One of the stances secular leftists regularly attack Christians on is their belief in the importance of the traditional family. That is, a family centered on the committed relationship of a man and a woman through which children are produced and nurtured. Secularists attack them both for the rigidity of the arrangement with regard to the necessity of marriage between a man and a woman, and the fact that Christians derive this belief primarily from teachings in Scripture. For the secularists, relationships are fungible, driven by desire rather than design.
As science is coming to find out, the Scriptural proscription for the family is rooted in our physical make-up. And of course, like most truths in Scripture, this reality anticipated scientific findings by millennia.
Two recent studies demonstrate the importance of a committed father in the raising of children, both from the physiological changes the presence of a father has on children, and the physiological impact being in such a relationship has on fathers.
In the first case, a study titled Fathers’ influence on children’s cognitive and behavioral functioning: A longitudinal study of Canadian families chronicles the important impact fathers have on the intellect and behavior of their children. A ScienceDaily article quotes one of the authors regarding the results:
“Fathers make important contributions in the development of their children’s behavior and intelligence,” says Erin Pougnet, a PhD candidate in the Concordia University Department of Psychology and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development (CRDH).
“Compared with other children with absentee dads, kids whose fathers were active parents in early and middle childhood had fewer behavior problems and higher intellectual abilities as they grew older — even among socio-economically at-risk families.”
In a more surprising 2nd study, researchers determined that children have physiological effects on a committed father. Specifically they found that there was a significant drop in testosterone in committed and involved fathers. This change corresponds with the necessity of fathers to be available to help raise children. The takeaway, according to anthropologist Carol Worthman is that it demonstrates how we were designed to be in long-term committed relationships. From the NYTs:
“This is part of the guy being invested in the marriage,” said Carol Worthman, an anthropologist at Emory University who also was not involved in the study. Lower testosterone, she said, is the father’s way of saying, ” ‘I’m here, I’m not looking around, I’m really toning things down so I can have good relationships.’ What’s great about this study is it lays it on the table that more is not always better. Faster, bigger, stronger — no, not always.”
And such a change is not only beneficial for relationships, but it has added health benefits as well:
Experts say the new testosterone study could offer insight into men’s medical conditions, particularly prostate cancer. Higher lifetime testosterone levels increase the risk of prostate cancer, just as higher estrogen exposure increases breast cancer risk.
“Fathers who spend a lot of time in fathering roles might have lower long-term exposure to testosterone,” reducing their risk, Dr. Ellison said.
As a Christian who believes humans were designed for such relationships, such results come as no surprise. If it is true God made us to be in a bonded relationship for the purpose of producing families or as Genesis puts it, that a man and woman become “one flesh” then one would expect that relationships would incite significant biological changes in addition to the emotional and social changes which are so evident.
So while these results aren’t particularly surprising to knowledgeable Christians they are important supporting evidence for those who contend our beliefs about the family are merely religious considerations. Often these studies amount to proving the obvious, but in our skeptical age we are apparently required to empirically prove that which was up until recently a matter of common wisdom.