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Science

Parenting Rewires the Male Brain 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the swearing-circuits-rerouted-and-patience-circuits-bolstered dept.
sciencehabit writes: "Cultures around the world have long assumed that women are hardwired to be mothers. But a new study (abstract) suggests that caring for children awakens a parenting network in the brain—even turning on some of the same circuits in men as it does in women. The research implies that the neural underpinnings of the so-called maternal instinct aren't unique to women, or activated solely by hormones, but can be developed by anyone who chooses to be a parent."
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Parenting Rewires the Male Brain

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  • by Dj Stingray (178766) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:12PM (#47105011)

    I have been discriminated against a few times because I choose to be childless.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:37PM (#47105123)

      As a parent, I discriminate against the childless as I'm so jealous.

      Oh, to not have three screaming children.

      • As a parent, I discriminate against the childless as I'm so jealous.

        Oh, to not have three screaming children.

        As a parent, I absolutely love my two laughing children, and what I wouldn't do to have a third! (working on it)

      • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @03:42AM (#47106095) Homepage

        Your children are a reflection of yourself. If they are difficult, it's because you are difficult. It absolutely amazes me that people never quite get this. If you want to have good children, be a better person. Seriously.

        • by naasking (94116)

          That's a little simplistic. Genetics also account for a signficant fraction of a young person's behaviour.

          • by erroneus (253617)

            I'll give you a little for that, so you want to blame your wife or husband for making bad kids? Okay.

        • Your children are a reflection of yourself. If they are difficult, it's because you are difficult. It absolutely amazes me that people never quite get this. If you want to have good children, be a better person. Seriously.

          This is probably mostly true if you're only speaking of behavior. Obviously my wife and I are the main influence since my kids have never been in day care, but they do soak up habits of other people they trust, especially older kids they look up to. My kids are all well-behaved, even on the three- to four-hour flights we take a few times a year, but my oldest (6) has picked up various bad or annoying habits in the past from his friends. One of his old playdate friends had a very annoying tantrum cry that

        • by Fr33z0r (621949)
          I've yet to meet siblings who have similar temperaments/behaviors. I call shenannigans.
    • by Larryish (1215510)

      That explains my breast tenderness every 4 wee

      Damn you, mom. DAMN YOU!!!ks.

    • by Ash Vince (602485) *

      I have been discriminated against a few times because I choose to be childless.

      Do you really choose to be childless or can you just not find anyone who will put up with you long enough to have a child together?

  • by Semyazas (3668399) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:19PM (#47105041)
    This must be the process that makes it possible to see humor in dadjokes. Warrants funding research in that field.
  • False assumptions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:32PM (#47105095)

    One assumption of this study is that because homosexual men have a specific reaction in their brains, that all men have it. It ignores the possibility that homosexual men's brains are different from the start. It doesn't consider/ignores the fact that homosexual men are wired differently from the start which means they may have the same ability as women from the start as well. The wiring that makes a man homosexual may be the same wiring that makes them more nurturing/worrying/ect like mothers.

    There isn't enough evidence to draw the conclusions they are drawing. This is a simple matter of someone deciding correlation is causation. It may be true, it may not, but this study is pretty inconclusive and jumps to conclusions that it shouldn't

    I see nothing referencing heterosexual single fathers and how they compare/contrast to all this, which would be much more telling as far as the conclusions they've drawn.

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      I thought they addressed that by saying something like it seems to be directly related to the amount of contact. Men in a heterosexual relationship, I assume, get less contact. I some cases, where the man is the primary care taker, it's pretty much the same as the homosexual couple.
  • They always get less funny once they become parents.

    • Once you have kids, those comedians become funny again, because you've lived the things they talk about when they're talking about their kids. I never thought I would find the whole "I've got a crazy family!" bits funny, but I do now. I don't think you can relate until you've lived it.

      That happened to Jim Breuer (not that he was necessarily funny before). I saw his new (2-3 years ago) comedy special and he had had kids. I had not had my kid yet. I didn't think his kid jokes were particularly funny at the ti

  • by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:45PM (#47105141) Homepage
    Our brains learn things by "rewiring" themselves. Why should we be surprised that spending a large amount of time causes a detectable difference in the action of the brain? Implying that men don't have the neural circuitry required for parenting is as retarded as implying that women don't have the neural circuitry required for mathematics.
    • by Belial6 (794905) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @12:02AM (#47105203)
      Most people won't get it because we currently live in a time when it is heresy to say that men are better than women at anything, while it is also heresy to imply that women are not better than men at most things. We live in a misandrist society.
    • Our brains learn things by "rewiring" themselves.

      And yet you will have plenty of people say that it is impossible to learn certain things if you don't have the DNA for it. People will probably reply to this comment with example to prove it.

    • by cerberusss (660701) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @12:51AM (#47105395) Homepage Journal

      Implying that men don't have the neural circuitry required for parenting is as retarded as implying that women don't have the neural circuitry required for mathematics.

      Heh that brings back memories, and not the good ones. I can't count the times the wife said something on the lines of: "I am the mother, so obviously I know best." The first half year after our baby girl was born, I had to really fight for my half of fatherhood.

      Society nowadays expect you to do your half of the parenting, but when that time comes, your wife's instincts might take over and decide it would be much better if you just followed her orders.

    • by Jason Levine (196982) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @08:31AM (#47107689)

      Sadly, our society sees women as "natural parents" and men as "idiots who would feed the baby pizza and beer if given the chance." While out their kids, some dads are told how nice it is that they are "babysitting" them. It amazes some people that men can actually be good dads and are capable of actually helping in the house. (For example, I'm the chef of our family. I cook all of the dinners.) Part of the blame for this are the endless TV shows portraying the idiot bumbling dad who would go to ruin if it weren't for his loving, extremely-patient wife. (Have a TV show with an idiot bumbling wife and a patient dad and watch the complaints fly.)

      Even worse is the view that all men are psycho kid-stalkers out to do harm to any child they can. If my wife and I saw a child crying on the sidewalk by himself or herself, I wouldn't walk up to them. I'd want to. I'd want to help, but I'd know better. I'd be seen as "creepy man preying on an innocent kid." My wife, on the other hand, would be able to do that because she's a woman. She'd be seen as "loving woman who wants to help a child."

      • Have a TV show with an idiot bumbling wife and a patient dad and watch the complaints fly

        I don't know about that. I've seen "The Goldbergs" which is basically The Wonder Years except a sitcom and set in the 80s. The mother is bat shit insane and hyper over-protective; a caricature of the "Jewish mother." The father is fairly even keeled. I haven't heard shrill complaints about it.

        • Note that over-protection is exaggeration of a positive trait. Try exaggerating a negative attribute in that situation and watch the firestorm erupt. The sitcom "Bad Teacher" can get away with it because the female lead there isn't a mother (just a teacher), but just try doing it with an actual mother character. The intergenerational comedy "Mom" can get away with it because the "bad mother" in this case only has adult children. But exaggerating a real negative attribute that moms can have (addiction, irre

  • I don't doubt it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sasayaki (1096761) on Tuesday May 27, 2014 @11:59PM (#47105181)

    A few years ago, my ex had a miscarriage at three months. By that point I was already accepting that there was going to be a kid and planning accordingly (adding another room to the house, telling friends and co-workers, etc). We dated for five years and the stress that caused ended an already fragile relationship.

    Since then, I've noticed a distinct change in my personality. It's subtle and hard to quantify in absolute terms, but it's definitely there and I'm not the only one who noticed. I'm a lot less interested in women than I was before. I'm a lot more interested in stability, especially financial, and I'm finding myself doting on my cat a lot more (she's the bestest). While I'm still in many ways "an overgrown college kid" I've noticed that I'm also assuming a lot more responsibilities with my life, especially cleaning, cooking, and being a lot more timely and responsible* in my behaviour.

    It's hard to assign causation to something like this -- I'm nearly 30 now. Did I just get older and is that adequate enough to explain it? Was it because I was exposed to a lot of new things, such as The Atheist Experience which I started watching just after the breakup? Or maybe it was just a change in the social and political climate locally, here in Australia? Or possibly the change in friend circles (I moved across the country afterward) that did it? I lost a lot of weight, maybe that's it too? Or the change in career (IT to full time writer)?

    It's hard to pin down, but something changed and although a lot of factors I can think of were environmental I'd find it quite plausible that there is a distinct bio-chemical trigger at play here too. Probably 75% environmental, 25% chemical?

    The whole thing is very interesting at any rate.

    *I bought a Pikachu onesie a week ago so maybe not too responsible.

    • by jelizondo (183861) <jerry.elizondo@gm a i l . com> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @01:49AM (#47105639)

      You had me until the cat part.

      Everyone knows that a good parent would choose a dog!

      Kidding aside, it does change you. I was fooled into being in the OR for the birth of my third offspring (a girl) and that changed me in ways I can't begin to describe: from a typical antisocial nerd, interested only in the latest techno-toy into a real person.

      She'll be 21 next week and has been living with me for the last 12 years, after her mom and I divorced, and still think of her as my greatest achievement.

      She is smart and iron-willed, so I have not really enjoyed being a single parent dealing with a difficult child, but at this time, I would not change one bit of the story.

      YMMV and all that, but being a parent really makes a wonderful difference in your life.

    • Re:I don't doubt it. (Score:4, Informative)

      by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @02:02AM (#47105721) Journal

      http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09... [nytimes.com]

      Here, we use a large representative study in the Philippines (n = 624) to show that among single nonfathers at baseline (2005) (21.5 ± 0.3 y), men with high waking T were more likely to become partnered fathers by the time of follow-up 4.5 y later (P < 0.05). Men who became partnered fathers then experienced large declines in waking (median: â'26%) and evening (median: â'34%) T, which were significantly greater than declines in single nonfathers (P < 0.001). Consistent with the hypothesis that child interaction suppresses T, fathers reporting 3 h or more of daily childcare had lower T at follow-up compared with fathers not involved in care (P < 0.05).

      http://www.pnas.org/content/10... [pnas.org]

    • Pretty sure all of those are classical symptoms of depression.

      • by naasking (94116)

        What? The only symptom he listed that might be related was decreased interest in women. I've never seen any of those other symptoms listed in relation to depression.

  • Oh wait, that can't happen because men who go to prison and start engaging in homosexual activity are clearly doing so because they were simply sexually repressed homosexuals before being liberated by prison life [majorityrights.com].

  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @03:23AM (#47106025) Homepage

    who persistently find in favour of the woman, ignoring the benefits that a father can bring to children: if mother does not want her ex-partner around the courts do little to help dad remain in the kids lives. She can break court orders with little penalty while dad is faced with huge legal bills and delays. The courts pretend to act in the best interests of the children - but really they are prejudiced in favour of mothers.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      I actually think fathers are more important than mothers after about 5-6 years old. What makes a person good and functional in society is based in no small part to life lessons and examples of respect and self-discipline. People who go through life doing what feels good never seem to make it very far in life. This isn't something commonly taught or exemplified by women. But if you want to see what's wrong with society, try looking at it through the lens of needing more respect and self-discipline.

      Love a

  • by imevil (260579) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @05:20AM (#47106477)

    I had the luck of finding a husband who cared about me keeping my job. That meant sharing of the parental duties, except the obvious ones like breastfeeding. I noticed that not only his parental instinct was at least as developed as mine -- and getting better with each subsequent child, but also that he is more comfortable than me in this parenthood thing. The reasons being:

    1 - he's more sure of himself than I am, because society taught him to.
    2 - he gets less hen-pecking and judging that I do. With our first-born, family would let me know that I "was doing wrong", and I'd believe it (see number one). But a caring father is like a super-hero here and does not get that much crap. And also can find better company (but that's just here where I live I guess as I heard horrible things from other dads). Also random people compliment him for being so involved with our kids.
    3 - he can lift 2 kids at the same time

    • by kria (126207)

      Look, look, another woman here! :) Anyway, I was considering joking that as an expecting geek mom, that if men's brains get rewired, then perhaps there's a chance that I'll become more maternal. I worry about it.

      The rest of your commentary makes sense to me. So far, I haven't been getting much advice that is critical of our plans, except from one person: my very traditional mother, who is probably secretly horrified that my husband is going to stay at home. She's already claimed that my longterm breastfe

      • So far, I haven't been getting much advice that is critical of our plans, except from one person: my very traditional mother, who is probably secretly horrified that my husband is going to stay at home.

        I've got two kids and a third due in about 9 weeks. My best advice to parents-to-be is to ignore all the advice you'll get (small joke there.) Everyone you meet will think they know better than you what being a parent will be like, and that they know best how you should raise your child. Many of them will then offer that advice in strong terms, even when you clearly don't want/need it. Listen to them, nod politely, and go on doing it the way you think best.

        ... perhaps there's a chance that I'll become more maternal. I worry about it.

        Annecdotal, but: We both became more maternal/

        • by T.E.D. (34228)

          I've got two kids and a third due in about 9 weeks. My best advice to parents-to-be is to ignore all the advice you'll get (small joke there.) Everyone you meet will think they know better than you what being a parent will be like, and that they know best how you should raise your child. Many of them will then offer that advice in strong terms, even when you clearly don't want/need it. Listen to them, nod politely, and go on doing it the way you think best.

          Father of three now all in "endgame" (college, high-school, and jr. high) here. This is the single best piece of advice that can be given IMHO. Some of us have a personality that is naturally inclined this way anyway. However, you may have a partner who is not. Some people live for praise and really take any criticism to heart. If so, its part of your job to help them deflect the bullshit. Believe me, it is incoming from every quarter.

    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      2 - he gets less hen-pecking and judging that I do. With our first-born, family would let me know that I "was doing wrong", and I'd believe it (see number one). But a caring father is like a super-hero here and does not get that much crap.

      This one is huge IMHO. Probably people who aren't looking at it from the outside like I do as a dad don't notice this so much, but society is just insanely judgmental toward mothers. There are shelves full of books with contradictory things in them that mothers are told they have to follow exactly, or risk their kids turning into mental defectives and/or serial killers. TV and radio is chock full of these snake-oil salesmen too. Anybody who listens to all that crap is guaranteed to be driven insane. Other p

  • ... to the old saw that, "Insanity is hereditary; you get it from your kids"?
  • This makes perfect sense - you no longer need the portions of your brain that store your hopes and dreams, so those portions can transition to finding ways to push your kids to be good at something so that you can live vicariously through them!
  • by frank_adrian314159 (469671) on Wednesday May 28, 2014 @10:49AM (#47109459) Homepage

    Cutting to the chase, having kids is fine as long as you're willing to make the sacrifices necessary to raise and support them. So is not having kids. So is waiting to have kids. So is adopting. So is marrying someone who has already had kids and becoming a (hopefully non-evil) stepparent.

    What surprises me is the number of people here who feel that they have some right to criticize others' choices on this particular issue (although the choice of taking unruly kids onto planes and into theaters probably is OK to criticize). What surprises me more is the defensiveness that some people have around their choices, even to the point where folks are seeing posts on different choices as attacks on their choices. Just because someone makes a different choice than you, it doesn't invalidate your decision. Yes, I know that you who don't have kids like to gloat about your freedom. I'm glad you have it, but no one likes an smug asshole. I know you who have kids like to tout your responsibility and the joys you get from parenting and your oh-so-excellent child-rearing skills. I'm glad you have those, but, again, no one likes a smug asshole. So just lighten the fuck up, OK?

    I had kids. I have friends who didn't. I respect their choices, they respect mine. There are advantages and disadvantages to each choice. That's the way life is. Now STFU and enjoy the life you've chosen and let others enjoy theirs.

    Why does this discussion remind me of a vi/emacs war?

  • Do anything for 40 days and it forms a habit - i.e. rewires the brain.

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