Researchers assessed more than 200 at-risk boys annually from the age of 12 to 31 years, and examined how men’s crime, tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana use changed over time.
While previous studies showed that marriage can change a man’s negative behaviour, they had not isolated the additional effects of fatherhood, the Journal of Marriage and Family reports.
“These decreases were in addition to the general tendency of boys to engage less in these types of behaviours as they approach and enter adulthood,” said David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University, who led the study.
Researchers also found that men who were well into their 20s and early 30s when they became fathers showed greater decreases in crime and alcohol use, compared to those who had their first child in their teens or early 20s, according to an Oregon study.
Men who had children at a more developmentally expected time could have been more able or willing to embrace fatherhood and shed negative lifestyle choices, Kerr said.
Deborah Capaldi, Lee Owen and Katherine Pears with the Oregon Social Learning Centre and Margit Wiesner University of Houston, co-authored the study.