Battlepanda: Trend/countertrend


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Friday, October 07, 2005


I'm sure we're all heartily sick of those periodic article that arrives on our broadsheet and glossy magazines alike with predictable regularity about how more and more professional, ridiculously well-qualified women are forsaking their high-powered careers in droves to stay at home with kiddies. The revolution comes, it seems about every six months, and each writer smugly repeats the same cliche-ridden "mommy war" rhetoric as if they are the first lucky 'journalist' to hit this rich seam of cultural conflict.

Leave it to a science magazine, the excellent New Scientist, to present an actually interesting take on the stay-at-home revolution.
In 1986, there were 445 stay-at-home fathers in the UK. Two decades later, that
number has risen to over 21,000. And in June this year, the UK's Equal
Opportunities Commission (EOC) announced that 79 per cent of men questioned said
they would be happy to look after their young children while their wife or
partner went out to work. In a single generation, a behaviour that was once
considered eccentric has become mainstream.

The rest of the article goes into fascinating detail about how changing attitudes about male fatherhood could actually precipitate hormonal changes in the individual, triggering an increase in caring behavior. I know frequent commenter John Emerson would find this interesting. It's kind of freaky how our hormones determine who we are and how we respond with the environment, yet hormonal levels are in turn influenced by the environment.
In the company of a pregnant female [marmoset], the level of the hormone
prolactin in the males' blood begins to rise and it continues to increase up to
the time of the birth. Prolactin is of ancient origin and in mammals it promotes
lactation and fostering behavior. Clearly, this mechanism serves to prepare male
marmosets for a proactive paternal role in childcare. But what about
In men who were cohabiting with pregnant women, prolactin rose steadily,
increasing 20 per cent on average during the three weeks before their partner
gave birth. Also, at the time of birth the men's testosterone level dropped
dramatically, by up to 33 per cent. What's more, it made "surprisingly little
difference" to the result whether the cohabiting male was the father of the
expected child, or knew that he was not, suggesting that the changes are a
cooperative adaptation, and not straightforward kin selection.

The article is subscription only. So if you want to read the rest of it, go buy it.