Podcast #119 Why Fathers Matter With Paul Raeburn…

Podcast #119: Why Fathers Matter With Paul Raeburn

Until fairly recently, most of the scientific research about parental influence on children focused on mothers and left out dads. But recent studies have shown that fathers have an important role in the development of children — from conception into adulthood. Award-winning science writer Paul Raeburn highlights all this new research in his book Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We Overlooked. In this podcast, Brett McKay talks to Paul about some of the research he highlights in his book.

From the interview:

I’ll give you one funny story. One of the things that people know about fathers research is that fathers are more likely to engage in horseplay, what the scientists call rough‑and‑tumble play. Fathers are more likely than moms to get down on the floor and wrestle around, you know, and be kind of rough in a good‑natured way with their kids. This doesn’t come as a surprise to us, but somebody had to discover that. Somebody had to watch fathers and watch mothers and figure that out, and that was a guy named Michael Lamb, who is in England now but spent a lot of time in Washington.

It was that situation we were talking about. The babies would be studied, and children would be studied with their mothers. Nobody looked at fathers, and he said, “Well, why don’t we just try looking at fathers to see what we discover?” He discovered this notion that fathers play very differently with their kids, much more open‑ended and so forth, and published a paper on it in 1977 or ’78, and that was the beginning. You know, he’s sort of the father of fatherhood research, if you will, and that was the beginning of people starting to study fathers. They said, “Hey, this is interesting. We didn’t expect this,” and others started to jump in, very gradually over the ’80s and 1990s, and then in the last decade or so, things have started to boom.

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