A new study suggests that even when dads are prepared for (and intuitive about) fatherhood, their engagement with their new baby still depends on mom.
Professor Sarah Schoppe-Sullivan and her team at The Ohio State University found in their study of 182 expectant, dual-earner couples that dads are more heavily engaged with their infants specifically when mom is not.
Participants completed “Prenatal Lausanne Trilogue Play”, which I know you just pronounced with the word “lasagna” in it. The play has to do with measuring a pregnant couple’s interaction with a doll, and using that data to measure preparedness for parenthood. Which is weird, but okay, fine…science is science.
The OSU researchers compared that
Lasagna Trilogy Play Lausanne Trilogue Play with time diaries that the parents filled out three months after the baby was born. In the time diaries, parents were to fill out every task that they did during a workday and a non-workday.
Fathers were gauged on activities like holding their infants, reading to them, soothing them and playing with them. Study results showed that fathers who scored high on the Lausanne Trilogue Play tended to also score high in their involvement with their baby at the three month mark. BUT only if the mother had showed lower levels of intuitive parenting.
If the mother had shown higher levels of intuition in the first phase, even the intuitive fathers backed down once the baby was born.
Demographic and personality also helped determine preparedness. “Expectant fathers showed greater intuitive parenting behavior when they had greater human capital and more progressive beliefs about parent roles,” says the study abstract, “and when their partners had lower parenting self-efficacy.” So, the most intuitive dads are rich liberals whose wives have low self-esteem. Sad trombone.
One of the researchers, Lauren Altenburger, suggested that though the mothers dominated engagement in early infancy, that “fathers may become more involved later on.”
Researchers also found that in-general, intuitive parenting was related in the couples; when mom had a high level of intuitive parenting, so did dad. This could suggest that when people pick their mates, they seek out people with similar levels of parenting potential.