We’ve all seen it: mommies cooing to their baby in a high-pitch, sing-songy voice. Linguists call this “motherese.” And for good reason — dads, in general, don’t baby talk.
A new study confirms this. These researchers attached recording devices to moms and dads, capturing not just what they said to their toddlers, but how they said it. To the surprise of no one, they found that mothers generally throw themselves into baby talking full-heartedly, while dads — even those who spend more time with their kids — just don’t.
Quite the opposite, in fact: dads talk to kids in roughly the same tone and manner they use when speaking to adults.
This seems to confirm an idea proposed in the 1970s called the “bridge theory.”
Mark VanDam, the professor at the head of the study described bridge theory like this to Time Magazine: “The basic idea is that moms provide the link to the domestic, more intimate type of talk, while dads provide the link to the outside world,”
Uh, am I the only one that finds this idea outdated and a bit sexist for 2015?
These days, you’re just as likely to find a mom out in the workplace while the dad stays home. And what about gay couples, or single parents?
I’d like to propose another hypothesis. Heterosexual guys generally don’t baby talk because it’s seen as un-masculine. Raising your voice to falsetto is equated with being effeminate, or homosexual.
My dad, for example, preferred Tom Jones’s cover of “Kiss” to Prince’s original when I was growing up in the 80s, saying “it’s nice seeing a man singing it.”
Well, I think Tom Jones is a dapper dude, but give me Prince any day! And put me in front of a baby and watch me goo-goo-ga-ga ’til the cowsy-wowsies come home. Because baby talking is fun, dammit. Plus, when a baby locks eyes with you and smiles, it’s a real affirmation of humanity, a pure shot of optimism, warmth, faith, and hope. If only we could bottle that feeling.
So guys, don’t deny yourself the honest, real pleasure of having a one-on-one pow-wow with a baby. Yes, it requires letting your guard down, being vulnerable — but so does any moment of real connection with another human being. If it helps, think of it this way: being silly is a sign of strength and security. And aren’t those traits we all want to model for our children?