According to a recent study, when men become fathers, their testosterone levels drop, freeing them from traditional male activities, like hunting and hitting on women, so that they are better able to focus on raising their kids. In fact, as they raise children, their testosterone levels drop even further.
Men don’t need to panic – the hormone is not dropping catastrophically, they will still be male and able to perform in bed. The effects of this decrease are more subtle, but may also indicate that fathers are less at risk for certain kinds of cancer.
As earlier noted here, human infants are incredibly dependent. Scientists now reason that the division of labor in Early Man between the sexes probably wasn’t the hunter/gatherer model. “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 highly needy offspring every couple of years is if they were getting help.” Help from the dads, that is.
The lowered testosterone helps men commit to their families, a behavior that decreases the testosterone further. If a man spends over three hours per day engaged with his children, his hormone levels drop more. “A dad with lower testosterone is maybe a little more sensitive to cues from his child, and maybe he’s a little less sensitive to cues from a woman he meets at a restaurant,” said Peter Gray, an anthropologist quoted in the article.
Surprisingly, this means that men and women may be equally equipped to change diapers. Men are also able to take children to the park, and to birthday parties, maybe even feed children. When I became a mom I could not believe how quickly everyone around me, including me, fell into a traditional gender role. And I see it in the way people treat me now, the way they look at me: like a housewife and a mom. When I’m with my kids, that’s my identity. And often stranger dads approach me for advice and support, just because I am a mom.
But I’ve also been impressed to see more and more men in the caretaker role than I used to, especially when I was a child. As one friend and I noted the other day, there’s nothing hotter than a devoted dad.