New research has found that growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain resulting in children who have a higher risk of “deviant behavior” such as drug abuse and mental health issues.
The Daily Mail is reporting that the research was conducted by scientists at McGill University in Canada. Conducted on a breed of mice that are monogamous and raise their offspring together, the social behavior and brain anatomy of young mice raised by two parents was compared to those who grew up with just a mother.
Researchers observed that the brains of the fatherless mice developed differently “with the main impacts seen in the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain which controls social and cognitive activity,” the Mail reports.
“This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring,” said Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a member of the research team.
The study, which was published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, found that mice raised without a father displayed signs of ‘abnormal social interactions’ and were far more aggressive than mice raised with both parents.
Even more interesting is that the differences were more pronounced in daughters than in sons.
“The behavioral deficits we observed are consistent with human studies of children raised without a father,” Dr. Gobbi said. “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.”
Studies of children raised without a father have revealed a greater propensity toward deviant and even criminal activity, substance abuse, diminished educational performance and mental illness.
“Our results emphasize the importance of the father during critical neurodevelopmental periods, and that father absence induces impairments in social behavior that persist to adulthood,” the study reports.
The results of the study suggest that both parents are vital to children’s mental health development and are hoping it will encourage researchers to look more deeply into the role of fathers.
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