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Dec 05, 2013 08:34 AM EST

Fatherless Children Are More Aggressive Than Those Raised By Both Parents, Study

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Children who grow up without a father are more aggressive and angry than those brought up by both parents, according to a new McGill University study.

Researchers said that children raised by single mothers have a higher risk of developing 'deviant behavior' including drug abuse, criminal activities, poor educational performance and mental illness. The social and behavioral problems are more prominent in daughters than sons.

"This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring," Dr Gabriella Gobbi, lead author of the study, said in a statement.

For the study, the researchers carried out the experiment on Californian mice, which like humans, are monogamous and raise their children together. They compared the social behaviour and brain anatomy of mice offsprings growing up with both parents to those growing up with mothers alone.

"Because we can control their environment, we can equalize factors that differ between them," Francis Bambico, of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, who also worked on the project, said. "Mice studies in the laboratory may therefore be clearer to interpret than human ones, where it is impossible to control all the influences during development."

Gobbi found that the brains of the fatherless mice developed differently and the impact was mainly observed in the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain which controls social and cognitive activity.

Mice raised in a fatherless household showed signs of 'abnormal social interactions' and were far more violent and socially less normal than mice raised with both parents. The trait was stronger in female mice.

"The behavioural deficits we observed are consistent with human studies of children raised without a father. These children have been shown to have an increased risk for deviant behaviour and in particular, girls have been shown to be at risk for substance abuse. This suggests that these mice are a good model for understanding how these effects arise in humans," Gobbi said.

"Our results emphasise the importance of the father during critical neurodevelopmental periods, and that father absence induces impairments in social behaviour that persist to adulthood," the report said, Daily Mail UK reports.

Gobbi said that the finding indicates that both parents are required for children's mental health development. The finding has been published in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

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