Some of you might remember this from my talk last week, but I decided to post it so that everyone could have a chance to see it.
There are many changes that marriage and fatherhood have on men, but overall, these changes make men more docile in social situations while also increasing their ability to understand and connect with others emotionally. This is because their social need to impress lessens, they feel less threatened by other males, they find it easier to communicating and dealing with their own emotions, they form stronger bonds, and they find it easier to sympathize.All of these changes are directly linked to the way that the brain handles and processes social situations. In short, these changes in social cognition are due to, a decreased displaying of competitive abilities, a lowered rate of violent manifestation, and an increase in sensitivity and emotional awareness. These changes come about slowly, and are all linked to either a psychological, hormonal, or structural brain changes.
Social displays of competitive ability are seen as a way to display the masculine potential of a man, and is intended to attract women. These competitive abilities can range from intellectual prowess to criminal activities. However, it is no longer necessary for a married man to socially display his competitive abilities. This leads to a more moderate behaviour than seen in single men. This excerpt from Kanazawa’s study is useful to understand how they came by this result.
“The biographies of 280 scientists indicate that the distribution of their age at the time of their greatest scientific contributions in their careers (age–genius curve) is similar to the age distribution of criminals (age–crime curve). The age–genius curves among jazz musicians, painters and authors are also similar to the age–crime curve. Further, marriage has a strong desistance effect on both crime and genius. I argue that this is because both crime and genius stem from mens evolved psychological mechanism which compels them to be highly competitive in early adulthood but ‘‘turns off’’ when they get married….” (Kanazawa, 2003)
This change in social behaviour is psychological and is believed to be brought about from the different needs between married and single men.
The violent tendencies of males are also curbed by marriage, this is shown by the fact that the rate of men who commit criminal acts is lower by 35% than that of unmarried men from the same risk category. This is directly linked with a drop in testosterone levels in married men. The association of marriage with lower crime among men has been widely reported in both quantitative and qualitative studies in the meta-analysis study (Sampson et al., 2006). This testosterone level drop is even lower in men who become fathers (Kanazawa, 2003 and Sampson et al., 2006), and is a further catalyst for changes in how the brain processes social behaviour.
In men who become fathers there is also a significant change in the biochemical aspects of the brain. A growth of grey matter in the amygdala, striatum, hypothalamus and lateral prefrontal cortex take place in subjects who were tested though an fMRI and MRI before and after having a child (Kim et al., 2014). This change also takes place in homosexual men who adopt children, so it is not linked to any other changes that might come from becoming a father and is solely due to caring for a child. These changes make fathers more empathetic, more sensitive, and more forgiving in social interactions. This allows men to form closer bonds, which is especially important with children.
In conclusion, these three social cognition changes are directly linked to marriage and fatherhood in men. They change how men interpret social situations in different ways and lead to the behaviour previously mentioned above. My only problem I had with the articles I used and sources was the fact that none of the articles took into account the fact that men had less free time after getting married or having children, and that this could all just be a result of less free time. I do not believe that this alone is enough to dismiss the results from these studies; however, in the future we may want to look into this possibility with more studies or meta-analysis.
- Kanazawa in 2003 “crime-genius connection”
- Sampson et al., 2006 “DOES MARRIAGE REDUCE CRIME? A COUNTERFACTUAL APPROACH TO WITHIN-INDIVIDUAL CAUSAL EFFECTS”
- Kim et al., 2014 “Neural plasticity in fathers of human infants”