But Judith Shulevitz, science editor for The New Republic, offers a fascinating op-ed in the NYT Sunday Review about the less expected ways in which dads matter in the health of their offspring.
It isn’t just that a healthy dad creates a healthy home and models healthy behavior to his children. It goes much deeper than that, all the way to genetics. Not just whether a father passes on a gene for heart disease or certain types of cancer, but, as Shulevitz writes, “Whether a man’s genes are good or bad (and whatever ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean in this context), his children’s bodies and minds will reflect lifestyle choices he has made over the years, even if he made those choices long before he ever imagined himself strapping on a Baby Bjorn.”
Yes, his lifestyle choices.
The article cites many studies—from the isolated Swedish island of Overkalix pre-20th Century, to rats who were exposed to bully rats every day before they mated, to the age of fathers at conception—and presents a compelling argument that it’s not just the presence of fathers in children’s lives that affects their outcomes, but also about the lifestyle choices of the fathers prior to conception that make a difference.
What do you think of Shulevitz’s theories? How about the science of epi-genetics?
Were you an older father? Would these studies change the way you behave or the choices you make, were you to decide to conceive a child?
Image of father and mother to-be courtesy of Shutterstock