The Science of Father Importance
A new article posted by the National Parents Organization last month stressed the importance of shared parenting and the father-child bond.
In this story, author Robert Franklin, recommends a public policy change of how courts determine child custody and visitation based on the biochemistry behind the shortening of telomeres. According to his blog post, he relies on a study by Dr. Daniel Notterman. The study by Dr. Notterman, states, “Telomeres are protective caps on the ends of chromosomes. They reduce in length every time the cell divides. At one point they become short enough that the cell can no longer divide and the cell dies. More importantly, shortened telomeres are associated (whether as a cause or as are reflection) with high stress.”
Dr. Notterman largely relates that a loss of a parent whether through death, incarceration or divorce causes the stress that shortens the length of the telomeres in children. The author, Mr. Franklin through prior arguments and his conclusion based on this study states the courts should allow fathers the preference in court based on this biochemistry.
Before evaluating Mr. Franklin’s conclusion, we must consider the relationships between both parents and their children. The relationship of a father to child is equally important as the relationship between a mother and a child. This often displayed later in a child’s life in their formative years. Fathers are typically strong in preparing both boys and girls for adulthood.
However, according to Dr. Louis Weiss, one consistent finding in the research is that fathers are not mothers! Studies of men and their modes of interacting with, caring for, playing with, disciplining, and talking to children revealed that men are not only capable of nurturing children, but they do it in ways which are distinctly different from women.
In caregiving activities, such as feeding or bathing, men tend to engage in them as tasks to be accomplished, while women tend to approach such activities as opportunities for verbal interaction. The differences in such approaches seem to have a beneficial effect on children. Two parents who interact with their children uniquely and, often, in contrasting ways, affords variety in the interactive experiences these children have and also fosters a capacity for these children to attach to each parent as a separate individual with distinct relational styles.
In the current article the author seems to purport a shift in primary custody because financially single fathers generally earn more income than single mothers. Thus in Family Courts nationally, “fathers should tend to receive a preference in custody and parenting time decisions.” He relates this the biochemistry of telomeres (Telomere length (TL) has been shown in many studies to be associated with chronic stress of diverse origins in both children and adults) decreasing in size because of the stress of a decline because of the loss of income.
His theory is flawed for several reasons. He doesn’t account that often mothers have to take less demanding jobs in order to have the flexibility to be able to care for the children. Fathers on the other hand not only aren’t expected to leave the workplace when a child is in need of a parent, often will seek another to help, conversely where a mother will often not. In addition the wage gap between men and women in the United States allows single fathers to earn a higher income. He also doesn’t account that there are other factors in a child’s life that can attribute to the stress, hence causing the shortening and eventual telomere cell death in a child’s body. Lastly, Mr. Franklin fails to consider the effects of the loss of a mother for the same reasons as Dr. Daniel Notterman discussed in his study.
I do agree with the author that each parent shall have close as equal time to the other parent. However not based on the parents income.