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8 myths of fatherhood BUSTED

Photos logoPhotos 19-06-2016

You may have heard of those two magical words "I'm pregnant" uttered by your partner and immediately thought of two of your own. But don’t panic and don’t listen to the doom merchants. Here’s a few facts and fallacies about fatherhood.

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1. Dads don’t really do much at the birth

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More dads attend the birth now than ever before — around 98 percent, according to National Health Service statistics. “It can help the mum to relax more if her partner has been with her in the antenatal groups and knows what to expect, too,” says Jane Munro, a midwife for over 20 years and a quality and audit development adviser with the Royal College of Midwives. Aside from the all-important reassurances, support, encouragement and squeezed-hand role of the dad, a research suggests that by having their partner there for the ‘big push,’ new mothers report having a better birth experience than without him there. 

2. Nature only makes mothers ready for babies

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There’s lot of talk about ‘hormones’ bandied about during pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood. The received wisdom is that mothers-to-be go through a rush of neurotransmitters designed to prepare their bodies for the birth. But it’s not just the expectant mums who experience a sea change in their chemistry. “Men undergo hormonal changes as they prepare for fatherhood,” says neuro-psychiatrist Louann Brizendine, author of "The Male Brain." Levels of a stress hormone called cortisol tend to spike about four to six weeks after men learn they're going to be fathers. “This surge may put the father-to-be's brain on alert and in a sense, wake him up to the impending reality of a new baby's arrival, and alert him that he'd better get things ready." 

3. Mums do a better job of parenting than dads

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There’s a clue in the statement here — the word ‘job.’ The general consensus of opinion may be that mums always make better parents, but in a world where family structures and dynamics have changed, that opinion is looking increasingly out of date. “Having a baby is in many ways taking on a whole new occupation — one that won’t necessarily come naturally to either mum or dad,” says Sue Atkins, a parenting mentor. Both sexes are equally capable and just as ham-fisted as the other to start with. But new mums are a lot more likely to be ‘fast-tracked’ into parenting by spending many hours on their own early on or with a support network at hand. 

4. It doesn't really matter if dad’s not around

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A father's love is as important to a child’s emotional development as a mother’s. But don’t just take a dad’s words for it; listen to the experts. In a review of 36 worldwide studies, carried out by the University of Connecticut, and reported in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, researchers found that fatherly love is key to development and that children who fail to get it are more anxious and insecure during childhood as well as more hostile and aggressive in adulthood. 

5. Dads play too rough

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The rough and tumble play that dads and their kids often engage in is vital for a child’s development. A 2012 study from the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia highlighted how horseplay between fathers and their young children helps shape the child's brain and even builds their self-confidence and concentration. "This is a key developmental stage for children in that preschool area between the ages of about two and a half and five,” says Richard Fletcher, the lead researcher. 

6. Men don't want children as much as women do

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It’s more a case of bad timing that can lead to couples clashing over this one. Icelandic researchers found that the male biological clock runs slower than females' and the desire to have children in men can lag behind that of women. However, men who do choose to delay their foray into fatherhood may be wise to keep some sperm in the bank, by freezing it for later use — don’t try this at home, chaps. By delaying becoming dads until they’re in their 40s, men have a greater risk of producing faulty sperm and genes that are linked to conditions such as autism and schizophrenia. 

7. Having kids cuts years off a man’s life

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There’s an assumption that parenthood brings with it stresses and strains that will drive you to an early grave. Wrong. In fact, the added life experience and exercise that comes with having little ones can do wonders for a man’s heart. A 10-year-long study of 135,000 men carried out by researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine in California found that married men who have had no children are at a 17 percent higher risk of cardiovascular-related (heart disease and stroke) death than those who have become fathers. 

8. Dads are more careless than mums

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To some, it may seem like a failure of a dad to do his job properly when his son or daughter takes a tumble or gets hurt out playing, but accidents that happen on ‘dad’s watch’ are all part of a cunning plan with hidden benefits. A study from the University of British Columbia suggests that fathers who take a risk with their kids do so because they feel it’s their duty to stretch their children and help them learn about life’s hard knocks. “Fathers tend to think of themselves as less cautious than mothers,” says Mariana Brussoni, lead investigator of the study, "Fathering and Injury Prevention." "Many dads consider it their job to encourage their children to extend their capacity to climb, run, jump and engage in other physical ways.” 

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