Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Are Men Biologically Adapted To Nurturing?

We know that The Family: A Proclamation teaches that fathers are to preside, provide and protect, and that mothers are to nurture, and that they are to support one another in these roles. We’ve heard a number of talks in recent conferences that seem to suggest (or directly state) that mothers are more in tune with the tasks of nurturing than men.

That may be, and I do not intend in any way to refute the Proclamation, but there’s a new study published in The Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences, and reported by the New York Times that would suggest that fathers also are biologically adapting to a more nurturing role.

Lee Gettler, an anthropologist at Northwestern University and co-author of the study said,

This should be viewed as, "Oh, it’s great, women aren’t the only ones biologically adapted to be parents."

Humans give birth to incredibly dependent infants. Historically, the idea that men were out clubbing large animals and women were staying behind with babies has been largely discredited. The only way mothers could have higly needy offspring ever couple of years is if they were getting help.

The study, which tested men before and after becoming fathers involved over 600 men in the Cebu province of the Philippines:

Testosterone was measured when the men were 21 and single, and again nearly five years later. Although testosterone naturally decreases with age, men who became fathers showed much greater declines, more than double that of childless men.

And men who spent more than three hours a day caring for children -- playing, feeding, bathing, toileting, reading or dressing them – had the lowest testosterone.

Researchers view the drop in testosterone as a positive thing for families, hormonally encouraging men to be more faithful to their families than straying.

“This is part of the guy being invested in the marriage,” said Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who also was not involved in the study. Lower testosterone, she said, is the father’s way of saying, “’I’m here, I’m not looking around, I’m really toning things down so I can have good relationship.’”

So, it would seem there is some biological evidence that a father’s role extends beyond conception, and that the father is biologically tuned to participate in the nurture of his children.


  1. Thanks for sharing this very interesting information which applies directly to my family's current situation-my wife works days, I work nights, and the baby spits up 24/7. You know how it works :)

  2. Andrew, LOL. I remember well those early years when my wife and I juggled school and work so one of us could be home with the little one (spit-up and all). Sadly (can I really be saying that), we have no babies around anymore, but I suppose we can hope for grandchildren...