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Babies may benefit from looking like dad, study says

Looking like a "chip off the old block" may help improve the health of infants being raised by single mothers, a new study suggests.

Why? Because the fathers are more likely to spend time with the babies, the researchers said.

The study included 715 single mothers and their babies. Infants who looked like their father at birth were healthier when they were 1 year old. The fathers of those babies spent an average of 2.5 more days per month with their babies than other fathers.

"Those fathers that perceive the baby's resemblance to them are more certain the baby is theirs, and thus spend more time with the baby," said study co-author Solomon Polachek, a professor of economics at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

"Fathers are important in raising a child, and it manifests itself in the health of the child," Polachek said in a university news release.

"We find a child's health indicators improve when the child looks like the father. The main explanation is that frequent father visits allow for greater parental time for caregiving and supervision, and for information gathering about child health and economic needs," he said.

"It's been said that 'it takes a village' but [we found] that having an involved father certainly helps," Polachek said.

But the study did not prove that resembling Dad caused a baby to have better health.

The findings, published March 5 in the Journal of Health Economics, do suggest the need for policies to encourage fathers who don't live with their children to spend positive parenting time with them.

"Greater efforts could be made to encourage these fathers to frequently engage their children through parenting classes, health education and job training to enhance earnings," Polachek said.

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