An amazing study was reported recently in Wired magazine, but its authors didn’t go far enough. Science shows that being a father changes a man’s brain.
But fatherhood changes more than that. It changes the world.
“A team led by Pilyoung Kim at the Universities of Denver and Yale twice scanned the brains of 16 new fathers (average age 36; seven were first-time dads),” Wired reported. “The first scan took place between two and four weeks after their babies were born; the second scan 12 to 16 weeks later. Previous research has shown functional changes in the brains of fathers, in the way that they show heightened neural activity in response to the sight of their own infants. However, this is the first time that researchers have documented structural changes in the brains of human fathers.”
What kind of changes?
“Kim’s team found increased grey matter volume in several regions of the fathers’ brains,” Wired explained. “This included areas previously identified as showing growth in new mothers, including the striatum (involved in reward processing, among other functions), hypothalamus (hormonal control), amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC; involved in emotional processing), and the lateral pre-frontal cortex (PFC; involved in memory and decision making). The PFC is one of the areas that has been associated with heightened activity when fathers view their own infants.”
Scientists also found that parts of a father’s brain power down some, most likely to accommodate the “fathers’ new vigilance for their precious offspring.”
The significance is that fatherhood is being taken seriously, even in the scientific community — which had been studying motherhood and the brain for decades before anyone got around to dads.
Fatherhood is being taken seriously in the White House, as seen in a recent press conference President Barack Obama held on his “My Brother’s Keeper” program.
“I’ve had a chance to talk to some young people in the past and I always say that I see myself in the young men who are coming up now,” Obama said last week. “When I was in my teens I didn’t have a father in the house, it took me awhile to realize that I was angry about that and I acted out in some ways.”
Fatherhood changes lives.
“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America — one out of every three — live in biological father-absent homes,” the National Fatherhood Initiative notes. “Nine in 10 American parents agree this is a ‘crisis.’ Consequently, there is a ‘father factor’ in nearly all of the social issues facing America today. But the hope lies in the fact that children with involved fathers do better across every measure of child well-being than their peers in father-absent homes.”
It’s an economic issue, as well.
“The federal government spends $99.8 billion dollars every year on programs — such as child support enforcement and anti-poverty efforts — to support father-absent homes,” the Initiative adds.
It’s true that fatherhood changes a man’s brain. But it does more than that. It changes everything for a child.