Thank you. It's such a pleasure and an honor to share this stage with scholars that I have admired so much. I'm grateful for Mark's work and his standing as a witness, and I'm so grateful to be able to stand before you. I had an experience while I was a fellow at the Heritage Foundation that has been very significant in my life. I had gone into in-depth study of the effects of the sexual revolution on women and men, and the challenges that had come in family life and dating to women in particular. I was very sad about it, and I went in to meet with my advisor Patrick Fagan at the Heritage Foundation and I said, "It's been hard for me to read these things in-depth." And he with his hopeful perspective said, "It's such a gift to live at this time when we get to ask questions, where we're faced with questions that generations past never faced because we get to see truths that we have never understood as well before." That's one of the gifts of what I get to talk about today.
It feels to me like we're at the beginning of understanding. We are at the very beginning; we're at the top of this remarkable structure of understanding the complementarity, the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to each other and to the well-being and development of their children. I hope to share today more than philosophy; I'll be sharing a review of the research that we have to date that illustrates that.You will have a better appreciation for the feelings you experience as a mother and a father as you watch each other do things very differently and can't understand why they're doing them that way, but appreciate what these actions do that is so beneficial.
What we come to in the end is that mothers do not father, and fathers do not mother. And we'll talk through why that happens. When Asim Sermani set out in the late 1970s to create a new mammalian life by combining two sets of a mother's genes or two sets of a father's genes, and mind you this is after he joined the labs there in England that had found success in in vitro fertilization we understood genetics to know that we could possibly… assumed that we could combine the genetic pattern of a mother.
And we could have a new life, because mothers and fathers share the same genetics, the same coding. He was very confident that he could do so; the development of IVF made it possible to combine two sets of a mother's genes and give the egg the correct number of chromosomes before implanting it into a female to grow. But as science reporter Paul Rarun describes, everything that was then known about genetics suggested that such an egg, even though all of its genes came from females, should develop normally. But the eggs with only the mother's genes could not survive. Similarly, when Sirani implanted two sets of a father's genes, the eggs could not survive. His conclusion, described by Rarun, was that mothers and fathers each contributed something with their genes, that marked them as paternal or maternal in a way we couldn't see, and both sets of genes were essential to the survival of the fertilized egg.
These paternal and maternal genes appeared completely indistinguishable in every way, yet expressed themselves differently depending on whether they came from the mother or the father. Of the 20,000 human genes identified so far, only 100 have been found to carry special chemical imprints marking them as maternal or paternal—but those 100 are critical for survival. The parallels for the development of children in cognitive, social, emotional, biological well-being are really important. There are a lot of ways that mothers and fathers look the same and can do the same kinds of things. But the ways that mothers and fathers distinguish themselves are critical for the well-being and development of those children.
Those differences reflect the genetically, anatomically, and hormonally influenced predispositions based in gender. However much we might argue that it's socially constructed, we cannot escape these anatomical, physiological, hormonal differences. And these differences are expressed in orientations around parenting, in the strengths that are brought to parenting, in the styles of interaction and all of those are consistently shown to be different according to gendered lines.
So what we come up with is that fathers and mothers—one is not more important than the other—but each influence the same developmental pathways through distinct process-based pathways. They influence the same domains through different pathways that together in combination benefit children's development in significant and often complementary ways.
Now we might say, of course that there are arguments that are they essential? We know that children survive not growing up with a mother or a father and they may come to thrive as has been noted by the example of President Obama. But we also know that a mother and a father give advantages that are very significant. And we should not hold up and legally ordain as better or equal to something that is different than that natural structure.
I'm going to start by discussing the biological factors that seem to influence mothers and fathers differently. It's a very interesting and growing body of research. Usually these kinds of studies depend on other mammals to be able to understand them well, but we are doing an increasing number of studies with mothers and fathers, humans, also. What we know about mothers is that as they are carrying life, pregnancy, before birth and after birth, they have tremendous hormonal changes. Some of the hormones that are most significant in those changes are hormones that invite or predispose maternal behavior. We might say they "turn on" maternal behavior. We'll talk a little bit about those hormones express themselves in terms of behavior that helps bond. Those behaviors, the hormone levels and the bonding behaviors, are strongly related to infant stress-response patterns and secure bonding. What we find out is that mothers' hormone levels, parallel those of the infants. You watch the infant change with the mother. Along with that, you see the infant experience stress in a particular way based on the relationship that they have with that mother.
Just years ago when I was studying non-maternal care, day care research showed that infants who spent their day in day care had an increase in cortisol, which is the stress hormone. They had an increase in cortisol across the day. Whereas infants who were in the care of their mothers experienced a drop in cortisol levels as they spent time with their mother across the day. The reason that was significant is that we could see that over the long term, children who spent an extensive amount of time in day care were at an increased likelihood to have behavioral challenges, internalizing and externalizing behavioral challenges that possibly were related to those stress-related experiences in infancy. And so you see that those bonding hormones are very closely connected to how that child both bonds and how he or she experiences stress and interprets it.
Fathers also experience tremendous hormonal changes. For a long time it was recognized that testosterone dropped significantly when fathers cared for their infants. But we also know that they experience changes in hormone levels with other bonding hormones as well. They parallel the mothers. In other words, if the father is in contact with that mother, his bonding hormones parallel the changes that she is experiencing, before, during, and after giving birth. But for the fathers, the difference is that they needs to be physically and emotionally close to the mother in order to experience those same hormonal changes. If the distance emotionally is great or if physically they are not in contact with the mother, they don't experience those same hormones.
Now those hormones are important because for both the mother and the father, they are oriented towards a particular responsiveness to that child and a connection to that child. These hormones invite an interaction with that child. But what's remarkable is that the same hormones invite different behaviors in fathers and mothers. So oxytocin in a mother increases the likelihood that she will gaze at her child, positively express emotion, engage in motherese (cooing with the child, talking in a way that only mothers talk to babies), and affectionate touch, a lot of touch. Well, that same hormone in a father expresses itself differently. He is more likely to use stimulating touch, that's tickling, touching in certain ways, to change the position of the body, turn them upside down, throw them up in the air, and to use an object to engage with them.,those kinds of things. Mothers don't tend to do those typically, where fathers tend to. So remarkably, we see the same hormones express themselves differently whether they come from a mother or a father. Both types of behaviors are oriented around connecting and bonding with that child, but in unique ways.
When my husband and I, as I've shared things with him that research shows, we're both like, "That's why you did that." I could not figure out why he insisted on tickling this little child after we brought her home, what is the deal? "Mike leave her alone!" I'm just wanting to keep her close, and then to realize, he can't help it. He really is biologically, physiologically primed to do that. And that there must be something important about that even though it's very different than how I naturally respond.
What's interesting about the way life comes to be inside the body of a mother is that if we looked at it in an evolutionary perspective, that would shape over time her orientation towards children, her orientation, her style, her way of interacting. So Bornstein, Marc Bornstein, a very skilled child development scholar would say, In almost all species and regions of the world, across a wide diversity of subsistence activities and social ideologies, observational studies indicate more maternal than paternal investment." It doesn't matter where you are; mothers are more invested in caregiving.
One study said that they tracked how often mothers thought about their infants when they're in the workplace or away from that child. It was 14 hours a day that they would think about that child. Fathers, 7 hours. It wasn't that they weren't thinking about that child, but it was half as often. And so from an evolutionary perspective Bornstein would go on to say, "Conception and gestation mean a different 'obligatory investment'" the fact that that life comes through a mother's body and that she enables its life afterwards as well, means a different obligatory investment, shaping a 'different psychology' in how and how much men and women invest in parenting."
Mothers spontaneously engage their infants in observation. For example, they engage their infants one to two times as frequently. They also provide routine care 3–4 times as often. And this doesn't differ if the father identifies himself as non-traditional or traditional; if he's a stay at home dad and has primary responsibility for the care of that child, it's the same patterns we see in terms of frequency of interaction and engagement with… So that just gives you some context physiologically and evolutionarily for why mothers and fathers seem to be different in how they interact, and the psychology behind which they interact with children.
We've talked about the biological sort of context in which mothers and fathers parent, but then in terms of children's development we usually break it up into social-emotional, which is social skills and the ability to understand one's self and others; cognitive, brain skills, the language skills, those kind of things; and then sexual or identity formation. So I'll just talk about each of those three domains and how mothers and fathers seem to influence them and in different ways.
First of all, mothers seem biologically primed by nature, the hormones, and the way they are to form a bond with this child that comes into the world. And we've known for a long time that attachment and infants' attachment to the caregiver, which generally is the mother, and as I've shown, she is biologically predisposed to be enabled to do that well. It has profound effects on the well-being of children. Scholars have called it "a dizzying variety of outcomes" including cognitive and language development, frustration tolerance, self-recognition, behavior problems, relations with peers, friends, siblings, interactions with unfamiliar adults, exploration of play, competence in classrooms, curiosity, ego resilience, and math achievement—everything you can think of seems to be connected at some level to the kind of quality of bonding a child has with those caregivers, generally the mother.
In fact, these observable effects are some of the most robust in developmental psychology. You've heard of probably Bowlby who first came up with attachment theory. He had a theory based on his observation that young people who had ruptured relationships with their mother in particular were more likely to develop psychopathological behaviors in adulthood than others so he went in to find out what's going on, does it have to do with this rupture in the relation with the mother? And sure enough, consistently it seemed to. And so what happened as he came up with this theory based on his observations, as Margaret Ainsworth, another developmental psychologist, started to look at well what is it that enables a child to have that secure attachment? What behaviors in the mother allow that healthy attachment to form that seems to predict so many other things? And what she determined was, a mother's ability to detect, interpret, and respond in a positive non-intrusive way to a child's signals is central to secure attachment. Finally, 2003, as I'm going through study after study about day care, here's the national institute of child health and human development concluding: "Maternal sensitivity is the strongest, most consistent predictor of her child's cognitive, social, and emotional development." It means a whole lot. And what's interesting is that as we look at mothers, we recognize they seem to have a unique capacity, this is more psychological research that looks at the brain's development, we can see mothers seem to have this unique capacity to match their infant's intellectual and emotional state, to have a synchrony with that state, and then to provide the right amount of stimulation needed for the brain to develop, not too little, and not too much. Just the right amount.
And what this does is it affects the structures of the brain themselves, which then affect all the other things. That we have noted. As Mark noted, women seem to be uniquely attuned to emotions. People who are looking at evolutionary development have said, "Though women express all emotions other than anger stronger than men, they are 'better able to regulate emotions than men.'" So they express everything more strongly, and they also seem better able to regulate them, to inhibit them at the right moments. This superior ability in both recognizing and being attuned to emotions makes them uniquely able, then, to strengthen the nurturing bonding that's necessary for that child's well-being. Across all stages of development, doesn't matter how old children are, we see that mothers are the preferred source of comfort for children. They go to moms for comfort it's why President Hinckley would say when the children called, they weren't calling to talk to him. They would say, "Where's mom?" And which we all know in our family life, we go to dads for different things. Mothers are much more likely to identify and label emotions during caregiving. In fact, children's ability to identify and label emotions, we can see, is tracked to how mothers do that in their caregiving. It's a hallmark trait that mothers definitely have or more consistently have with their children, young men and young women across adolescence.
So then you might think, well, what do fathers do then for social-emotional development? We can see that this bonding pattern and responsiveness to emotions and the nurturing that mothers seem to be adept at in unique ways, that that clearly is important, but what we find out is that fathers also play a key role in social-emotional development and they influence that domain through different processes that have then different effects.
This is Eggebeen, David Eggebeen, a father and scholar of a long time, "Concluding literally hundreds of studies over the past two decades," because we didn't study fathering very much until then, "Have consistently demonstrated that fathers have a measurable impact on children. Studies show that infants are positively affected by the interactions and care given by their fathers…the quality of parenting exhibited by the father as well as the resources they bring to their family predict children's behavior problems, depression, self-esteem, and life-satisfaction. This research further indicates that the influence of fathers extends into adolescents and young adulthood. Adolescents and young adults both function best with their fathers are engaged and involved in their lives. Additional work demonstrates that fathers play an important role in helping their children make the transition to adulthood." In other words, fathers matter a lot across all the stages of development beginning in infancy.
It was Michael Lamb, who went to study with Margaret Ainsworth, who had focused so much on maternal sensitivity and mothers influence in that bonding process. He went to her lab and he said, "I know fathers." He had the idea that fathers also make a difference. And they bond with children too. And what he found is that yes, a father's nurturing, his way of being responsive, his closeness to that child also affects their security of attachment. And that expresses itself in the way children as infants interact with their environment. As children grow, the closeness and involvement of their fathers strongly predicts depression, so it affects their feelings of well-being and happiness within. And their externalizing behaviors, their behaviors outside of that, in fact closeness to fathers has been repeatedly tied to the behaviors of adolescence in terms of anti-social or delinquent behaviors, particularly with sons. And as Ryan noted earlier, fathers have a big impact. The presence of a father seems to be a very important factor in boys' likelihood of engaging in delinquent or anti-social behaviors.
One of the reasons this might be is the way fathers and mothers tend to discipline is different. And you all know this, but maybe it hasn't been highlighted before. I certainly don't, and I'll describe some of that. Fathers intervene in terms of discipline fewer, less often but with more firmness and predictability in consequences, in other words they're much more rigid in terms of carrying out the consequences whereas mother will be more flexible. About how those consequences are carried out and she'll also intervene in behavior and disciplining it more frequently. Children are more likely to comply with fathers' requests and mandates. In fact, Kyle and Marsha Pruett have written about fathers and mothers and the differences in parenting quite a bit. Say fathers tend to be more willing than mothers to confront their children and enforce discipline, leaving their children with the impression that they in fact have more authority." I've said to mike repeatedly, "She does not respond to you the same way she responds to me. She does not just do what I say. It's like she expects an argument, she needs an argument she needs me to reason with her," and mothers do that more, they're much more inclined to reason, to use language, and to draw on their emotional connection as the source of their authority. So mothers will tend to feel offended by a child's behavior not being appropriate because you have gone against our relationship. Whereas fathers will be offended in the sense that you have gone against my authority as a father.
Mothers seem what we find out is that mothers seem to facilitate foundational identity formation, who I am as a human being. That I matter, while fathers orient their children to their relationships with others. And I can tell you right off, all around our church community Mike would carry Ladonne in this hold that I never would have held her, and then to see it labeled, "the football hold" and that fathers do this, why is he carrying her like that, right? Whereas mothers, we tend to have a contact, to maximize contact, from the very beginning, you hold them to you and they're right here underneath your neck and that that's typical of mothers to hold them that way, and as soon as you pass him off to dad, he's either got him up above his shoulder looking out, or he's got them in this football hold where they're looking at the world the way he is, almost like it's innate to orient children to the outside world for him, and for her to close in on the formation of their identity within.
Interestingly, fathers' involvement with their children, is the most significant, these are two studies that were follow-up studies, longitudinal studies, that his involvement with his children as they were growing up was the most significant predictor of their empathy as adults. Now you think mothers feed that, but what we find out is that fathers, their closeness seems to be significant in that fostering of empathy. And secondly it was the most significant predictor of their marital quality and the quality of their extramarital relationships. In other words, fathers in terms of social-emotional development, seem to be strongly related, their involvement predicts the relational capacities of their children.
And one of the most important ways that this happened is through play, ironically enough. Fathers play matters a lot particularly in terms of how it seems to develop their social-emotional capacities with others. They consistently participate less than mothers in caregiving activities but they spend a much greater percentage of the time engaging in play with their children. Ross Parke who studied this a lot will say "play is everything." In terms of fathers, play is everything in their relationship with their children. So I've just listed a few studies but what comes out repeatedly is that the way a father plays with his child in terms of the positive emotions expressed, the way he allows them to also take charge in the play, have much better social-peer ratings. They're more popular; they do better with their peers; they seem to understand social norming patterns better. Right out of BYU this third study that looked at, in fact probably one of the authors is here, that looked at children's play and their interactions with their fathers, found out that this is internationally, fathers that are less coercive and showed more responsiveness in patience and playfulness had children who were less aggressive with their peers. And then we see them be more popular, more competent as well in studies.
Rough housing with dad, this is from the Health and Human Services report in 2006 from the administration, rough housing with dad appears to teach children how to deal with aggressive impulses and physical contact without losing control of their emotions. So as Ryan talked about, they learn not to bite and scratch and all of those things while still having a physically engaging play. And what seems to happen is they learn how to control their own emotions and they also learn the rules of social behavior that are appropriate through that play. Now let's move on to cognitive development. As we've noted about attachment, it has an important impact in all kinds of areas, and cognitive development is that second key area where a mother's attachment with that child, the way she interacts affects their brain and their capacities cognitively. Her ability to be mutually responsive in their interactions, in other words to match the infant's emotional state and to respond appropriately without being too controlling but responsive at the same time affects IQ development, shared attention, referential communication, in other words the way we can talk about ourself and others, social learning, language, memory, and theory of mind, meaning that they use a place in their own mind for the thoughts and feelings of another. Those responsive interactions that mothers seem naturally adept at are really key to that.
In fact, what we find out with cognitive development is that it depends on two key factors. First, the foundation as an emotional sensitivity, that it's feelings. It's like children's feelings develop first through feelings of closeness and feelings of connection, feeling that they matter and that they are safe, and then the brain's capacities can develop. And mothers seem to be particularly adept at both of those: emotionally sensitive and cognitively stimulating. Mothers are much more likely to engage in teaching interactions where fathers are more likely to engage in play, mothers are more likely to engage in teaching. We know that when they pick up an object, for example, a mother will draw attention to an object, that the child's looking at, talk about its color, it's shape—and the father pokes the child with it, not at all concerned with figuring out what it is and how it should be played with, and the mother is more inclined to be talking about it, teaching about it, using it for a teaching moment. Mothers are also more verbal in their interactions. We know verbal language matters a lot for development. You've probably heard that study the 30 million word gap, where children from low income families what we find out is by age 3 the language that they use is 90% the same language that their parents use and their vocabulary is 90% from their parents. And that the amount of words that they have heard is really important for their developing cognitive capacities as they enter school. So children who come from higher income families, more educated mothers, usually, will have heard 30 million more words than their counterparts who come from less educated mothers, low income families by age four. And what a tremendous difference that makes in terms of their preparation for school, ability to understand language, to read, all of the things, even mathematical skills.
So then you might wonder, well what do dads do for cognitive development? This is one of the areas I think is so powerful, what we find out about fathers is they matter for development cognitively. And I'll use cognitively loosely, because fathers influence a whole psychological orientation to the world that children develop. Their way of approaching the world is influenced by fathers and hence their achievement educationally is very closely related to fathers. We know for ex that responsive and involved fathering predicts better verbal skills, intellectual functioning, academic achievement, that's sort of a summary. When we look down it, fathers in this helping children develop emotional control, helps them develop the skills they need as they enter school because it requires patience they have to manage their stress responses, and all the things they're required to attend, fathers matter a lot for that. It might help explain why we have such an increase in ADHD and other problems where we don't have fathers helping children develop those capacities of emotional control. They're also a key influence in expressive vocabulary. Mothers tend to adapt or adjust the vocabulary they use to meet the level of that child. And I've watched this happen with Mike and me. "Why are you using the word arbitrary mike, she's four?" But fathers have this way of using, carrying on, using whatever vocab they've been using at the law firm with those children and what happens is those children start to pick up on those words and so their expressive vocabulary is more an expression of what they've heard from their fathers, the unique language they've heard from their fathers, than from their mothers. Which is also really important of course, for cognitive development. And then fathers, this is very recent research, but consistent with previous research, closest to fathers is a really important predictor of whether or not a child graduates from high school or college, in fact, Brad Wilcox said he found that just being close to dad, or very close to dad predicted 98–105% greater likelihood of graduating from college. And so that might help us understand, some at least, of the growing gap between men and women in terms of academic and educational achievement. Fathers matter; if they're not there, it influences the likelihood of their sons graduating from college.
Why do they matter so much? We might say it seems like dads provide advice, they help with homework, that could be a factor. They monitor and guide behaviors that keep children from things that would make them less likely to succeed in school. They foster an authoritative environment, this idea that there are expectations. And we're gonna do our homework and those kinds of things that are essential for doing well. By this unique combination of engagement and affection and supervision, they also provide financial support that ends up being very important. We might dismiss that fathers are key part of the economic well-being of their children, but they are. No question, mothers can earn an income. But in married households mothers and fathers with their children, fathers are much more likely to be the primary breadwinner and that matters a lot for children's well-being academically.
And while mothers could do all of these things, what we see is that the distinctive style of fathers seems to be especially valuable in the way they give advice and homework. In the way they create an authoritative environment, in the way they supervise and monitor. The do it differently than mothers, and that seems to matter for educational achievement. The other neat area about this is how fathers seem to shape the psychological orientation of their children towards the world around them. Fathers, the relationship with fathers, tends to be an arousing kind of relationship, excitement, you never know if you're gonna get pinched or poked or tickled or whatever by dad, right? And that seems to be what we might call an activation relationship that opens them to the world.
Secondly, fathers encourage risk taking. They're much more likely to push children than mothers are in terms of doing things that are risky. "You can climb higher, go higher, go higher" and she's saying "No! Get down! Don't climb that tree." But he's encouraging them within a safe, while ensuring security, "I'll catch you, but climb higher." They focus on children doing things independently. It's interesting, research on stay-at-home dads, Andrea Doucet in her research would watch dads' lunch time, stay at home dads, he'd say, " go fix your own peanut butter sandwich. You know where the peanut butter is." The mother, "what can I get you? Cheese? What do you want on this sandwich?" and putting it right in front of them and cutting it, "How did you want it cut? What did you want on it, smiley faces?" Right? Dads "do it yourself" and at first where it seemed to her as this disengagement, like what's wrong with him, doesn't he care? She could see nurturing is both holding close and letting go, it requires both. Children have to develop both, they have to experience both in order to become healthy, functioning adults. And fathers seem particularly adept at that gift of letting go of encouraging independence. You can put your own coat on; you can put your own backpack on and do those things yourself. They are also more likely to facilitate children finding their own solutions to emotional problems. They come in, "Dad this horrible thing happened to me at school these girls were mean to me." "What can you do about it?" Mothers are there comforting, "how awful! Maybe I should call her mother." And fathers are much more inclined towards, "You can fix this, what can you do?" Strengthening independence.
Finally, dads will stay back behind and say "you can do it, you can do it," without engaging in helping solve that problem. Both are important. In other words, fathers are more cognitively demanding, discussions during adolescence, fathers are more demanding in terms of what their children are explaining. "Well what do you mean? Who said that?" Right? And mothers might be more fostering of nurturing and "oh yes, important." Both are really, really valuable. So "where fathers often push achievement, mothers stress nurturing, both of which are important to healthy development. As a result, children who grow up with involved fathers are more comfortable exploring the world around them and more likely to exhibit self-control and pro-social behaviors." (DHHS 2006)
Finally, this area of psychological capacities and sexual development. So we've talked about social-emotional development and cognitive development and then psychological capacities. This has been referenced, but I don't think we appreciate enough how important it is psychologically, cog, emo, for children to experience two different ways. Two different types, two different voices, sizes, very different people. And this is from Rob Palkovitz, a great fathering scholar who has concluded "Children benefit from 'discrimination learning in the positive sense, the formulation of and analyses of differences,' as they experience the psychological and physical differences between their two parents….Experiencing parental differences affords children the opportunity to develop nuanced understandings of individual differences in personality as well as gender, enhancing social cognition" as well as resulting in "more advanced cognitive functioning." (2012)
Another scholar who's done quite a lot of this work in France; this has been repeatedly found "there is considerable evidence that 'the family structure that is most favorable to the socioaffective development of young children' is one in which parents reflect the 'different styles, voices, histories, and connections' of distinct maternal and paternal patterns." It's not popular today to talk about mothers looking from fathers. But when we look at how children do, they benefit from strong distinctions between their mothers and fathers. "More differentiation," Paquette concludes, "facilitates healthy social-emotional development." (Paquette) Important to think about. Part of that difference is tied to sexual identity formation because all of us come from a man and a woman. Inherent to us is both genders in a sense. We are made up of both genders, which would help us explain why these findings from 30 really renowned scholars in this report "Hardwired to Connect," that's been significant in the dialogue about attachment and the importance of children connecting to mothers and fathers, confirmed that at about 18–24 months a child begins to show a deep need to understand and make sense of his or her sexual embodiment.
Who am I? I'm a boy, in reference to my mother or I'm a girl, in reference to my father.
A child's relationship to mother and father becomes centrally important. A relationship with both, the two genders from which they inherently came becomes important. And both the same sex as me parent and the opposite sex from me parent play vital roles. It's interesting, I just wanted to share one interesting study, conclusions from psychologist Barbara Isold, she provides deep insight into the yearnings children have to experience both genders in order to make sense of themselves. This comes from her report "Recreating Mother." Isold describes a 4 and a half year old son of two fathers who is receiving psychotherapy to deal with the unmourned loss of "mommy," his first babysitter who had been fired when he was 2 and a half years old. In his yearning to experience mommy, he fantasized about buying a new mother, ultimately creating his own mother figure as she seemed essential to his ability to discover what it meant to become a boy and a man. His therapist described how this struggle related to his understanding of himself, "Nick was often beside himself with anxiety. He wanted desperately to be liked by other children and by his teacher. He had trouble waiting and was not certain what would make him likable." In her analysis of this boy's experience, Isold poignantly asks, "How do we explain why this child, the son of a male couple, seemed to need to construct a woman, mother. With whom he could play the role of being a boy, becoming a man. How did such an idea enter his mind? What inspired his intensity on this subject? Natural developmental forces seem to demand that this child psychologically reconstruct mommy in order to make sense of his own identity and wholeness as an individual."
Just this last year the New York Time posted a very interesting post from Frank Ligboat who is a gay father married to his partner, describing the experience of his seven year-old daughter. He says this, "Sometimes when my daughter who is 7 is nicely cuddled up in her bed and I snuggle her," and mind you frank is the stay at home father of this daughter, "She calls me 'Mommy.' I'm a stay at home dad, my male partner and I adopted both of our children at birth in open, domestic adoptions. We could fill our home with nannies, sisters, grandmothers, female friends—but no mothers. My daughter says "mommy" in a funny voice, a high pitched sound. Although I refer the honors immediately to her birth mom, I am flattered, but saddened as well. Because she expresses herself in a voice that is not her own. It is her stuffed animal voice. She expresses not only love, she also expresses alienation. She can role play the mother-daughter relationship, but she cannot use her own voice, her own real voice, nor have the real thing."
Observing that his daughter's natural longings for a mother are ever-present, he concludes, "Motherless parenting is a misnomer. Even when she is not physically there, she is. As we know from many accounts of adult adoptees, still present in dreams, fantasies, longings and worries." This child cannot escape the need to know and connect with this mother. As children and we know much about that with fathers as well.
This is already been referenced, but as part of the sexual identity, it's long been understood, as has been referenced by Ryan, that girls who are not reared by their fathers are much more likely to engage in sexual relations at an early age and become pregnant as teenagers. An absent father, in fact, is the single greatest risk factor in teen pregnancy for girls. Physical, and all this research together, very interesting, but what they will conclude is that physical and emotional closeness to fathers seems to set the reproductive strategy girls use throughout their lives. So when you watch an adolescent girl who's been without her father, start to engage in, you're wondering where did this behavior come from? Why are you so attuned to trying to get this boy to like you and to be sexually involved with you—it's as if their cognition is set without them even being aware. Their psychological orientation is set that way.
Girls who spent more time, this is interesting to look at when we try to understand what's happening physiologically, Bruce Ellis who's been one of the most important scholars of this out of Arizona did a study where he looked at an older sister and a younger sister and the older sister had of course spent more time with the father before the divorce happened than the younger sister. So he could do this kind of effective study where he's comparing apples to apples in a sense.
Girls who spent more time without fathers in their homes had an onset of puberty 11 months earlier than their older sisters who had spent more time with their fathers in the home. Like, physiologically their bodies responded to the fact that they weren't growing up with their fathers. And having another male introduced into the home, you've probably heard some about pheromone studies, the idea is, the question is , well what invites this onset of puberty so much earlier? What's happening physiologically? Isn't all of that already set by genetics? How could that be changed by the environment in that way? Some would argue, there are pheromones emitted by all of us to one another and a non-father male figure in the home is emitting pheromones that invite a physiological response our of that girl. And that shapes her sexual trajectory and developmental patterns.
Girls whose father left home before they were six years of age, so younger girls are more likely to be negatively affected, were six times more likely to become pregnant as teenagers, compared to girls who are reared by their biological fathers for longer periods. Brad Wilcox in looking at this research will conclude: "Girls raised in homes with their fathers are more likely to receive the attention, affection, and modeling that they need from their own fathers to rebuff teenage boys and young men who do not have their best interests at heart." (Wilcox 2012)
And as Ryan said, they understand how a boy is feeling, they've been a boy themselves, so they act differently in terms of protecting their children and modeling for their daughters what a man should be like to them.
But what about boys' sexual identity? Equally important. "Without the closeness and modeling of a father," and this is David Popenoe who has been cited here earlier today, "boys appear to engage in 'compensatory masculinity,' rejecting and denigrating anything feminine while seeking to prove masculinity through violent and aggressive domination." (Popenoe, 1996) In other words, they seem to maladjust in terms of what it means to be male.
"Boys who are raised in homes with their fathers are more likely to acquire the sense of self-worth and self-control that allows them to steer clear of delinquent behaviors and peers and trouble with the law" including in their sexual behaviors. (Wilcox, 2012) and interestingly enough, Bruce Ellis was asked, as he'd seen so much of this effect of fathers on girls, he was asked, "well what does it mean for boys? What do you think it means for boys?" in terms of their development of masculinity. He said, "I don't know, but I think it would affect a boy's achievement, his orientation towards achievement, his sense of competitiveness. And that boys who grow up without fathers wouldn't develop that same sense of masculinity." An interesting observation given the issues that we have with this growing gap of success between boys and girls and academic achievement, that boys without fathers wouldn't develop that masculinity, that sense of self-control, discipline, and achievement that would allow them to achieve those things.
We know that mothers are key to infant survival, but fathers are key to protection from danger and opportunities to thrive. "By simply sticking around, ordinary dads play an important role in protecting their children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse." (Wilcox, 2012). The data on this is staggering. It's as if fathers, Brad Wilcox also saying, "Fathers play an important role in ensuring the safety of their children, both by monitoring their children's activities" by checking when they come and go, where have you been? Who have you been with? That makes those children accountable in a unique way and protects them. And also, the father signals to others that he will not tolerate harm to his own. When we look at victims of abuse, sexual, physical, they are much more likely to not have a father there, present in their lives as a protection. "By dint of their size, strength, or aggressive public presence, [fathers]appear to be more successful in keeping predators and bad peer influences away from their sons and daughters" (Wilcox, 2012)
This CDC report from 2014 found that 70% of children living with both their biological parents never experienced adverse childhood events, while 78% of those living with just one biological parent had experienced at least one adverse event. And 80% of those living without either biological parent. I think this conclusion
Some men do pose a threat of children, but other men are more likely to protect both their wives and their children: married biological fathers. Children raised in a home with their married fathers are "markedly less likely to be abused or assaulted than children living without their own father." (Wilson and Fretwell 2014). In fact, the most dangerous place is children growing up with a non-biological father, boyfriend, whatever in the home.
I'll just conclude with this, Andrew Duset's conclusion at the end of her extensive research into "do men mother?" She set out I think with the conclusion that they do, that a stay-at-home dad who spends a lot of time with his children will do the same things as that mother does and in the same way. She concluded, and the title of her book is "Men don't mother"
This is a story she shares: "After a long evening discussing their experiences as single dads, Duset asked a group of sole-custody fathers, 'in an ideal world, what resources or supports would you like to see for single fathers?' She expected to hear that they wanted greater social support and societal acceptance, more programs and policies directed at single dads. Instead, after a period of awkward silence, one dad stood and said, 'An ideal world would be one with a mother and a father. We'd be lying if we pretended that wasn't true.' Nods of agreement followed by expressions of approval from the other dads. Although many of these fathers had had bitter experiences of separation and divorce, they could not deny or ignore the inherent connectedness of mothering and fathering and the profound deficit experienced when one or the other is not there. They knew it because they had lived it.
That experience complements ZEIM SERAMI's experience trying to create new mammalian life with just a mother's genes or just a father's genes. It was not possible. Both were needed to best facilitate the nurturing of that life. And what an exciting time when we get to understand that so much better than people in generations past have. An appreciation for this natural design where children have a mother and a father who both gave them life, and who then enable their best development and growth when they are involved with them.