At-risk men who become fathers showed decreases in substance abuse and criminal behavior, a recently released study concludes.
Researchers at the Oregon Social Learning Center annually assessed the lifestyles of around 200 at-risk boys from age 12 to 31 and found for new fathers a decrease in harmful lifestyle choices.
“Following the birth of a first biological child, men’s crime trajectories showed slope decreases, and tobacco and alcohol use trajectories showed level decreases,” reads the abstract from the study.
The researchers also found that the “older men were when they became fathers, the greater the level decreases were in crime and alcohol use and the less the slope decreases were in tobacco and marijuana use.”
In an interview with The Christian Post, Dr. David Kerr of Oregon State University, the lead author for the study, said the results were to a degree surprising.
“We did expect that men would change following fatherhood. However, we also know that it is quite difficult to turn one's back on criminal lifestyle and that it is very difficult to reduce the use of substances like alcohol and tobacco,” said Kerr.
“Our study shows that fatherhood, over and above the effects of marriage and maturity, can change a man's life trajectory. However, we also know that it doesn't always do this, and indeed our findings suggested that it was the men who resided more with their children that experienced these changes.”
The study comes as the fatherhood-themed evangelical film “Courageous” grossed over $27 million at the box office by the end of October.
The Oregon Social Learning Center was founded in 1977 and conducts research on social and psychological processes connected to human development and the family.
The study’s findings were published in the current issue of The Journal of Marriage and Family.