchers to realize that perhaps the absence of a father in his child’s life could create problems with the child both academically and behaviorally. There are several reasons why a father’s absence can be detrimental to the child such as the stress it may cause the mother to have to care for the children alone and the children’s feelings of abandonment.
In a study done called Fragile Families Study came up with the findings that unwed fathers were more likely to use illegal drugs, to partake in domestic abuse and experience depression. It is these activities, that the father may partake in, that is considered as antisocial. The Environmental Risk Longitudinal Study provided information that
enabled questions to be answered in this current study by the variety of antisocial behaviors and the usage of monozygotic and dizygotic twins.
Who were the participants in the study? The participants in this study were two birth cohorts (1994 &1995) of same-sex twins and their parents from Wales and England. 56% were monozygotic and 44% were dizygotic twin pairs. The participants were members of the Environmental Risk Longitudinal Twin Study to study how genetic and environmental factor’s can shape a child’s development and specifically how a father’s role in his child’s life, (whether living with or away from the child and whether he is very antisocial or just a little) can affect the child’s own behavior and conduct. Out of 15,906 pairs of twins born, 71% joined the study. The children were all around the age of five as data was collected within 120 days of the twin’s fifth birthday. Several of the 1,210 families that were used in this study had to be excluded out of the findings due to them moving or them not being able to speak English.

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What did the participants do? About 2 researchers went to two for 2-3 hours and while one asked questions to the mother the other (in an other part of the house) tested the twins. Questionnaires were posted to the children’s teachers and the majority of them were completed and returned. The mother’s reported both the father’s and their own history of antisocial behavior and since both parents tended to agree about the men’s antisocial behavior the mother’s testimony was taken to be reliable. Antisocial behavior was rated by usage of scales. The mothers recalled the amount of time from the child’s
birth to five years of age that the father was present and also indicated the father’s marital
status by telling whether they were married to or living with the father of their child at the
time of the child’s birth. Children’s antisocial behavior were defined under certain guidelines and the reports of both teachers and mothers supported the findings as well.
The diagnoses of conduct disorder which used the Achenbach family of instruments enabled the assessment of the child behavior problems clinically.
What did the authors find? They found that the mothers and the fathers (whether the fathers were very antisocial or not so much antisocial) had different behaviors which may have had an influence in the children’s development of antisocial behaviors. The study showed that those fathers that were highly antisocial had behavior that was extremely severe to the degree that it fell in the clinical range where those fathers that had low antisocial behaviors didn’t. The study indicated that highly antisocial fathers tended to have children out of wedlock compared to low antisocial fathers who married their children’s mother. Highly antisocial fathers were less likely to take care of their children than low antisocial fathers even if they lived with their children. Interestingly, mother’s of those children whose fathers were highly antisocial admitted that they too had higher
antisocial behaviors themselves and tended to live with other men other then their children’s father. The study did show a strong correlation between father’s antisocial behaviors and the child’s own behavioral problems. The father’s highly antisocial
behavior had influenced the child when living together, however, when the father’s antisocial behavior was controlled the time he spent living with the child became irrelevant. When the father was only a little antisocial the longer he lived with the child the less likely the child would develop behavioral problems of their own. Findings also show that antisocial behavior is heritable, but only about 73% of influences are genetic meaning that the rest are shared and non shared environmental influences.

Which hypotheses were supported by the results of the study? These findings basically supported their hypotheses by indicating that the more time the child spent with their highly antisocial father the more likely they would be to develop their own behavior problems. Were there any problems or limitations to associated with the study? The problems of the children were only observed at one specific time and both their problems and the role their father played in their lives could change. The children were also twins only and were living in the United Kingdom however the results were applied universally. The mothers gave the information regarding the fathers as well.
Although these may seem like they can cause problems the children’s lives in the U.S. and United Kingdom are more similar than different, the testing of twins was held constant, and the claims from the mothers and fathers were very similar as well so these limitations were able to be overlooked.

How important are the findings in this study? They are important for various reasons. First, it gives insight on the effects that antisocial behavior of fathers have on their children’s own behavior and this can help them better understand the family unit and allows the lawmakers to make adjustments to the law regarding encouraging those on welfare to marry. By understanding the entire picture, the lawmakers are able to convince single parents to abide to laws that are made. What implications do these findings have for parenting practices? The findings can help better parents understand the reasons why their child is misbehaving and how to limit their chances of becoming severe cases. Also the results of this study questions the benefits and disadvantages to the institution of marriage. Marriage can benefit a child if the father has low or average degrees of
antisocial behavior and the higher he has and the more time he lives with the child the more damaging it could be for the child. Basically, this study gives us more insight on the effects of not only the presence of the father or lack of, but the degrees of antisocial behavior expressed by him and the interplay of the two. Genetics and environment work together to determine the development of behavioral problems within a child’s life.