New Research being conducted on the differences between mothering and fathering has found that children need to the complimentary parenting styles from both genders.
Jenet Erickson, research sociologist and author for the Deseret News, presented research that is being conducted, and not yet published, during the Wheatley Conference. She has given me permission to summarize this research in progress.
“A growing body of research exploring physiological changes in mothers and fathers has shed new light on how sex differences may predispose them toward distinctive contributions to children’s development” (Snowdon, 2012). (As reported by Jenet Erickson)
During pregnancy, labor, and after birth, women experience dramatic increases in oxytocin and oxytocin receptors. These hormonal increases are responsible for bonding between a mother and her infant. Even adoptive mothers show an increase in oxytocin. Oxytocin correlates with common maternal behaviors such as gazing, affectionate touch, and frequent infant checking.
To enhance the bonding, infants who are close to their mothers mimic the same increase in oxytocin and have low levels on cortisone (the stress hormone). Even more surprising is the fact that fathers who live with and have a close relationship to the mother of their children experience the same increase in hormones. However, fathers who are in a strained or distant relationship with the mother of the children do not have the same surge in hormones.
The increase in oxytocin effects the behaviors of men and women differently. Mothers tend to cuddle, caress, and speak to their infants in a soft voice. Fathers tend to tickle, toss their infants, or engage them with an object.
Mothers seem to be biologically primed to attach to their children. Mothers spend more time caring for and thinking about their children. They have a unique ability to “sensitively modify the stimulation they give to their infants. Through finely tuned perceptions, they match their infants’ intellectual and emotional state and provide the optimal ‘chunked bits’ of positive interaction needed for the child’s developing brain (Schore, 1994).”(As reported by Jenet Erickson)
In fact, the unique interaction between a mother and her infant positively effects the child’s, “memory, cognitions, stress tolerance, and cardiovascular, metabolic and immune function, as well as emotional and behavioral regulation (Kline & Stafford, 2012, p. 203).” (As reported by Jenet Erickson)
Without a mother, children tend to suffer from attachment disorders. Mothers are not the only adults, children can attach to, but mothers seem to be biologically oriented to creating positive attachments in children. Bjorklund & Jordan (2012, p. 68) explained that women are able to regulate their emotions better than men. Because of this, women are more capable of delaying their own gratification to care for children.
This unique attachment that children develop with their mothers is seen through all stages of life—even as adults, mothers remain the “preferred source of comfort in times of stress”.
Women are biologically predisposed to form needed attachments and interactions with children in ways that men simply are not.
Next week, I will discuss some of the unique ways in which men father and just how necessary fathering is to a developing child.
Bjorklund D. F., and Jordan, A. C. (2012). Human parenting from an evolutionary perspective. In W. B. Wilcox, & K. K. Kline (Eds.), Gender and Parenthood (pp. 61-90). New York: Columbia University Press.
Kline, K. K., and Stafford, B. (2012). Essential elements of the caretaking crucible. In W. B. Wilcox, & K. K. Kline (Eds.), Gender and Parenthood (pp. 193-214). New York: Columbia University Press.
Schore, A. N. (1994). Affect regulation and the origin of the self: The neurobiology of emotional development. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Snowdon, C. T. (2012). Family life and infant care: Lessons from cooperatively breeding primates. In W. B. Wilcox, & K. K. Kline (Eds.), Gender and Parenthood (pp. 40-60). New York: Columbia University Press.