Yikes! A whole new criterion for sizing up a potential papa for your kiddos?
I couldn’t resist this tidbit from Time Healthland, recommending men with more modest family jewels as finer in the fathering department.
Apparently, if you want your male partner to be an involved parent, bigger is not better. One might even say that small is beautiful.
It seems that one study is leading us in that direction, suggesting that tinier testicles mean more devoted dads. My, my. However did the authors of this research find their study participants?
It sounds like it wasn’t difficult, though I’m not sure a sample size of 70 men (see below) would have me refining an online dating profile were I in the market for a baby daddy, wherein I might add a note: “small scrota only need apply; medium will be considered.”
All salacious sarcasm aside, prior conclusions that men with higher levels of testosterone were less interested in parenting may be less reliable than some thought. There is now:
an independent correlation between testicle volume and parenting.
Do I really want this information? Can I actually use this information in any way, if I put store in its validity?
And would this be relative size? A range? If I’m considering a partner who is 6’2″ tall, shouldn’t his testicular volume allow for greater capacity than if I’m setting up house with a man who is 5’6″?
Biological Gender Warfare?
The article quotes James Rilling, PhD, one of the study’s authors, an anthropology professor at Emory University in Atlanta. According to Time Healthland, he is looking to test if biology was involved in the growing number of absent fathers in the second half of the 20th century.
Testosterone is one factor, but it can vary widely in a guy because of age or diet or general health. “Testicular volume is likely to be a more stable measure than testosterone,” says Rilling.
To test their theory, the anthropologists found 70 biological fathers in Atlanta who were happy to have their brains and their berries measured by an MRI… The MRIs showed that the region of the brain most associated with nurturing lit up more robustly in guys with smaller gonads…
No claims on that score.
Life History Theory
However, dipping into what is known as Life History Theory:
There’s a branch of evolutionary psychology known as life-history theory, which suggests that since a human’s energy is limited, there is always a competition for resources between mating and parenting… energy either goes to raising the young or making more young ones. “Collectively, these data provide the most direct support to date that the biology of human males reflects a trade-off between mating and parenting effort,” claims the study.
Theoretically, our species will evolve accordingly, which may lead one to conclude that the more dads who are in the hands-on parenting biz, the more that gonads will gradually diminish in volume.
And? Am I the only woman around who couldn’t care less?
Unless sperm counts drop by half or there is some (other) negative health consequence or, for that matter, performance issues that might bother any of the interested parties – so what?
More to the Story, Naturally
It’s easy to dismiss the sort of snippets that appear in popular media – especially when they amuse us, as does this article with its catchy headline and lightweight coverage. Likewise, it’s easy for me to riff off the Healthland article, and move on to the next… whatever.
But a few minutes of poking around online quickly reveals Dr. Rilling to be a serious scientist involved in fascinating social research.
A glance at his CV reflects studies on the evolution of the human brain as it relates to our psychology and behavior – including parenting, mindfulness, compassion, cooperation, altruism, and other elements of our “humanity” that we could do with understanding and in my opinion, reinforcing.
Is this another example of how easy it is for media to trivialize and distort – or simply to miss the boat on context? How willing we are, as consumers of what we read or skim, to take what we’re given and pursue no further?
Theory vs Real World Pressures
To the extent that this research is part of a larger hypothesis concerning life history theory, it’s more compelling to me, personally. An article with a different scope or focus might have been an article from which I would have learned a good deal.
As for the fact that our energies are ultimately limited and we are split by competing priorities (mating, parenting), haven’t we forgotten a major element of our daily duties? If we spent fewer hours at work (and possibly on our devices), wouldn’t we have time to devote to both mating and parenting – whatever our sex?
Should we be worried about shrinking common sense over minor mods to dads’ ‘nads? Should we be looking at the changes in the economy and workplace environment in the latter half of the 20th century, and seeing their significance to shrinking capacity and confidence?
Perhaps that research is in the works. Those conclusions might make for some intriguing actionable items.