A new study of Senegalese families has found that fathers invest more of their time and resources in children who look and act like themselves.
This is the first study to find a direct link between paternal resemblance and paternal investment, but the study’s author says she has similar, as yet unpublished, findings about Western families. And an earlier study of fathers interacting with their kids at London Heathrow airport found that kids who resembled Pop got more time and money out of their old man than kids who were more dissimilar.
As researchers point out, this trend makes evolutionary sense: with average illegitimacy rates at 3.3 percent worldwide, there’s no surefire way (short of a DNA test) for dads to know that their children are theirs. To consider parenting from a cold, practical standpoint for a minute, it’s in men’s evolutionary interest to foster only those children who carry their genes. After all, in 90 percent of mammals, as anthropologist Kermyt Anderson points out, “a father’s investment ends in ejaculation–wham, bam, thank you, ma’am!” Oh, Mother Nature–such a romantic.
I hope this is one example of a pattern that we can understand biologically, and then strive not to repeat in actuality. It’s certainly been true to my experience that fathers are more supportive of children, particularly sons, who follow in their footsteps. Choosing to be an artist instead of a businessman, for instance, is unlikely to win a CEO dad’s approval. If there is some biological basis to this disapproval, it’s high time to let our minds overpower our biology.
After all, the vast majority of mothers are not two-timing hussies; the only thing to be gained from shunning a dissimilar child is a broken relationship.