Mothers and their preschool children often play on the same wavelength as Viennese psychologists have shown in earlier studies. The brain activities of mother and child are mutually coordinated. The team now reports in the specialist journal “Child Development” that this is also the case with fathers and their offspring. The phenomenon was particularly pronounced in fathers who were very caring and involved in their parenting role.
Analogous to their study with mothers, developmental psychologists Trinh Nguyen and Stefanie Höhl from the University of Vienna as well as colleagues from Germany and Great Britain let five- to six-year-olds and fathers play the puzzle game tangram together or without mutual support. With this one can place different shapes and figures with triangular and square plates.
Adjustment of brain activity only under certain conditions
The brain activity of the 66 test participants was measured using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). The team was particularly interested in the neuronal activity in the temporal lobes and frontal lobe estimated from the derivation of changes in oxygen saturation in the outer layers of the brain. According to a broadcast from the University of Vienna, these brain regions are associated with the ability to formulate common intentions, to take on the perspectives of others and to self-regulate.
In the previous study with mothers and their children, their brain activities adapted in the two regions. That happened especially when the two spontaneously agreed to each other. If both sat at the same table, but each dealt with the tiles alone, there was no synchronization. In the new study, too, the scientists were able to show “that a reciprocal adaptation of the brain activity of father and child only took place when both of them solved the puzzle together,” says Nguyen.
In addition, however, the adaptation of brain activity was higher in those father-child pairs in which the man identified himself more strongly with his role as a caring and involved father, “said the scientist, while the adaptation in father-child pairs with identification In the case of mother-child couples, the decisive factor was whether they interacted with each other in the game situation, and where these differences could come from, the psychologists want to find out in further studies.