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Wednesday September 18, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday September 18, 2013 MYT 8:56:22 AM
by armin brott
Parenting abilities are about on-the-job training, not gender.
DEAR Mr. Dad: I’m reading all the time about how stay-at-home dads are becoming more common, and are taking on a greater share of the parenting workload. While that sounds like it should be a good thing, I’m worried how the kids will do. I have nothing against fathers, but after all, mothers are naturally better parents than fathers, aren’t they? So, doesn’t it follow that they’d do better in life if raised primarily by mothers?
IN a word “No”. In two words, “Hell, No”. I’ve been doing research and writing about fathers for nearly 20 years and I can assure you that there’s no scientific evidence to support the claim that women are naturally better at parenting than men.
No question, they’re better at being pregnant, giving birth, and breastfeeding, but when it comes to caring for children, importance is not on the sex of the parent, but the amount of time spent with the child.
That bit of information was discovered several decades ago by my colleague, Ross Parke. And just recently, a team of French scientists found the very same thing. What I found most surprising about their “discovery” is that they were actually surprised.
The study, led by Erik Gustafsson of the University de Saint-Etienne, looked at 29 babies younger than six months of age and their parents. The researchers recorded the babies crying and then played them for the parents, asking mum and dad to identify which baby was theirs.
The hypothesis was that while being able to pick your baby’s cry out of a crowd doesn’t mean you’re a good parent, it does indicate that you’re at least paying attention.
Here’s what Gustafsson and his team found: Of the 14 dads who spent an average of four hours a day (or more) with their baby, 13 ID’d their own child 98% of the time. The 14th was right 90%. How’d the mums do? Exactly the same – as long as they spent four hours a day with their baby. Clearly, one’s parenting abilities aren’t determined by biology, but by on-the-job training. – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Armin Brott is the author of The Military Father: A Hands-On Guide For Deployed Dads and The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips, And Advice For Dads-To-Be. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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