Paul Raeburn is the author of Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked, published June 3, 2014. It’s a fascinating story of scientific discovery that will change the way we think about fathers. Raeburn writes the About Fathers blog for Psychology Today and is the chief media critic for the Knight Science Journalism Tracker at MIT. He contributes to The New York Times, Discover, Scientific American and The Huffington Post.
Do Fathers Matter?
What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked
In recent years, researchers have begun to wonder what fathers contribute to their children. Fathers were clearly important for something, or they would disappear from their children’s lives, as is the case with most of our animal relatives. A new science of fatherhood was soon born, as psychologists, and then geneticists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and sociologists all began to investigate the role of fathers in their children’s and families’ lives.
The new science of fatherhood has now generated solid scientific data on why fathers behave the way they do—and why and how that matters to children. Along the way, have discarded any number of stereotypes about what fathers do. Gone are the father as moral guardian, symbol of masculinity for his sons, or harsh disciplinarian (all father images that were widely accepted and promoted in generations past).
Researchers are now showing that fathers play many roles in their families, including those of companions, care providers, spouses, protectors, models, moral guides, teachers and, of course, breadwinners, according to one recent study.
They’ve learned that fathers contribute more than their genes to their children—they also pass along a special set of genetic signals that are crucial to their children’s survival. Fathers’ brains shape their children—and are shaped by them. Fathers’ obesity or depression can sadly have serious consequences for their children. Raeburn looked at research on hunter-gatherer fathers, our surest clues to the family life of our remote ancestors. He asks what we might learn from one group that has what might be called the best fathers in the world.
Many of the findings of this new science of fatherhood have appeared in scholarly journals unfamiliar to the public. As a result, much of this research has escaped wide attention. Even the scientists themselves lack a big picture. The anthropologists don’t know what the neuroscientists are doing, and the sociologists are unfamiliar with animal experiments. Do Fathers Matter? is the first book to pull together all of this research and to explain what it means for fathers, families, and children. Raeburn has spent the past eight years investigating the new science of fatherhood.
The aim of this research is not only to show what fathers do—but to help fathers—and their families—understand how fathers can be better at what they do.