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Parenthood changes the bodies and minds of men as well as women

Published: Sunday, June 8 2014 10:05 p.m. MDT

Blankenhorn likens parenthood to a pair of dancers engaged in a complex routine. It is hard for a mother alone or a father alone to provide a child with all he or she needs, he said, but when they are together, "the child tends to get the whole thing. Not everything is gendered, but a fair amount is."

He describes this scene: Junior and Jillie are running around a playground, laughing and trying new things. Mom yells, "Be careful." Dad says, "See if you can climb to the top."

The roles are not always that way, but research says it's a common pattern.

"The wonderful thing about that is that 'be careful' is a very, very fine piece of advice," said Blankenhorn. And 'can you climb to the top' is a very, very fine challenge. Both are pretty darned important and it's not like you have to choose which one is correct. Together, they are great!"

Affection between partners brings chemicals that mediate feelings of reward. Touch, physical intimacy and verbal communication all trigger those chemical changes, said Kline.

“Of course, sex can be pleasurable and is requisite for reproduction. But this intense attraction to one another over time serves perhaps an even larger purpose. Blankenhorn notes it is the couple’s ongoing emotional entanglement and interest in one another that helps to create the couple that will raise the child,” the report said.

The father

Recent research has put a lot of emphasis on fathers. They aren't more important than mothers, said Blankenhorn, but they are less likely to live with their children. As many as 40 percent of kids go to sleep in a home where their father doesn’t live. Blankenhorn calls it “arguably our most urgent social problem.”

Wilcox is taken with the “generative power of fatherhood for men, in the biological, emotional and social sense. Men who live in close proximity to their kids and engage intellectually, emotionally, socially and athletically see their children flourish,” he said. “Fatherhood is transformative for men.”

Because couples are different, they will do things differently, the report said. "Attention, affection and discipline are similar but they engage kids differently.

"There is significant variety in the range of adaptations married couples choose in work and family decisions," the authors said. "Families benefit when women and men are able to approach motherhood and fatherhood in the ways that best suit themselves and their mates."

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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