Fathers Also Biologically Attune to their Children
By Hwaa Irfan
Left out of the bonding picture for so long when it comes to research, recent research from University of Notre Dame reveals the biological father’s role in nurturing. In a nutshell, the father’s testosterone level drops when he sleeps near his children. Before panicking about one’s sense of virility, and fertility, testosterone is a steroidal hormone that responds to the physical and emotional environment. For example levels of testosterone will increase prior to a competitive-aggressive challenge/event, and will decrease in response to negative emotions for example. In other words a male’s testosterone level will fluctuate throughout the course of a day.
From a sample of 362 fathers aged 25 -25 years of age, anthropologist Lee Gettler from the University found that close sleeping close and on the same level of the child lowers testosterone compared to fathers who sleep alone. The fathers were divided into sleeping patterns: location, solitary, same room as children, or same surface as children.
Their testosterone levels were measured from saliva samples on waking and before sleep. The difference was not significant between the groups from the waking samples, but fathers who slept on the same surface had the lowest levels of the groups.
“Our prior research has shown that when men become fathers, their testosterone decreases, sometimes dramatically, and that those who spend the most time in hands-on care — playing with their children, feeding them or reading to them — had lower testosterone. These new results complement the original research by taking it one step further, showing that night-time closeness or proximity between fathers and their kids has effects on men’s biology, and it appears to be independent of what they are doing during the day” said Getter.
The capitalization of gender, especially in Westernized societies, has generally been successful in removing men and women from the home, to the workforce until now leaving the child pretty much to his/her own devices, or ‘the significant other(s), which in many instances is the T.V. and its derivatives. That period of industrialization has pretty much come full circle with a growing number of men who have individuated enough to play a greater role in family life, and the rearing of their children as is the case in many family-centered societies that have not been blessed with globalization in one form or another.
When fathering is more interactive, instead of being carried out from a distance, the testosterone level falls because there is increased empathy (oxtocyin), and empathy is good for home life!
We learn from children about ourselves: patience (sabr), compassion, how to listen, how to give unconditional love, and from that unconditional love, how to respect another way of seeing, and being. This important gift of the self is remiss in most public spaces today.
Even if a father has to go out to work, i.e. away from home, a father can compensate for this loss by spending time with his child in the evenings. As the child gets to know their father more and more, a child is more likely to listen to needed counsel from the father than from the T.V. or an errant friend/stranger. What greater confirmation of fatherhood than knowing that one has a place in one’s child’s life beyond the wage packet!
Once, a Bedouin saw the Prophet kissing a small kid. Out of wonder he said, “I have eight children but I never kiss them”. The Prophet remarked, “What can I do if Allah has taken away love and compassion from your heart”. (Al-Bukhari #91 and #8.26)
Lee T. Gettler, James J. McKenna, Thomas W. McDade, Sonny S. Agustin, Christopher W. Kuzawa. Does Cosleeping Contribute to Lower Testosterone Levels in Fathers? Evidence from the Philippines. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (9): e41559 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041559
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