Football Benefits Babies and Dads

The Center for Research About Paternal Issues (CRAPI) seeks insights on men’s evolution into dads. The impact of watching football together with their baby is a time-honored tradition among fathers. To measure the impact, we chose critical factors in the development of babies and dads. 

Dad/Baby Bonding 

The oxytocin (i.e., love hormone) generated in both dad and baby when he holds and cares for his baby is the key element in their bonding. The hypothesis is that dad/baby bonding is substantially enhanced in their extensive contact during a football game. 

Learning Conditions for Infants

Infants can perceive contrasting colors better and are attracted to movement in rational patterns (like music). The hypothesis is that football, with distinctive team colors that move in rationale patterns, will improve an infant’s ability to learn.

Methods

We asked 100 new dads of two-month-old babies to watch football together and record both their reactions at two, four, and six weeks. For a control group, we also asked 100 other new dads to watch a blank screen with their babies for three hours when games were playing. 

A scale of 1-10, with 10 being highest, was used by dads to report:

  • Baby’s focus on the game (when awake).
  • Baby’s enthusiasm for big plays (i.e., touchdowns). 
  • Baby’s grasp of the West Coast Offense.
  • Baby’s excitement when dad enters her room the day after the game.
  • Dad’s commitment to providing his child whatever they need.

Results

Dads reported an average rating of 9.8 on their babies’ focus on the game. The babies’ overall enthusiasm for touchdowns was rated at 4.7 but was 9.9 when dad’s team scored and 0.1 otherwise.  

Over the six weeks, baby’s grasp of the West Coast Offense increased from 0.2 to 9.6; baby’s excitement when dad entered her room rose from 5.2 to 9.8; dad’s affection for his baby rose from 6.8 to 9.9; and dad’s commitment to providing his child whatever she needs remained 10.0.

Prospective control group members uniformly said, “buzz off, I will not deprive my child of football.” The study’s leadership concluded requesting a control group to do so was unethical.

Conclusions 

Babies’ bonding with dads was substantially enhanced, as was dads’ bonding with their babies. Overall their mutual bonding equaled that achieved by mothers and babies when breastfeeding. Baby brain development from watching football with dad was evidenced by their quick grasp of offensive schemes. 

An emerging subject for future research was the babies’ mirroring their father’s emotional and intellectual commitment to their teams, indicating this is coded in their babies’ genes. Another was the reactions of mothers; most, after exposure to the fun, intimate family time occurring during football games, also took up watching, while others joined a national trend of ignoring science. 

Related research indicates that due to an infant’s developing eyesight, the bigger the TV screen, the better. The reactions of mothers were split; some joined a trend of ignoring science regarding this study, while others, after exposure to the close and fun family time occurring during football games, also took up watching. 

Next up: Benefits to babies from gaming. 

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