Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A new fatherhood survey

A new US survey on fatherhood arrived at a couple of interesting conclusions. First, men do still want to father children:

Most of the men agreed or strongly agreed with statements such as "Having children is important to my feeling complete as a man"; "I always thought I would be a parent"; "I think my life will be or is more fulfilling with children"; and "It is important for me to have children," she said.

Second, men holding "non-egalitarian gender views" are more likely to commit to fatherhood and to value fatherhood. The term "non-egalitarian" is academic-speak for holding the view that there are distinctions in the roles of fathers and mothers within the family. In other words, men who believe that the paternal role is distinct from the maternal one are more committed to fatherhood:

Men who valued leisure and career, who espoused greater religiosity, who embraced non-egalitarian gender values, and who were already fathers tended to value fatherhood most.

These findings are similar to those arrived at in earlier research. For instance, back in 2007 I reported on a study undertaken by researchers from the University of Virginia which found that:

it would appear that women who are in marriages that are characterized by more traditional gender beliefs and practices are happier with the emotion work they receive and do receive more such emotion work from their husbands.

In 2006 another research project revealed that:

  • only 53% of "gender egalitarian" men work full-time compared to 95.7% of the traditional type
  • there was a higher fertility rate in traditional type families (1.7) compared to gender equality types (1.05)
  • men in traditional type families spent both more time at work and more time with their children (45.8 hours at work and 9.2 hours with children compared to 36 hours at work and 8.7 hours with children)

This stands to reason. If you believe that you have a distinct and necessary role in the family which expresses and fulfils your masculine self-identity then you are more likely to commit to that role than if you see it in more neutral terms.


  1. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/darwin-eternity/201111/is-sexual-promiscuity-more-natural-commitment

    "The book's biggest flaw is probably its misunderstanding of how EP views paternity certainty. The main prediction that follows from this EP view is not (as Ryan and Jethá suppose) that men will be equally preoccupied with paternity concerns in all cultures; rather, it's that across cultures (and across species), male willingness to invest in offspring will tend to correlate positively with paternity certainty. Consider, for example, fatherly investment in the bonobo and chimpanzee. Despite all their attention to these apes, Ryan and Jethá somehow overlook the fact that bonobos and chimps are both characterized not just by high promiscuity and low paternity certainty, but also by an absence of male parental care (Geary, 2000).

    Instead of acknowledging that low paternity certainty leads to low male parental care, Ryan and Jethá instead emphasize the "inconsequentiality" of paternity certainty. For instance, they state that among the Mosuo (the society referenced in the posts that I link to above), many women mate promiscuously, and "paternity certainty is so low and inconsequential that men... raise their sisters' children as their own" (Ryan & Jethá 2010, p. 126). But their description undermines their own conclusion that low paternity certainty is "inconsequential". There is a consequence: low fatherly investment. That's why this investment has to be provided instead by the mother's brothers. (Note also: the fact that this replacement investment is provided by the mother's genetic kin is exactly what standard EP theory would predict. This fact is inconsistent, however, with Ryan and Jethá's expectation that everyone in "the group", regardless of kinship, will invest equally in these children).

    Whether or not we all agree about the value of male parental investment in modern environments, it's important to be realistic about the trade-offs that promiscuity entails: when promiscuity is more prevalent, males will be less committed to long-term relationships, and less devoted fathers."

    Read promiscuity as non-traditional/non-egalitarian gender/sex/mating values.

    Therefore, as non-traditional mating values increase, paternal investment would decrease. And as traditional mating values increase, paternal investment would increase.

    Evolutionary psychology = win for explaining behaviour.


    Evolutionary psychology = biggest academic/scientific threat to leftist values ever.

  2. I think that liberal women whom want to have it both ways don't get it. A man whom is religious, traditional conservative doesn't seek a secular career-focused, promiscuous liberated woman when he wants to be a father. Most of the women who tend to comment "Where have all the good men gone?" should probably look at themselves. Some of them think that men whom commit are all a bunch of losers but then whine when no man commits. Some of them think that men whom don't believe in gender egalitarianism are a bunch of rapists, monsters, cowards and wife-beaters but then nag when men aren't as strong as these 'strong women'. This has to make a head hurt.

  3. Chris,

    Promiscuity generally undermines comitment. If you're "promiscuous" in your careers, going from one job to another and ready to quit at a moments notice, you won't invest that heavily in it. Likewise with countries or neighborhoods when people are willing to move fairly easily. This kind of personal "opportunity" undermines the building up process.

  4. Hi Mark,

    Interesting but not entirely unexpected.


  5. For instance, they state that among the Mosuo (the society referenced in the posts that I link to above), many women mate promiscuously, and "paternity certainty is so low and inconsequential that men... raise their sisters' children as their own" (Ryan & Jethá 2010, p. 126).

    Being authors of the book I would not mention Mosuo, because all sources, even feminist, claim that
    1] Mosuo men barely work at all. So not only parental investment is low, even investment to their society is low.
    2] Men are unable/unwilling to defend their land. Marching armies ravaged their land.
    (Same effects were observed in other matrifocal, matrilinear societies)

    So, increased parental uncertainity decreases overall male investment.

  6. Anon, you're right. Here is an interview with a Mosuo man:

    "If you could afford to buy a souvenir stand, would you?"

    Joe laughs, almost spitting in the direction of the knickknack vendors. "Mosuo are not shopkeepers."

    "So, what do you do?"

    "I have a good time. I help my uncles and cousins build houses. I'm young. I have no status until my sister has a child. Then, I'm important."

    There's no pressure on him to do much. His status doesn't depend on his own efforts to educate himself or build up his own resources. It depends on his sister getting pregnant.

    And this is from a Khasi male, an Indian tribe similar to the Mosuo, arguing for an end to the uncle society system in favour of a paternal one:

    "If children take my title they are part of my clan and I will have the weight of responsibility on my shoulders. That means I will have to lead a more stable life. It will take our men out of the rut they are in," he said.

    "The lack of responsibility is killing us. Boys are dropping out of school. Men are taking to drugs and drinking themselves to death by the age of 40."

  7. Yes, anon, I censored your comment. Your argument is very good, but I don't accept bad language. If I do, then the whole tone of the threads will fall including the quality of argument. If you want to do the rewrite yourself fine - just resubmit the comment.

  8. Mark, it is your blog and you can do anything you want with comments. If you find some comments unacceptable, you can delete them hide them or edit them.
    But the worst thing you can do is to silently edit words/parts of comments - no note it was altered and where. Moderators often modify comments but they highlight their changes, so a reader knows what is authentic and what was changed (and why).
    It lowers your credibility. The reader does not know if the comments are real or not.

  9. Anon,

    The comments are always authentic. Occasionally if there is a good argument in a comment, but foul language, I go to the trouble of deleting the foul language. But I try to find the nearest suitable replacement word. I will take on board your advice to make note of the change in future. But I'd also encourage you not to use the language in the first place. It not only detracts from the site, but it also lessens the impact of your argument. It makes it sound less controlled and reasonable, as if it were being written with less gravitas or possession of mind.

  10. Mark,
    I am afraid, in this case, meaning was changed. I was trying to say that marching armies (at least in case of Mosuo) had very good times with Mosuo women* - women offered themselves with pleasure (I hope this is polite enough, and I have no idea how to say it more politely). Ravage* has a different meaning. Plundering something is differnet to "******* *******".

    As I stated above, the problem I see is silent editing.

    * I am not native English speaker and I have never been to any English speaking country (shame on me), so I am not sure if I made no language mistake :( .

  11. Anon,

    For a non-native speaker your English is very impressive.

  12. Of course men still want to be fathers -- it takes a great deal of indoctrination, over many years, to convince boys/young men that what they *really* want out of life is to "partae!"

    A few years ago, I observed my great-nephew watching his uncle (my nephew) with his new daughter. It was so obvious, in watching the boy, that he wanted to someday be a father, too.

  13. Anon,

    For a non-native speaker your English is very impressive.

    I think that non-native speakers like Anonymous and myself learn English first through immersing ourselves in English mediums at a young age, most notable English entertainment, e.g. films, music, books.

    I still remember Hollywood movies, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Animal Planet, History Channel and so many other things I watched in English when I was younger. I also remember listening to Hillsong and other Christian English speaking bands/artists as well. I don't know about others but I learned English in English and not English through translation.