Some dads are very involved in the lives of their children—while other fathers neglect, ignore, or even abuse their kids. That’s a fact.
Are there biological factors that could help explain why some fathers are more nurturing than others? That’s the question being explored by Emory University anthropologist James Rilling in a series of innovative studies that are documenting how differences in hormone levels, sexual anatomy, and brain activity seem to relate to involvement with children.
For many, many years, we assumed that men’s bodies did not change when they became fathers, which probably seemed logical, since males cannot bear or nurse children. As a result, researchers knew almost nothing about which biological factors might drive fathers to spend time caring for their children—and which ones might interfere.We know quite a lot about the biological changes that occur in women when they become mothers. At the most visible level, their hips spread and their breasts swell. There are also changes that aren’t visible to the naked eye: New neurons and connections develop in the grey matter of their brains, for example, and their bodies are flooded with hormones like oxytocin that facilitate bonding with an infant.