If you’ve noticed an increase of Planned Parenthood literature at your local methadone clinic, jailhouse, or AA gathering lately, it might have something to do with Oregon State University’s recently released findings claiming that fatherhood cuts down on smoking, drinking, and crime. The 20-year study, conducted in a series of annual interviews, followed more than 200 at-risk boys from the time they were 12 through to age 31, at the conclusion of which, roughly two-thirds of the participants had fathered childern.
The study also noted that the most dramatic behavioral changes occurred in men who became fathers in their late 20’s and 30’s. The study did not evaluate why age played a factor in relation to the degree of change. However, the researchers suggested that the overall conclusions opened up an opportunity to approach men in such circumstances with positive parenting messages.
David Kerr, the Assistant Professor of Psychology involved in the program, stated that this supported a body of other findings that indicates there are key points in the lives of men from disadvantaged backgrounds when they are more receptive to intervention. “This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior,” Kerr went on to say.
Want to know another event that can be transformative for high-risk men? Marriage. This was already established earlier, and now, with the release of the first conclusive study on how fatherhood can do the same, women have been given more scholarly ammunition, proving (at least in their minds) they can turn their bad boys, good.
However, for those ladies, thinking this is their master plan, they should be careful. Contrary to what some headlines on the this study suggest, we’re not talking about those Charlie Sheen, Colin Ferrell, Russell Brand types plastered across the screen and often out of their minds. No, we’re talking about guys from rough backgrounds, who more often than not grew up with abusive fathers or no father at all, and as a result, have little in the way of a positive model on which to base their own parenting style.
Those conducting the research agreed. “There was significant variance among the men, however, in these changes following fatherhood,” they pointed out. “Understanding differences in men’s responses to fatherhood demands further consideration.”
That aside, the findings are encouraging in that they provide evidence that even men from disadvantaged backgrounds have an innate understanding that being a father means being responsible, so much so, that they are consciously modifying their behavior as a result.