Friday, 31 December 2010

Biology Of Dads - BBC TV programme.

Watch or download:

(Theres far too much good stuff for me to summarize it all. One of the best programme's on the blog so far.)

'Many fathers want to be more involved in their childrens upbringing, thats great, this is the twenty-first century after all.

But new research suggests that the role of the father in bringing up their kids is far more important than we thought.

Im going to travel around Britain, and meet some of the countries best child psychologists, and conduct a series of fascintating experiments.

I'll discover how the bond between father and child forms well before birth, and how a mans hormones change when he has a child.

I'll find out how a fathers unique style of play helps his child develop, and become independant.

In the next hour, Im going to investigate the special role a dad plays at every stage in his childs life.'

'93% of fathers are now present at the births of their children. And when they're present, this has a fascinating impact because of a hormone called 'Oxytocin', also known as 'the love hormone'.

Sebastian and partner lyndsy, are about to give birth to their first child. Oxytocin is triggered by skin to skin contact, and creates a strong bond between a couple. Its what binds them together in love making. But its also the hormone which controls a womans contractions.

Studies have found, that women who's partners were present and supportive during labour, were less distressed, with shorter delivery times. Sebastians presence is a real plus, he really helps increase the mothers Oxytocin, and that makes the contractions less painful. His presence may well be making the process much easier.

But like any new dad, as soon as the baby is born, he is checking to see what it looks like.

A mother always knows that the child is hers, where as a father cannot be absolutely sure.

Research suggests, that when a new father first looks at his baby, he instinctively searches for signs that his genes have been passed on to the next generation, and that the baby is his. In a study, fathers were placed in a brain scan, and shown a picture of a child they'd never seen before. The researchers were amazed to see that the decision making area of their brain was immediately activated.

Mothers on the other hand, showed no such response.

These images seem to suggest that fathers were actually scanning their offsprings faces for indications of paternity.

I want to find out what effect the key male hormone, testosterone, has on the relationship.

Men produce this hormone in much higher quantities than women, and its strongly associated with aggression.

Across the animal kingdom, high testosterone precipitates violent and competitive behaviour in males, especially in the mating season. But surely, this type of testosterone fuelled behaviour isnt a good idea when there are small babies about. What happens to mens naturally aggressive behaviour when they become dads?

Nick Neve is an evolutionary psychologist, and an expert on how testosterone controls mens behaviour.

Interviewer to Nick: "So Nick, testosterone gets a pretty bad press, can you give me your take on it?"

Nick: "(when men become fathers) they stop producing large amounts of testosterone. There bodies become less masculine, and slightly more feminine. Testosterone levels drop down dramatically and they seem to be better dads."

After birth, fathers testosterone levels will plummet by as much as a third. The difference in behaviour between the new dad and the single man is there to protect the baby. After hundreds of thousands of years, evolution has created men to be aggressive, but it has also given them the ability to switch on a paternal instinct at exactly the right moment.

Each time the father is exposed to his child, he bonds more and more. His testosterone may have risen since the birth, but his instincts are still to nuture and protect the child. After all, the child carries his DNA, and by protecting it, he's ensuring his genes live on after him.

Even though men need to be careful of their own strength, research has shown that their masculine physicality actually has a very important role to play in bringing up kids.

To investigate exactly how an ultra-masculine father can be good for a childs early development, Im heading off to the University of Lancaster. Im here to meet one of the UK's leading experts on fatherhood, psychologist professor Charlie Lewis.

In a lab fitted with cameras, he's going to demonstrate that the physical way dads play, can help their children learn.

Professor Lewis has asked Joe, and his fifteen month old son Jamie, to play together. Its not long before they start some rough-and-tumble play.

Professor Lewis: "The dad is trying to introduce him (the boy) to sudden bursts of activity, which is potentially dangerous, like if your falling over toward your father, theres an element of danger every time you do it."

Interviewer to Lewis: " So that sort of rough-housing that we saw there, wheres that going to take the childs development?"

Professor Lewis to interviewer: "Its allowing him (the boy) to exert power, but also to realize the limits of danger. So you cant smash into your father and continue the play and get away with it. So he's learning limits. This kind of play teaches a child when to respect boundaries, but also to explore beyond them. Dads do see it as their prerogative to extent the limits of the security of the child, so they're always just pushing the child more, where mums are a little bit more hesitant."

Interviewer to Lewis: " They (dads) have the strength and power to hold the child away, and throw them around if they want to (in a fun way), and children learn to expect it dont they?"

Professor Lewis: "They do. They seek their dads out to do it. They really find it one of the high spots of the day."

But A fathers influence extends even further.

Their particular style of play can spur language development. The reason is that dads tend to use less baby-talk, and more adult language.

Joe to his son, Jamie (as Jamie dismantles some lego blocks): "Your probably right, that was a bad design."

Professor Lewis to interviewer: "You've heard the father say "its a bad design", theres something peculiar about fathers language, because they use words that the childs not used to.  

Mums, by contrast, are constantly adapting their vocabularly to the child."

Interviewer: "Using different words that a child has no understanding of, does help spur their language on?"

Proffessor Lewis: " Exactly. We know this from countless studies now, that this is a function many dads serve."

Research has show that fathers have greater impact than mothers on their childrens language development between the ages of 2 and 3, and the longer the vocabulary a father uses, the higher their child scores on language tests a year later.

Dads not only use longer words, but they encourage more complex use of language, such as wit or sarcasm. Infact, dads playfulness leads many toddlers to see him as the more fun parent.

Interviewer: "Now mum's come to join them. What happens when dad leaves."

Joe to his son, Jamie: "Bye-bye!"

Interviewer: "Oh look, he's going to follow dad."

Professor Lewis to interviewer: "Some people say that when involved in play, kids will, particularly at the toddler stage, walk around the mum to get the fathers attention. And many mums report feeling really quite cut up about that."

Professor Lewis: "...the boy is still not playing. He's at the door. He's saying 'I want dad. Your not good enough to play with these construction toys. You dont use the word 'design' to me."

'Whats really interesting, is that single fathers parent in different ways to single mums.

This is Neville, he looks after his daughter, Alicia. Alicia's mother left just after she was born 6 years ago.

A study of single fathers has shown, that men like Neville, are just as capable of raising children as single mums, but in a different way.

In contrast to single mums, single fathers place more emphasis on teaching their children to be independant, by making the learning of life lessons fun.

Although they like to play, single dads find it more important than single mums to set up a controlled routine in the home. The kids of single dads are more likely to eat breakfast and dinner at a regular time. This routine establishes a stronger sense of security, producing children who are more independant and mature. And its not just the children of single fathers who find learning fun. All children with fathers who are involved in the early years turn up for school with more confidence, show more patience, and are better able to maintain interest in their work.

And studies have shown that this effect is so powerful, it leads to kids who are twice as likley to achieve high grades at school. They are also less likely to show delinquent behaviour, or to end up with a criminal record.'

No comments:

Post a Comment