Wetenschap - 23 mei 2019

‘Fortunately we haven't ended up in the emergency unit’

Tessa Louwerens

Two stair gates?? That’s overdoing it! Marije van Doorn-van Atten’s husband is less cautious with their children than she is. She read studies about this phenomenon and came up with the proposition ‘Father’s challenging parenting behaviour leads to less anxious children’. Now she has to learn how to let go...

PhD candidates have to include propositions about society at large in their thesis. In this section, they explain their most provocative proposition. This time it is Marije van Doorn-van Atten in the Human Nutrition and Health group, who received her doctorate on 10 May for her research on telemonitoring in care for the elderly.

Proposition: Wild fathers are good for kids

‘I have a little girl, Sarah, aged two and a half, and an eight-month-old baby boy, Ruben. Since I’ve had them, I like to read scientific studies about parenting. I didn’t make up this proposition; it was inspired by a study on challenging parenting behaviour that was published last year in Behavioural Research and Therapy.

I noticed my husband is a bit wilder than me when he plays with the children. When I see my son hanging upside down, I think: Oh, I hope he doesn’t fall. Whereas I know that children need to push their boundaries sometimes and you shouldn’t be too protective. The study shows that fathers’ challenging behaviour has a positive effect and the children grow up to be less anxious. So you should let fathers mess around with the kids, throw them about or encourage them to climb higher.

I find it quite difficult to let go because I am always worrying about the risks. Our youngest is already hurtling around the house and the cacti are not safe. Children are bound to get hurt sooner or later. Fortunately we haven’t yet ended up in the emergency unit. My husband and I do discuss this sometimes. For example, I wanted stair gates at the top and bottom but he thinks that’s overdoing it. Now we just have a gate at the top.’