Men aren’t designed to be ‘hands off,’ with changes to their body chemistry and spending time with their babies resulting in similar ‘neurological transformations’ experienced by mothers

 Dad cradling and kissing young baby.
Dad cradling and kissing young baby.

Men aren't designed to be 'hands off' with their kids, despite what society believes - spending time with their babies elicits a similar change to their body chemistry that mothers experience.  

While millennial dads do better than previous generations in terms of spending more time with their kids and taking better care of their mental health, there's still a long way to go in terms of parental equality. There's been a positive upturn in men researching time off when they become fathers, and getting the best paternity pay advice, but many find they cannot afford two weeks' paternity leave, again meaning the bulk of the child rearing comes down to the woman.

As many will be aware, it's not just financial barriers preventing dads being as hand-on as they could be - it’s often down to the long held beliefs that labour division between sexes is rigid and not malleable. Anthropologist and primatologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy,  understands that despite evidence to the contrary, evolutionary biology assumes that women’s bodies are designed for motherhood, and men will "shoot and leave." Despite proof that women took an equal share in hunting and gathering in age-old communities, society continues to assign stereotypes of men being the main source of provision, while women take the role of carer.

According to The Telegraph, Hrdy is out to share her compelling arguments that this information is a constant misdirection. She notes that fathers in central Africa have been known to spend almost half their time with their babies, demonstrating skilled emotional attunement to them. She notices societies where "men spend more time in contact with mothers and children are less bellicose and exhibit lower rates of violence."

"Societies where 'men spend more time in contact with mothers and children are less bellicose and exhibit lower rates of violence.'"

Hrdy suggests that "men undergo remarkably similar endocrinological and neurological transformations" as women when they spend extended periods of time near children. Studies suggest men respond just as viscerally to parenthood as women, with testosterone levels of involved fathers falling in the same way as that of mothers. Essentially, it's the act of choosing to be a hands-on dad that elicits the "latent natural potential" to be a better one.

She is keen to break down societal constructs suggesting behaviour is determined by biology. To view these with an open mind, is to loosen "binary gender straitjackets" and understand we all have the capacity to behave differently. Her work reminds us that child-rearing is a communal activity, performed by the famed "village" that everybody talks about yet never seems to actually appear. Hrdy concludes by pointing out society needs to look to the type of science that takes into account how culture shapes biology and not the other way around, to understand the role of fathers and so-called fatherhood norms.

If you and your partner disagree on parenting styles, try these expert-backed tips to reach a peaceful conclusion. Parental loneliness is soaring due to the solitary nature of childcare, while lonely children potentially develop thirteen traits common to those experiencing solitude in their early years.