Tag Archives: Oxytocin

Study: fathers are important for the development of children’s brains

Fathers and children
Fathers and children

The study was reported in the Wall Street Journal.


Dr. Braun’s group found that at 21 days, the fatherless animals had less dense dendritic spines compared to animals raised by both parents, though they “caught up” by day 90. However, the length of some types of dendrites was significantly shorter in some parts of the brain, even in adulthood, in fatherless animals.

“It just shows that parents are leaving footprints on the brain of their kids,” says Dr. Braun, 54 years old.

The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain’s decision-making center.

[…]The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn’t active, the amygdala “goes crazy, like a horse without a rider,” she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus’ behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.

In a separate study in Dr. Braun’s lab conducted by post-doctoral researcher Joerg Bock, degu pups were removed from their caregivers for one hour a day. Just this small amount of stress leads the pups to exhibit more hyperactive behaviors and less focused attention, compared to those who aren’t separated, Dr. Braun says. They also exhibit changes in their brain.

The basic wiring between the brain regions in the degus is the same as in humans, and the nerve cells are identical in their function. “So on that level we can assume that what happens in the animal’s brain when it’s raised in an impoverished environment … should be very similar to what happens in our children’s brain,” Dr. Braun says.

Read the whole thing.

I think this is important because we hear so much today that marriage can be redefined, that having one of each parent doesn’t matter, that live-in boyfriends and stepfathers have the same motivation to care for a woman’s children as the biological father does. We don’t want to make judgments, even if setting boundaries is better for children. A child’s well-being is enormously affected by the woman’s choice of biological father.  You can’t have it both ways – either we are going to judge women who choose men who don’t have the desire to commit to marriage, and do the father role, OR we are going to take things away from children by encouraging women to choose men based on “feelings” instead of abilities. Lowering moral standards and removing moral obligations hurts children. It sounds so nice when we tell women, “you can do whatever you feel like, and just forget about responsibilities, expectations and obligations”, but letting women be guided by their feelings harms children. My stock broker makes me feel uncomfortable because he knows more than I do, and does not respect my opinion. But I pay him to make investment decisions for me. I mustn’t let my pride get in the way of letting him do his job – a job he is more qualified than I am to do. Let him do his job.

Here’s a related question: Are biological fathers or unrelated men more dangerous for children?

This article from the Weekly Standard answers the question.


A March 1996 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics contains some interesting findings that indicate just how widespread the problem may be. In a nationally representative survey of state prisoners jailed for assaults against or murders of children, fully one-half of respondents reported the victim was a friend, acquaintance, or relative other than offspring. (All but 3 percent of those who committed violent crimes against children were men.) A close relationship between victim and victimizer is also suggested by the fact that three-quarters of all the crimes occurred in either the perpetrator’s home or the victim’s.

A 1994 paper published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies looked at 32,000 documented cases of child abuse. Of the victims, only 28 percent lived with both biological parents (far fewer than the 68 percent of all children who live with both parents); 44 percent lived with their mother only (as do 25 percent of all children); and 18 percent lived with their mother and an unrelated adult (double the 9 percent of all children who live with their mother and an unrelated adult).

These findings mirror a 1993 British study by the Family Education Trust, which meticulously explored the relationship between family structure and child abuse. Using data on documented cases of abuse in Britain between 1982 and 1988, the report found a high correlation between child abuse and the marital status of the parents.

Specifically, the British study found that the incidence of abuse was an astounding 33 times higher in homes where the mother was cohabiting with an unrelated boyfriend than in stable nuclear families. Even when the boyfriend was the children’s biological father, the chances of abuse were twice as high.

These findings are consonant with those published a year earlier by Leslie Margolin of the University of Iowa in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect. Prof. Margolin found that boyfriends were 27 times more likely than natural parents to abuse a child. The next-riskiest group, siblings, were only twice as likely as parents to abuse a child.

More recently, a report by Dr. Michael Stiffman presented at the latest meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in October, studied the 175 Missouri children under the age of 5 who were murdered between 1992 and 1994. It found that the risk of a child’s dying at the hands of an adult living in the child’s own household was eight times higher if the adult was biologically unrelated.

The Heritage Foundation’s Patrick Fagan discovered that the number of child-abuse cases appeared to rise in the 1980s along with the general societal acceptance of cohabitation before, or instead of, marriage. That runs counter to the radical-feminist view, which holds that marriage is an oppressive male institution of which violence is an integral feature. If that were true, then child abuse and domestic violence should have decreased along with the rise in cohabitation.

Heritage also found that in the case of very poor children (those in households earning less than $ 15,000 per year), 75 percent lived in a household where the biological father was absent. And 50 percent of adults with less than a high-school education lived in cohabitation arrangements. “This mix — poverty, lack of education, children, and cohabitation — is an incubator for violence,” Fagan says.

Why, then, do we ignore the problem? Fagan has a theory: “It is extremely politically incorrect to suggest that living together might not be the best living arrangement.”

The moral of the story is that it is a lot safer for children if we promote marriage as a way of attaching mothers and fathers to their children. Fathers who have a biological connection to children are a lot less likely to harm them. We should probably be teaching women to choose men who have a certain tenderness towards people they mentor or nurture, as well. These things are not free, you have to persuade women to value the male tendency to want to lead / guide / mentor. A lot of social problems like child poverty, promiscuity and violence cannot be solved by replacing a father with a check from the government. We need to support fathers by empowering them in their traditional roles. Let the men lead. Swallow your feminist instincts, and prefer men who take seriously their role of leading others upward.

Three lectures in three days from Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

First, before the three lectures, there is a quick segment on Issues, Etc.

The MP3 file is here. (12 minutes, 5.4 Mb)

This one is about Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, a university professor who has decided to abandon her children out of selfishness, and become a deadbeat mom. Here summary of her view is “I didn’t want to do give up my life for someone else.”.

Franciscan University of Steubenville

The MP3 file is here. (26 minutes, 11.8 Mb)

This one is about artificial reproductive technologies, and was delivered to a class of nursing students in their medical ethics class. Timely – because the Democrats just rescinded conscience protections for medical workers.

Nashville Republican Women

The MP3 file is here. (56 minutes, 25.9 Mb)

In this shorter talk she discusses the Ruth Institute, the views of the next generation on marriage, and the consequences of abandoning or redefining the institution of marriage. She delivered a longer version of this talk the next day at Aquinas College.

Duqesne University

The MP3 file is here. (53 minutes, 24.4 Mb)

This talk is based on her book “Smart Sex”. The topic of that book is on how irresponsible sex can actually drive people away from each other, and how we are rejecting the obligations we have to other people out of selfishness and preventing ourselves from enjoying life-long married love.

About Jennifer Roback Morse

Here’s her bio:

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D. is the founder and President of the Ruth Institute, president of the Ruth Institute a project of the National Organization for Marriage to promote life-long married love to college students by creating an intellectual and social climate favorable to marriage.

She is also the Senior Research Fellow in Economics at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

She is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love in a Hook-up World, (2005) and Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work (2001), recently reissued in paperback, as Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village.

Dr. Morse served as a Research Fellow for Stanford University’s Hoover Institution from 1997-2005. She received her Ph.D. in economics from the University of Rochester in 1980 and spent a postdoctoral year at the University of Chicago during 1979-80. She taught economics at Yale University and George Mason University for 15 years. She was John M. Olin visiting scholar at the Cornell Law School in fall 1993. She is a regular contributor to the National Review Online, National Catholic Register, Town Hall, MercatorNet and To the Source.

These lectures are particularly timely for me, as I am working my way through Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s “Stupid Things Parents Do To Mess Up Their Kids”, and getting some ideas for public policies and laws that would really be pro-child and pro-marriage. That book is my light reading book, and I recommend it. Dr. Laura Schlessinger is hit or miss, but this one is definitely a direct hit. My heavy reading books are “Signature in the Cell” by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer and “Economic Facts and Fallacies” by Dr. Thomas Sowell.

What possible harm can result from premarital sex?

Here’s an article by a Duke University student that talks about the hook-up phenomenon.


Every weekend, girls across Duke’s campus wake up sad and confused. The previous night’s choices have not left them fulfilled or content. My girlfriends always seem hurt while the guys easily move on to their next fling. Why are the women upset? After all, it was supposed to be just sex-just one of the “responsible social decisions” discussed in The Real Deal. Without an explanation for their emotions, my friends are left feeling used and embarrassed. All I could do is sit with these women while they let painful tears flow.

Our women’s center and sexual health groups failed to tell us the whole truth. They may warn of the physical risks of “unsafe sex” but tend to ignore its emotional toll which also has biological roots. Research suggests that a hormone called oxytocin plays a role in the feelings of attachment and trust that women feel for their sexual partners. Female mammals primarily release oxytocin while giving birth and breast feeding and the hormone facilitates mother-child bonding. Oddly enough, the same hormone is also released during sexual contact causing a sense of attachment. In men, oxytocin’s effects are neutralized by the release of testosterone.

Did you catch that ladies? There is a biological explanation for the way you feel and the way he doesn’t feel.

I had always thought casual sex had different consequences for men and women. Now, based on scientific evidence, I know it does. College women at Duke are suffering emotional pain that’s not only avoidable-but, predictable.

Why weren’t we told this three years ago?

[…]The explanation is a radical feminist agenda that has a foothold in women’s health discussions. As Dr. Miriam Grossman, a psychiatrist at UCLA suggests in her book, Unprotected, “I once assumed campus medicine and psychology had one priority: student well-being. I’m no longer so naive. Radical politics pervades my profession, and common sense has vanished.” To propose that “safe” sexual experimentation may not be emotionally healthy and may be more dangerous for women than men is not politically correct.

Premarital sex hurts women. But it also hurts men.

It’s not like men are going to be happy about transitioning from years of hooking up with no responsibilities to the rigorous demands of a marriage. Premarital sex destroys the ability of women and men to bond, because it trains them to separate out their emotions from sex. It makes no sense to expose yourself emotionally during sex if you’re not married – you run the risk of being crushed by the pain of separation. Do it enough times, and it becomes extremely difficult to allow sex to bond two people together emotionally.