Men addicted to alcohol, drugs and those involved in criminal acts can actually be tamed over time if they become fathers, a new study suggests.

Published in the latest issue of Journal of Marriage and Family, the study proclaims that fatherhood, unlike marriage, can help change men’s bad habits; earlier research had shown that marriage can infuse positive behavioral changes in men but could not state specifically if marriage helped decrease tobacco and alcohol use significantly.

As part of the 19-year-long study, researchers at Oregon State University and the University of Houston examined more than 200 “at-risk” boys and men, aged 12 to 31 annually, and studied how their crime, tobacco, alcohol and marijuana use changed over time.

Fatherhood was found to be an independent factor in predicting decreases in crime, alcohol and tobacco use, according to David Kerr, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University and lead author of the study.

“It is hopeful that for both older and younger men, tobacco use tended to decrease following the birth of a first child,” Kerr said.

The study revealed that men who became fathers into their late 20s and early 30s showed greater resistance to negative lifestyle choices, than those who had their first child in their teens or early 20s, the researchers said.

The finding is being considered a great intervening factor in health conditions of men and overall goodwill of a family as it suggests that fatherhood can transform men engaged in high-risk behavior.

“This kind of change could have important health consequences for men and for their families. This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes,” Kerr added.