For too long, we've thought of fathers as little more than sources of authority and economic stability in the lives of their children. Yet cutting-edge studies drawing unexpected links between fathers and children are forcing us to reconsider our assumptions and ask new questions: What changes occur in men when they are "expecting"? Do fathers affect their children's language development? What are the risks and rewards of being an older-than-average father at the time the child is born? What happens to a father's hormone levels at every stage of his child's development, and can a child influence the father's health? Just how much do fathers matter?
In Do Fathers Matter? the award-winning journalist and father of five Paul Raeburn overturns the many myths and stereotypes of fatherhood as he examines the latest scientific findings on the parent we've often overlooked. Drawing on research from neuroscientists, animal behaviorists, geneticists, and developmental psychologists, among others, Raeburn takes us through the various stages of fatherhood, revealing the profound physiological connections between children and fathers, from conception through adolescence and into adulthood—and the importance of the relationship between mothers and fathers. In the process, he challenges the legacy of Freud and mainstream views of parental attachment, and also explains how we can become better parents ourselves.
Ultimately, Raeburn shows how the role of the father is distinctly different from that of the mother, and that embracing fathers' significance in the lives of young people is something we can all benefit from. An engrossing, eye-opening, and deeply personal book that makes a case for a new perspective on the importance of fathers in our lives no matter what our family structure, Do Fathers Matter? will change the way we view fatherhood today.
While his central premise might beg the question for any reader who has keenly felt the presence or absence of a paternal figure, science reporter Raeburn (Acquainted with the Night) isn't out to chide "nontraditional families" but rather wants to "push back against the conventional wisdom" and "replace stereotypes and half-truths" with real data about the relevance of fathers to the family unit, from both sides of the father-child equation. Here he addresses topics ranging from paternal impact on genetic programming and social development to the father's hormonal changes from conception through infancy. Whisking readers through research in evolutionary biology, psychology, sociology, and genetics to provide a "new understanding of the biology of fatherhood," Raeburn is on comfortable ground discussing the hard science, such as the discovery of imprinted genes, and his personal concern about the "medical price" paid by older fathers. However, Raeburn pulls his punches when addressing research that suggests "disturbing problems" caused by absent fathers (poverty, promiscuity, delinquency) and instead offers uncontroversial recommendations for public policies that allow dads more time with their kids. That said, Raeburn's attempt to promote the modern father as a "similarly nurturing and attentive" parent might indeed help, as he hopes, prompt a more informed cultural conversation.