Monday, December 16th, 2013
New scientific research conducted with mice may have major implications for how fathers think about their health before planning to have a baby. The study linked nutritional deficiencies in male mice with a higher risk that their offspring would be born with birth defects. The Washington Post has more:
The findings raise concerns about dads unknowingly passing on harmful traits through molecular markers on the DNA of their sperm.
These epigenetic markers don’t change the genetic information, but rather switch parts of the genome on and off. They are susceptible to environment and diet throughout fetal development, but were thought to be wiped clean before birth. New studies, including the one published online Tuesday in Nature Communications, have revealed that some of them may survive all the way from sperm to baby.
When analyzing the sperm epigenomes of the low-nutrition mice, the researchers found abnormalities in epigenetic markers that affected genes linked to development, neurological and psychological disorders and certain cancers.
“We should be looking carefully at the way a man is living his life,” said study author and reproductive biologist Sarah Kimmins of McGill University. “Environmental exposure is remembered in the developing sperm and transmitted to offspring.”
Since it takes human males about three months to produce fully grown sperm from stem cells, Kimmins speculates that men trying to have children could try cleaning up their diets even temporarily.
“If a man has been living a bad, unhealthy lifestyle, he will not only improve his own health but the health of his offspring,” she said.
Image: Man with healthy food in shopping basket, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, September 11th, 2013
Researchers at Emory University have concluded, in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that attentive, nurturing fathers are statistically more likely to have smaller testicles than distant, less empathetic fathers. The finding is consistent with the belief that lower testosterone levels contribute to a father‘s enjoyment of parenting, patience, kindness, and other characteristics. More from NBC News:
“The general idea is that lower testosterone on a day-to-day basis helps attune fathers to the needs of their children,” University of Notre Dame anthropologist Lee Gettler, who studies this effect, told NBC News.
Lower testosterone may also make men more empathetic, less aggressive, less interested in mating, or all these.
The idea is part of Life History Theory. The theory holds that many animals, including people, trade off between putting resources into mating, versus parenting. The more energy devoted to having sex, and engaging in competition with others to do so, the less that’s left for raising offspring, and vice versa.
The life histories of children have shown that the more stress and family disruption they experience, the greater the risk they’ll face troubles later. Girls with an absent father, for example, are more likely to start their periods sooner, have sex sooner, and to become single mothers. Boys with absent fathers or stressful childhoods are more likely to begin having sex earlier. They are more likely to put more effort into mating, less into parenting.
The Emory group, led by post-doctoral fellow Jennifer Mascaro in the lab of James Rilling, is the first to use testicle size as a physical marker, and to see if testicle size correlates with brain reward – positive feelings — from nurturing as a way to help explain variation in male parenting.
Image: Happy father and son, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 25th, 2013
Fathers who are egalitarian in their attitudes toward gender roles may raise daughters who have higher career ambitions than those with more gender-traditional dads. More from LiveScience.com:
The research is correlational, so it doesn’t prove that fathers’ attitudes are the cause their young daughters’ work aspirations. But the research may suggest that girls look to their fathers for examples of what is expected of women. Dads’ attitudes also predict what kind of play their daughters enjoy.
“Dads who are more balanced have girls who are just as likely to play with Transformers as Barbie dolls,” study researcher Toni Schmader, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia said here Friday (Jan. 18) at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
Image: Father and daughter baking, via Shutterstock
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Friday, December 21st, 2012
New research is finding that oxytocin, the hormone that brings about feelings of love, connection, and belonging in relationships, may help fathers bond better with their children. More from Time.com:
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“In a study published in Biological Psychiatry, 35 fathers played with their five month old daughters, once after being given a nasal spray containing either oxytocin and again after being given a placebo. Each time, they were instructed to engage in a task called the “still face” paradigm, which produces a small, heart-tugging drama. Researchers measured oxytocin levels in both the dads and their babies before and after the exercise.
First, the father smiles and plays with the baby, who sits in an infant seat facing him. Then he keeps his face blank and expressionless, refusing to respond as the infant makes increasingly worried attempts to re-engage him. After a few minutes of watching but ignoring the child’s distress, the dad resumes a more loving expression and reassures baby that all is well.
After receiving oxytocin, the fathers were generally more responsive to their little girls— almost certainly having a harder time keeping their faces blank during the “still face” and consequently responding far more quickly when instructed to re-engage. Under the influence of the hormone, the dads made more eye contact, provided more touch, had more mirroring and reciprocal interactions and indulged in more baby talk than after receiving placebo.
Their babies also tended to respond more to their dads who had received the oxytocin sprays—with increased smiles, laughter, mirroring and play behavior—compared to their behavior when their dads were receiving the placebo. Their own oxytocin rose in near perfect sync with the elevation of the hormone occurring in their fathers.”
Wednesday, September 19th, 2012
Rupert Everett, who is best known for his role in the movie “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” is taking criticism for comments he made suggesting that gay fathers aren’t suited to the job. From HLN:
Everett, who came out more than two decades ago, went on to say, “She thinks children need a father and a mother and I agree with her.” He then went on to say, “I can’t think of anything worse than being brought up by two gay dads.”
“Some people might not agree with that. Fine! That’s just my opinion,” said Everett, who also said he doesn’t consider himself part of the gay community.
GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said in a statement, “Since Everett shared his outdated opinion, gay parents, as well as their friends and families, have voiced overwhelming disappointment. Children aren’t hurt when raised by caring gay parents, but they are when uninformed people in the public eye insult their families.”
Image: Rupert Everett, via s_bukley / Shutterstock.com
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