Study On Co-Sleeping Daddies Throws A Wrench In ‘Mom As Ultimate Nurturer’ Idea

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co-sleeping dadWe all know that mothers are naturally made to be the nurturers, right? I mean, Mother Nature is a female. There’s no Father Nature out there. Fathers are in charge of Time. They set the clock and then they get to work. Women are just made to care for little ones. That’s why we’re the ones who have to haul them around in our abdomen for months. This is our great accomplishment. Well, a new study shows that ladies aren’t the only ones whose bodies adapt when they have children.

For years, this argument about women’s natural inclination to changing diapers and wiping snotty noses has been used to explain why the ladies are the ones who should stay at home. It’s the cornerstone to hundreds of gender stereotypes. It creates the gender dynamic that families have been operating under for centuries. Women are made to take care of kids.

However, now we know that at least one form of active parenting has been proven to effect men’s hormones. A new study in the Philippines shows that men who co-sleep with their children have lower levels of testosterone than new fathers who sleep in separate beds.

The study, which lasted for four years, found that men sleeping in the same bed or even the same room as their child had a dip in testosterone, but that it rose back up to normal levels upon awakening. Though the study makes specific caveats for culture differences between places like the Philippines and the United States, the physiological discovery is still pretty groundbreaking.

Study researcher Lee Gettler, an anthropologist at the University of Notre Dame, draws some incredible conclusions about fatherhood and what this means for parenthood as an aspect of manliness.

“This suggests to us that active fatherhood has a deep history in the human species and our ancestors. For some people, the social idea that taking care of your kids is a key component of masculinity and manliness may not be new, but we see increasing biological evidence suggesting that males have long embraced this role.”

“If many human/hominin fathers have been actively taking care of their offspring for hundreds of thousands or millions of years, doesn’t that suggest that such behaviors should be considered a part of ‘what it means to be a man’ or manliness or masculinity?”

The study is moving to the United States next, and we’ll have to see if the sleeping dynamics here change the outcome. In the Philippines, co-sleeping is a much more widely-accepted and less controversial practice. However, the US has already begun a cultural transformation where involved parenting from fathers is more encouraged and supported than ever. The help of science to show that both parents are naturally inclined and taking care of children could be another crucial component into really equalizing gender roles, especially when it comes to childrearing.

(Photo: john austin/Shutterstock)