Updated: Oct 24
What is a dad, anyway?
Not the dictionary definition of a dad. But, what actually happens when a man becomes a dad? What is a dad?
I am still blown away by what I am about to share with you.
A little backstory about how I came upon this research.
Years ago, I was commuting to work and listening to a podcast (Goop – Episode: What Makes a Dad a Dad).
I was so in awe of what I heard, I literally pulled over to the side of the road multiple times to replay the podcast and take notes.
The guest of this episode was Anna Machin, an anthropologist.
After having a traumatic birth experience, Anna noticed the impact the trauma had on her husband. Being an anthropologist, she wanted to understand this. Anna soon realized there was essentially no research on the impact that parenting has on fathers or the positive impact that fathers have on children. And so, she got to work.
After hearing this podcast, I was inspired to dig into the research on dads myself.
So, what is a dad? What makes a dad a dad? And are dads actually the fun parent? Check it out.
1. Dad Bod Is Real - A Man's Body Changes When Becoming Dad
#dadbod – Is it a real thing? Well, kind of. But it is not really what you think.
It is well known (and obvious, duh) that the body of a woman changes in a variety of ways when becoming a mother.
However, since men lack the whole pregnancy/delivery/breastfeeding components of parenting, physical changes when becoming a dad are not so obvious. And not even well studied.
Only over the past 10 years have scientists really begun to dig into the micro changes in a man’s body after becoming a dad. And although the changes are relatively small, researchers believe they are practical.
And I find them super enlightening and so very appropriate.
A little science first.
Men have a set amount of testosterone that they need. They also have a small amount of testosterone that fluctuates based on circumstance, environment, and genetics.
Turns out, the body adjusts the amount of testosterone in a man’s body based on what he needs in that moment.
Higher levels of testosterone lead to more aggressive behavior. This helps men
compete for food/work
protect their mates and their young
but can interfere with being a sensitive father
Lower levels of testosterone have been linked with more parental investment such as
greater empathy and response to their children
more sensitivity and investment
less aggression toward romantic partners
So here’s the good news.
When a man becomes an involved father, his testosterone levels decrease.
The lower a man’s testosterone levels,
the more sensitive he is
the more responsive he is to his child
the more involved in his child's care he is
the better he is able to meet his child’s needs
the more invested he is in his relationship with the child’s mother
And the decrease is not temporary.
Testosterone levels never return to where they were pre-fatherhood.
Not to worry, though. A man's body will maintain enough testosterone, but essentially takes the edge off to shift from finding a mate to nurturing their child.
Though men do not have obvious changes to their body when becoming a dad, a man's body changes forever when becoming an involved father.
#dadbod for the win!