Dads are important for for families affected by autism, especially when they take an active role in caregiving with young children. For one thing, having an involved dad boosts a mother’s mental health as it eases stress.
In a study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal, researchers reported that there is a link between the extent of maternal stress related to caring for a child on the spectrum and the extent of the role in caregiving that fathers play.
Researchers analyzed data on over 3500 children. Some of them were on the autism spectrum or had other disabilities. The data was collected through the National Center for Education Statistics’ Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Birth Cohort.
The researchers looked at the well being of the children’s moms and the involvement of dads in everyday activities such as playing and bathing. Only families where children lived with two biological parents in their first four years were examined.
The study found that involvement of fathers in reading to the 9 month old child or soothing them led to fewer depression symptoms in the mothers by the time the children were age 4.