-Rick Nauert, PhD
New research from Denmark finds that a father is able to evaluate a child’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills as well as a mother.
The discovery is important for parental rights cases, schools, or other places where in the past, a mother’s judgement of children was deemed superior.
Aarhus University researchers used the results from the so-called CHIPS-tests (Children’s Problem Solving) — which test the child’s linguistic and cognitive level and psychiatric diagnosis — and compared the results with the parents’ overall evaluation of the child’s academic and behavioral performance (the latter specified in a Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire).
The test results from 6,000 Danish families, adjusted for variables such as gender, the parents’ age, educational background, work situation, income, psychiatric diagnosis etc., show that dad is just as able to evaluate the child’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills as mom.
“This is important knowledge not least in e.g. divorce cases, where the majority of parental rights cases are decided in favor of the mother — among other things based on the parents’ testimonies on the well-being and skills of their children,” said Nabanita Datta Gupta, Ph.D., one of three researchers behind the study.
The research has been published in Review of Economics of the Household.
The study also shows that mothers who have mental issues often evaluate their children’s competences as being poorer than they actually are.
This could be a serious issue as a child may develop a lower self-esteem and a lack of confidence in their own abilities, say the researchers. Moreover, another study has previously shown that children of parents with mental illnesses are at a greater risk of attempting suicide.
“Many women who suffer from post-natal depression are never diagnosed, but their mental state still influences their life and also their ability to evaluate their children’s competences.
Generally, our results indicate that parents should be regarded equally in clinical and school-related contexts, where the doctor and the teacher might as well hear the father’s evaluation of e.g. symptoms and well-being as the mother’s. Especially in Denmark, where fathers are typically very actively involved in looking after the child,” Gupta said.
Gupta believes findings from the research can be widely applied.
“The results are valid, because the parent’s subjective evaluations are compared to the objective measurements of the CHIPS test and the psychiatric diagnoses. Naturally, a lot of other factors are also important, but our research is an important contribution to the collected understanding of the parents’ ability to evaluate their children’s behavior and competences,” she said.