Fathers can play the traditional child-rearing role of mothers with no detriment to the children, according to a 12-year Yale study. The study, led by Kyle D. Pruett, M.D., who presented his findings last December at the American Psychoanalytic Society’s annual meeting in New York City, found that stay-at-home fathers raise “vital and vigorous” children while enhancing their own capacities for intimacy and self-regard. The study followed 18 Hispanic, white and African-American children from two-parent households of various income levels.

According to Dr. Pruett, clinical professor in the Child Study Center and psychiatry, the fathers initially feared they would become intellectually bored and overweight, lose physical prowess and become more isolated socially. They confronted problems such as a baby’s persistent crying by wondering what their wives would do. Then, according to the report, within 10 days to a few months later the fathers developed their own care-giving styles. The children thrived and, on average, exceeded norms on standard development tests, especially those measuring problem-solving skills. Researchers, who conducted biennial evaluations over 12 years, reported no signs of intellectual or emotional trouble among the children. “They felt a zest for life, were both assertive and comfortably dependent, showed a vigorous drive for mastery and expressed the usual childhood worries for boys and girls,” the report said. The fathers’ involvement stimulated the emotional attachment that is vital to development of personality in the early years, according to the report.

The findings have been published in a variety of journals and lay publications, including The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child.