Educate Fathers on Changes to Their Biology and Impact of Father-child Bonding

We believe that more can be done to encourage parenthood with respect to fathering.

By Raphael Zhang | 9 September, 2019

A version of this Forum Letter was published in the Straits Times on 6 September 2019.

We applaud the government’s latest efforts to encourage more Singaporeans toward marriage and parenthood (“Lower pre-school expenses and more help with fertility treatments to encourage marriage and parenthood”; Aug 28). However, we are also concerned that two in three fathers did not take any paternity leave last year (“6 in 10 dads did not take paternity leave last year, says MSF”; Aug 7).

We believe that more can be done to encourage parenthood with respect to fathering.

One way to foster involved fathering is to educate men about the hormonal and brain changes they undergo when they become fathers. [1]

Research found that a man experiences significant decrease in his testosterone just before or just after the birth of his first child. The lower his testosterone, the more likely he is to release other hormones like oxytocin and dopamine which are key reward and bonding hormones, allowing fathers to care and interact with his baby and engage in baby-related tasks in the house, building a stronger bond and feeling contented while doing so. [1] [2]

Another study revealed that the changes triggered in the brains of new mothers were also seen in the brains of new fathers, in areas having to do with attachment, nurturing, empathy, and appropriate interpretation of baby’s behaviour. [3]

Educating fathers about how their bodies change to prepare them for fatherhood could assure them that they have what it takes to be an active father and motivate them to engage in fathering more actively.

As the father of a preborn baby myself, it certainly encourages me to know that my biology is gearing me up to meet the needs of my child, and this incentivises me to be more involved in playing a complementary role to my wife in our parenting journey.

Another way to encourage active fathering is to educate dads about the positive impact they have on their children’s intellectual, social, linguistic, and mathematical development.

Dads who have more regular, warm, engaged, and creative father-child play have kids who do better in vocabulary, reading, and mathematics. [4] [5] Furthermore, children who receive positive influence and greater involvement from their fathers also experience better wellbeing in the area of mental health. [6]

In fact, ongoing father involvement and nurturing is positively associated with a child’s social competence, internal locus of control, ability to empathise and protects them against psychological distress. [6]

When fathers are made well aware of their biological readiness to contribute as dads in unique, irreplaceable ways to their children’s development, it would raise their confidence and boost their likelihood in making necessary adjustments to be more involved and active fathers.

Raphael Zhang
Family Life Specialist
Focus on the Family Singapore


References

  1. How Men’s Bodies Change When They Become Fathers
  2. Longitudinal Evidence that Fatherhood Decreases Testosterone in Human Males
  3. How Men’s Bodies Change When They Become Fathers
  4. The Magic of Play: Low-Income Mothers' and Fathers' Playfulness and Children's Emotion Regulation and Vocabulary Skills
  5. Children who play with their dads do better in school
  6. Fatherhood: the impact of fathers on children's mental health

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